It started out as yet another “There’s One On Every Bus” type of story. Veronica and I were intently listening to a teenage girl being overly loud and singing showtunes to her increasingly uncomfortable friends as we headed from Harvard Square to home. V and I got to eye-rolling, and I remembered how we used to call the musical theatre majors at college “Muffins” for reasons lost to history. It was a typical day on the bus.
V and I started giggling, and cringing as the girl kept singing (Rent, it’s always Rent, isn’t it?) and one by one, her friends started leaving the bus at their stops. She asked – almost begged – them to come home with her, and they were very firm in saying that they had to go. Then she said it.
“I know you just want to get away from me.”
They didn’t answer. And my blood ran cold, as did V’s. This wasn’t an obnoxious teenager on the bus. This was a lonely girl who wanted her “friends” to hang out with her when they clearly didn’t want to. This was V, and me, back in our painful teenage years. Our faces fell, and we made eye contact in a very different way as the girl, now alone, realized she missed her stop, and had to walk away from the bus in another direction, all alone.
I wanted to throw up. I try to repress my memories of high school as much as I can, junior high even more, but they all came rushing back. The awkward social ineptitude, the “cool kids” having no time for me when they weren’t making fun of me. The crippling loneliness. I’m 36 years old, and it was like I was transplanted into 14 year old me, awkward and scared that no one was ever going to be my friend. I WAS that girl. She was me.
V and I didn’t discuss the situation on the way home. We knew what each other was thinking without having to say a word. “That was me. That was me. That was me.” I wanted to run after the girl on the bus and tell her. Tell her it gets better, tell her she’ll be out of high school before she knows it and that she’ll find other people that love showtunes and will come over to do silly things and laugh and like her and mean it. She’d find it. But that day was not today.
And it probably won’t be tomorrow, or the day after that. It might not happen till college, or beyond. She has to find herself, as we all do, and that has got to be the most painful thing about growing up. That there are going to be shitheads who kill your joy and make you feel all alone, missing your bus stop and having to walk home by yourself over and over again. But dammit, this girl was going to find her way, she just had to, somehow, with the right people, it will happen. But not today.
I was the girl on the bus. And if I could, I would have gone over to her house after school. We could sing the entirety of Rent, and even act out the choreography. But I’m a 36 year old woman, who still bears the scars of high school, and I couldn’t do that. But I would.