Confidence is not something I had in abundance as a kid. I was a shy, chubby child that did not adjust to change very well, which made moving particularly hard. From grade school to high school, I was thrown into four different school districts across two states. Not terribly frequent, but frequent enough to make a gaggle of friends, only to have to say good-bye to them and struggle to find a new gaggle in a new, often times, hostile environment.
By the time I was thirteen, I was attending Hixson Junior High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee as the new kid, a particularly tough adjustment because – well, I was thirteen and the rest of my classmates were also thirteen. Friendships had been made. Rivals had been selected. Cliques had been formed. I was an island of awkward pubescent seclusion. If you’ve never been the new kid in school, it’s a tough landing spot. You are aware of everything around you, hyper-aware. You hear every sound, every whisper. You feel every stare. You count every inch of the plague of empty space that surrounds you as you traverse the hallways alone in a sea of students. Lunch is a hellish exercise of choosing which table for your afternoon shunning.
My favorite part of everyday was stepping off the bus at the entrance of the neighborhood and walking home because it meant I had survived another day. Leaving behind the stifling air of loneliness made it easier to breathe. It was a reprieve from the awareness that you don’t yet belong, and there’s no real signs that you ever will.
So, on one particular day, I started the decline down the hill to my house, a smile was just starting to form on my face because, although I was pretty sure my house was haunted, at least the ghost in my basement paid attention to me. With my house in sight, I heard from behind me with a thick Tennessee drone, “Hey, fat-ass!”
I turned to see a high school girl leaning out her second-story bedroom window, and upon seeing my face, she covered her mouth to hide her slack-jawed embarrassment. After a few nervous giggles she said, “I’m sorry. I thought you were somebody else.” She then quickly pulled back inside her room and slammed the window shut.
I felt my cheeks flush and quickly jogged home. It occurred to me once I was inside the safety of my haunted house that she didn’t just mistake me for somebody else. She mistook me for another fat-ass. From that moment on, thanks to being labeled a fat-ass through a case of mistaken identity, I no longer thought of myself as the new kid in school. I was the new fat-ass in school.
With that happy thought, I am off to do some more rewrites. The first Pearl of Justice mystery is coming soon.