For eight months, I’ve had this post saved in my drafts on WordPress. For eight months all it has consisted of is a title “You Can’t Sit Here” and the phrase “Ivy and Sasha” in the body of the blog. For eight months, I’ve gone right past this blog draft on my way to write about something else- something that, at least, has a happy ending or a funny angle.
Then, this week, on Facebook, the name Ivy popped back up into my life. So, it would appear, it is time to finally write this. I still don’t know if I will find a way to give it a happy ending or interject any humor.
It starts, really, just before 7th grade.
The summer between 6th and 7th grade we moved, not far, just from one town in central Oahu, Wahiawa, to another, Mililani- a distance of less than 6 miles. Mililani is a large, orderly middle class suburb full of green lawns and sprawling monkeypod trees. The sign that greets you in welcome to the town brags that it was named the “1986 All America City”.
Oddly enough, despite the fact that Mililani boasted three public elementary schools and one of Oahu’s largest high schools, at the time it had no junior high school within its bounds. All of the 7th and 8th graders were ferried up Kamehameha Highway in buses onto Wheeler Army Airforce Base where we attended Wheeler Intermediate School.
And so, on the first day of 7th grade, I walked to the bus stop right by Uka Elementary and boarded a bus full of unfamiliar kids who did not speak to me. I descended the bus stairs again at Wheeler into a sea of students who silently looked right through me. I trudged into and out of 5 classes swimming with new faces each day and not one classmate caught my eye, smiled at me, or uttered a word. I was an island unto myself. I wandered the campus at recess, nowhere to sit and no one to talk to.
I was utterly invisible until one girl said hello. Her name was Chimere, and she knew me. We had been neighbors in 3rd and 4th grade and used to play barbie dolls together. That hello was all the invitation I needed, that recess I settled my gypsy self down onto the bench where Chimere and her friends hung out and just kind of hovered. Chimere was popular so there were lots of other girls there but none of them paid me much mind. Occasionally one of them even said a word or two to me. Most of them didn’t. I heard the gossip around me and was enveloped in the giggling girl talk, if not a part of it. It was almost like having friends.
I lasted a year that way, all of seventh grade, hovering around the edges of a group not my own. The first day of 8th grade I wandered over to the same bench and plunked down. Chimere said, “Hi!” brightly. No one else did. The fifteen minutes of first recess came and went, and I wandered off to classes. I returned to the bench at lunch recess and was greeted by a welcoming party. Three girls, standing shoulder to shoulder, wanted to talk to me. The third girl I no longer remember but two of their faces are burned into my brain, Ivy and Sasha.
Ivy, Sasha, and their counterpart, drew me away from the bench to talk. I was aglow. They were those giggly, pretty girls. They wanted to talk to me. Me! Finally, I was moving from the fringes of friendship to an actual confidant! But, as soon as they began to speak, my glow faded. “Look Kate, it’s nothing personal,” Ivy was the spokeswoman for the group, “but we’ve been talking about it and it’s eight grade this year. We want to be the most popular girls in school and we can’t be popular with you here. So you just need to go.” Pitiless, they turned away, wandering back to the bench full of girls shorter and thinner than me- a gaggle of dark haired, dark eyed, well dressed teens. I was left anchor-less again, no place to sit and no one to talk to, wandering Wheeler Intermediate alone.
Then this week, a notification for a Facebook invite for my 20th high school reunion lit up my phone. When I clicked on it, out of almost a thousand possible students to organize this event, the host was none other than Ivy and there was a posting from her on the page.
Although, we both attended the same High School, I have not spoken to Ivy since that first week of 8th grade. It was a large school, with hundreds and hundreds of students in our graduating class. And by the time I graduated, I did have many friends- a motley group of misfits and fellow outsiders who cobbled together over the years. Though she is listed as the hostess, it was not Ivy herself who invited me to the event on Facebook, but some other girl. I wonder if Ivy even remembers that day when she banished me from her sphere of friends in a grasp for popularity. Apparently, it worked. Even 20 years later, she is the hub around which our class will gather to celebrate the “best years of their lives”.
They were not the best years of mine.
Though I was living on Oahu at the time and many of my friends attended, I did not bother to attend the tenth anniversary. I had no desire to. But the more I think about it, the more I would like to go this time. I would like to go and find a seat at an empty table. From there I would smile at Ivy, and Sasha, at a sea of old classmates who never knew my name, and greet them with a warm, “You can sit here.”