by RosesAtSunset on April 05, 2014
i was 13 years old when i asked mindy, my grumpy summer camp counsellor, why rob, another grumpy camp counsellor, wouldn't hug me. mindy was in her first year of university. she was too skinny, with a perpetually sullen face and brown hair framed by choppy bangs that oppressively covered her muddy, blue eyes. rob was a few years older than mindy. he was strange-looking. like mindy, he was too skinny, but he had almost translucent skin and sunken, dark eyes. his hair was buzzed short and his back had a permanent slouch.
but, i didn't want to hug him because i liked him. i wanted to hug him because he told us all a story about a time when he was depressed and how jesus was there for him the whole time. i was just starting to realize that i was unhappy, with nobody to talk to about it, and i wanted to hug him and ask him if jesus would be there for me too. but when i tried to hug him, he pushed me away with a look of disdain.
so, sitting at the the picnic table outside later in the afternoon, in a nonchalant yet quivering voice, i asked mindy, "why doesn't rob let me hug him?"
she said, looking uncomfortable, "rob doesn't really like hugs."
i asked again, with a more pronounced quiver, "but why does he always agree to hug jemma?"
jemma was beautiful, far more beautiful than any 13 year old should have been. she had long, shining blond hair and sharp, blue eyes. with those striking features coupled with a body that could have easily passed for 16, it made sense that he would hug her and not me. she was really charming too; she always knew what to say.
me, well, i was just barely starting to come out of my ugly duckling phase, awkward maturity showing on my face and body. my black, curly hair was just starting to grow long enough so that the weight of the hair kept it from being too frizzy, but the humidity that summer pretty much negated that. i had the same big, brown eyes and the same scrunched-nose smile that i do now. but at 13, my body was too skinny in some places and too wobbly in others. i was too honest. sometimes i was funny but mostly my thoughts were not what people wanted to hear. it made sense that rob would hug jemma and not me.
i could tell mindy knew this. she had to know. she looked so uncomfortable.
"i don't know," she said, looking away and pursing her lips as the truth wrinkled her forehead. her thin, stupid eyebrows were being pushed together by her consternation. she knew.
"but aren't you friends? couldn't you ask him?" i pressed, knowing i should respect social rules and let it go. mindy didn't want to talk about it. mindy didn't care if it hurt my feelings. it wasn't right that it hurt my feelings.
rob wanted to hug jemma and not me because i wasn't special like she was. she had something glowing, fiery, about her that everyone reveled in.
she was a distraction; a fantasy; an escape.
i was a reminder of mediocrity; a fact of life; an underconstruction sign.
mindy pretended not to hear me and looked away suddenly, as though surprised by something. i looked to see what she was looking at and i saw a few boys my age playing soccer. when i turned back, mindy was pretending to be deep in conversation with another counsellor possessing a sneer engraved on her face, daring anyone to cross her.
quietly sighing, drowning in newfound teenage ennui, i turned around again to watch the boys play soccer. some of them had their shirts off. their boyish muscles flexed and shone in the hot sun, but they didn't care about the sun or if i noticed their muscles. jemma was sitting with her legs stretched out on the grass near the boys, with a group of girls caught in her orbit. the boys glanced up at her often and she smiled easily, letting the sun make her hair more blonde and her skin more golden.
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