Numbers

I know I will just end up hiding until I become the brunt of cruel jokes and scorn.

I am a giant. All eyes watch me as I trample my way across the school yard. I am three times the size of every other human specimen at the school, I am sure of it. I think I must belong in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest, fattest, most gigantic sixth grader to ever walk the planet.

I wonder what might be wrong with me. How did I end up in this position? What possessed me to change schools? I know the answer. Escape.

At least at St. Gregory I knew what to expect. Ridicule, teasing, mockery from my classmates, who looked like brunette clones with their perfect curls, plaid skirts resting on their thin waists. Now I am clueless. What am I to do? I look for somewhere to hide, but know that as I stomp my way to class towering over my peers, I am impossible to miss, sticking out like a burly football player among a group of elegant ballerinas. I remind myself that this is a chance to start over, but I know I will just end up hiding until I become the brunt of cruel jokes and scorn.

I sigh as I approach room 131, building B. I take a deep breath and thrust open the door. It slams against the wall with a bang; as if the door finds it necessary to announce my arrival.

“Watch out! The monster has arrived!” It seems to jeer.

“High school students aren’t allowed on our campus,” the teacher informs me, sticking her nose in the air, as she pushes her glasses on to the bridge of her nose.

“I’m in your class,” I almost whisper. I feel a warm, crimson color creep up my neck as my classmates snicker. I have a feeling it will be a long year.

“Oh!” Mrs. Hood, a small woman with too much jewelry and curly brown hair, stands up, giving me the once over. “You’re big boned is all,” she calls as she walks to the front of the room. “I’ve never seen such a large sixth grader.” I hear what she doesn’t say. Fat. Colossal. Enormous.

I take a seat, barely fitting into the desk and desperately wait for the final bell. I count the hours until three o’clock. Only six hours and four minutes to go. This thought is anything but comforting. I silently wish elementary school had never ended, despite the pain of those younger years. I just know junior high will be worse.

I quickly take inventory of my classmates, who appear similar to the clones of St. Gregory, but wear dark jeans and little tank tops, which showcase their bony hips and lean arms. I feel like a sausage, stuffed into my white shorts and navy collared shirt. Great.

“Sarah!” Mrs. Hood sharply yells, cutting into my thoughts. I snap out of my misery just in time to see the last of my classmates walk out the door. “The bell rang!”

I glance at my schedule and see “Physical Education” written by second period. I freeze. A new school, and right off the bat my classmates will clearly see my freakish clumsiness. I shuffle my way to the locker room, directly aware of each step’s seemingly endless echo.

The gym teacher is a short, thick woman with gentle wrinkles lining her mouth. I think they must be from smiling, a thought which dissipates as I tower over her and she looks me up and down. I timidly meet her gaze. She presents me with a slight nod, as if to assure me that what I think must be correct. I am fat. I am huge. I am monstrous.

“Quiet down, quiet down,” she barks. We all sit on the cold tile and lower our volume a few decibels. I have a bad feeling about what is in store. I watch Coach Chambers walk to the storage closet and reappear with a bathroom scale.

I am terrified. The pit of my stomach sinks, and I instantly feel nauseous. I head straight to the corner of the dark, gloomy locker room, taking refuge in the shadows while the rest of the class is ordered to line up behind the scale. I settle in and relax after a few minutes of going unnoticed.

“Sarah, get in line!” Coach Chambers orders.

“Okay,” I say, more to reassure myself than to her. I reluctantly take my place at the end of the line. My shadow seems to take up three times the amount of space of everyone else’s. I squeeze my eyes shut, wishing I had the ability to disappear.
I open them suddenly with a start, realizing with dismay that the gym teacher is yelling each person’s weight to an eighth grade class aide. I have the urge to turn and run. Emily, a perfect, thin, blonde clone of the typical popular girl steps onto the scale.

“92,” I hear the gym teacher bellow.

I feel my heart sink as I head towards the bathroom. I feel myself start to gag, as acid rises up my throat. I try to swallow, to breathe, but the acidic liquid continues to rise. I end up vomiting right in front of the stall. My vomit splashes across the cold cement floor. I can see remnants of my huge breakfast that I stuffed down to quiet my anxiety over the first day of school. I sink to the floor, my face flushed as my classmates groan with disgust.

“May I please have a pass to the nurse’s office?” I ask, my hands shaking with panic.

“Sure, but come back before you leave,” Coach Chambers squints, eyeing me.

I turn around, feeling every other sixth grade girls’ stare burning into me as I noisily clobber my way out of the vicinity. It seems like eternity before I arrive at the nurse’s office. I luxuriously settle into the comfy chair in the corner of the florescent orange office as I wait in line, finally sighing in relief. Another sixth grader, a boy, holds an ice pack to his elbow. He is sweating and seems to be in great pain.

It is my turn before I know it.

“I feel sick. I think I need to call my mom,” I say, realizing my fingers are crossed behind my back. I fail to look at Nurse Alexander as she considers this.

“Let me take your temperature,” she sighs as she brushes back a wisp of her long blond hair.
Uh oh. Now I know I’m in trouble. The thermometer beeps, displaying a perfect 98.6 temperature, although I am on fire with embarrassment.

“No fever, so back to class you go. You can wait for your mom there.” She shakes her head apologetically, as if she could possibly understand my predicament with her perfect Hollywood body.

I deliberately make my way back to the locker room, trying to walk as slowly as possible. I finally tromp my way inside and inconspicuously sit in the corner by the door. The vomit is still on the floor, and the locker room reeks. I hear whispers from my classmates. I can almost feel the glares. The palpable tension could be cut with a knife.

“Sarah, take a spot at the end of the line. We’ll get your weight before you get picked up,” Coach Chambers practically yells. Only a few people remain in front of me.

“102,” she calls out, bored and unemotionally. Then after a pause she yells, “Next!”

Lauren, a tall, dark-skinned girl with long black hair and a tiny waist jumps off the scale. The next person, a short girl with blonde pigtails steps on. She seems like a midget compared to me.

Before I know it, it’s my turn. I swallow hard and make myself move my feet towards the scale, sucking in my abdomen as if this will somehow make me weigh less. I crave for the capacity to fly away.

I slowly place my right foot onto the scale. I lean forward as if testing unsteady ground before placing my left foot next to the right. I close my eyes and hot tears of humiliation roll slowly down my cheek.

“163,” Coach Chambers utters quietly, as if sensing my dismay. I glance at her in appreciation and quickly bound off the scale, as I silently repeat the numbers over and over again, partly in disbelief, but mostly in disgust. 163. 163. 163.

I walk quickly towards the bathroom, breezing past the janitor cleaning up the pile of my vomit. I enter a stall and latch the door closed. I sit on the toilet seat, my head in my hands. As the numbers sink in, a great wave of shame washes over me, and I violently being to sob. I quietly recall my binges from the day before. My frequent overeating coupled with my already larger than average body is bad news; this has never been clearer to me.

I wait patiently for someone to come to my rescue, to comfort me and reassure me, to tell me I am acceptable and full of worth. But no one comes, and there I am, all alone with my numbers, which fail to comfort me.

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