By Lexi Boyer

You’re standing behind a wooden podium at the front of Mrs. Hickerson’s class. Your neatly typed notes on Sally Ride are displayed out in front of you. You are nervous, but you are ready. You’ve been preparing for this for weeks. You look up, about to start your speech—only no one is looking at you. Everyone is talking.

You wait for Mrs. Hickerson so do something, but she doesn’t seem to notice. No one seems to notice you, even with those hot pink striped gloves with the fingers cut off that you’ve recently started wearing. Still, no one seems to realize you exist.

You should say something. You need to get their attention. Shout something, like, “Listen up!” But you can’t. The words get caught in your throat. Your mouth is paralyzed. You desperately gaze over the rows of students when you notice Harley Sergeant smiling at you. You’ve wanted to talk to her all year but you haven’t been able to. She’s cooler than you—well, cooler in a bad way. Not in the way Marina Muller is cool with her cheerleader pom-poms and her posse of girls.

Harley Sergeant is cool only to you. She is sort of your idol. Not that you’d ever tell your friends that, of course. Her hair is dyed black and right now has blue streaks in it—the color changes almost every week. She wears T-Shirts with Marilyn Manson on the front and bondage pants everyday. She almost always gets to class late. You hear her coming down the hallway, the chains on her pants jingling to announce her arrival. You would describe her as Goth, something you’ve been aspiring to be. But those striped hot pink gloves you bought made everyone call you Emo instead.

Harley seems older than you, even though you’re in the same grade. You heard her boyfriend is a ninth grader. You’ve also heard that she had an abortion a few months ago, but you don’t know if that’s true. And now, Harley is smiling at you. Maybe she feels a sort of kinship, you think. Maybe there’s a darkness inside of her too.

“Hey! Everybody listen to Lexi!” Harley shouts. You smile back at her. She is your Gothic savior, ascending up to your English class from the pits of hell with white face paint and too much black mascara.

This is seventh grade.

You are the Emo girl or the girl with the gloves. Everybody knows you as this. A few months ago no one knew you at all and you’re willing to take Emo girl over nobody. You’re not really Emo though, not really. Honestly, you don’t even know what the term means, for sure. Everyone started calling you that, and now you wear it like a badge. The word holds for you a strange connotation of pride. You take it very seriously.

There are rules for being the Emo girl. You made them up, of course. You have to wear black everyday, preferably something with skulls on it. You must always be wearing a pair of striped gloves with the fingers cut off—you have three different colors now (white, pink, and gray). And you must always wear your moon shaped necklace. Under no circumstances can you ever take it off—even to shower. This isn’t really an Emo rule, just something you do.

This all started a few months ago when a darkness swept over you. It came when the days got shorter, and yours got less exciting. But you’re not afraid of the dark, not anymore. You’ve learned to embrace it. Your favorite place to be is your bedroom closet with the lights all off because it hosts a kind of emptiness and solitude. Your favorite activity is listening to music in the dark—My Chemical Romance especially. When you can’t sleep you wander around outside in the snow. At night the snow is brilliant; it lights up in the moonlight and shimmers. You wonder why everyone is so afraid of the darkness. Your eyes adjust after a few minutes and you can see just fine. It’s the daylight that you worry about. The time you spend under fluorescent lights.

Lunch—now that’s something to be afraid of. Last year you dropped your tray and spilled wild rice soup all over yourself and everyone in the cafeteria turned

You found out what it was to desire something, to desire something you have no control over.

around to stare at you. You started to cry, of course. You have this horrible tick. Every time you get embarrassed you cry. You cry when you’re angry, too. Nobody takes you seriously when you’re shouting at them with big drops falling down your face.

When you get to the cafeteria you dash to find the shortest line—pizza today. As you walk toward the table you pray there is a spot for you. No luck. You are always too late. You try to squeeze in between Courtney and Sarah—to sit in the coveted spot across from Alex—but Sarah doesn’t even notice you trying. Courtney notices but she’s also the only person you know who’s quieter than you, and she doesn’t say anything. She looks up at you sadly with her big brown eyes as if to apologize. You give up and sit at the edge of the table. You look down the row at your friends, so different from you. You used to be like them with their bright clothes. You are the black sheep of the table.

Sarah is laughing. Her girlish laugh is obvious; it sticks out above all the rest. You hate her laugh. You used to love making her laugh, until you figured out she was always laughing at you. She calls you pathetic.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. It started last summer when you, Courtney, and Sarah were filling out this friendship book together. You were supposed to make a list of each other’s strengths, but Sarah, of course, had to point out everyone’s weaknesses instead. She deemed Courtney un-smart (sounds better than dumb), you deemed Sarah unfunny (sounds better than mean), and Sarah deemed you pathetic. You’re afraid to know what pathetic sounds better than.

Sarah and you used to be best friends in sixth grade, but now that’s she dating Alex it seems like she hardly ever talks to you. You both used to have a crush on Alex—and then he chose her over you, and things got awkward. You still believe he is dating Sarah in order to get to you. It makes sense. Why else was he always looking at you like that? Almost every day you catch him staring at you and when your eyes meet, time slows down and everyone else around you disappears.

You believe he is the love of your life. You have become obsessed with him. He is in all of your thoughts. He is your whole world. There is a weight to his name now, so heavy it feels like it will crush you one day. You believe he is the only one for you—and you missed him. He’s part of the reason why your world went dark. You spent a month madly in love, writing poetry about him, laughing and dreaming about him with Sarah, and then it stopped being okay. You stopped being okay. The whole thing seems like an intricate nightmare that you’re waiting to wake up from.

Someone throws an empty chip bag at you. You look up. Alex is smiling at you. You smile back. This is normal. You are the human trash can. You can’t remember how it started, but now everyone at your lunch table throws their garbage onto your tray when they’re done, and then you throw it all away. Of course, it’s just a joke. That’s what everyone tells you. You should laugh. You are a good sport so you do, you do.

This is seventh grade.

Every day you hope Alex will talk to you. Hope. You have just discovered the loftiness of this word. It was once just a word to you, a sappy one too. One you would see on a Hallmark card or something. But recently you actually felt its meaning. You found out what it was to desire something, to desire something you have no control over. You found out how to lay your trust in that word. You found out how to get yourself out of bed in the morning thinking about that word, envisioning it rising up underneath you. I hope today will be good, you have learned to say.

When you feel sad, you think of the luminescence of that word, glowing with possibility. There’s always hope, you’ve learned to think. Because it gets you through the day. Hope became the moon because it was the only thing that was illuminated in the darkness. You stopped shutting your blinds at night because of this, so you could always feel her watching you. You think you are in love with Alex but really you are in love with the moon. That’s why you always wear her around your neck. There is a dark side to the moon, even you know about that. Even the moon has secrets.

This is seventh grade.

On the bus a sixth grader named Sampson sits by you. He is incredibly tall and incredibly slow at talking. He says that he’s in love with you. But he doesn’t know what love is, not like you do. He doesn’t know the crushing love you have, the suffocating love, love that turns black and blue. He thinks love is like the movies. You know love is a nightmare.

You are the Emo girl. The girl with the gloves. You are in love with everything, and everyone. You are the cry baby. You are the pathetic one. You are the black sheep, the trash can. You are a friend to the darkness and a mistress to the moon. You think no one loves you but they do, they do.

This is seventh grade.

Lexi Boyer is a student at BSU and has lived in Bemidji all her life. She has wanted to become a writer ever since she could read. Her other hobbies include taking pictures, drawing, and wasting her time playing Sims.