Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday Memory: Joan

My third grade teacher introduced a new student to us: Joan (with the last name of a popular singing duo at the time). I was excited! A possible new friend? The teacher instructed Joan to take the desk directly behind me. As Joan sat down, I turned around to give her a big welcoming smile.

Joan GLARED at me like she wanted to rip off my scalp.

(Note: this incident hit me so strongly, I used it in Before/After when Martha tries to make friends with Chardonnay)

Joan lived in a nearby group home where the kids were notorious for, well, for not being very "nice."

And Joan was not nice. She was mean. She was rude. She was biggest liar I'd ever met--of course she was related to that singing duo. They were her cousins, DUH! Oka-ayy...

Worse, Joan was a klepto. She stole from everyone--but she especially stole from me. She stole my pencils, my crayons, my glue, my scissors. She stole trinkets out of my desk. Evenn the bright pink plastic pencil pouch given to me by my sister mysteriously disappeared. So did a small wooden giraffe that wiggled when you pressed a button.

I demanded that the teacher search Joan's desk. The giraffe was found, although the teacher's remark to me was, "You have no business bringing toys to school in the first place." Joan denied taking it.

We didn't find the pencil pouch. But I knew she had it.

On Valentine's Day we decorated our own boxes to carry our Valentines home in. When my own beautiful box disappeared, the teacher wouldn't believe that Joan had taken it. I exploded into TEARS! Finally the teacher searched Joan's desk and guess what? She found my box.

Joan denied taking it. *I* must have put it there myself just to get her in trouble.

I gave up trying to make friends with Joan. She was MEAN MEAN MEAN! Evil incarnate! She had no friends whatsoever. She also had no family. I thought at the time: I bet they kicked her out!

Every day we walked home in the same direction. I avoided her at all costs. Then one afternoon on the way home I found a wounded pigeon. Some kid (probably from the same group home as Joan) had shot its eye out with a BB gun. Coagulated blood stained the sidewalk. The pigeon stumbled about blindly, already near death.

If I cried over a missing box of Valentines, you can imagine how I reacted to something like this. I FREAKED! I crouched on the sidewalk sobbing my eyes out, desperate to help the pigeon, already knowing it was too late.

I felt an arm around my shoulders as I huddled on my knees on the pavement. When I glanced up, it was Joan. She took my hand and pulled me along, away from the pigeon and the blood and the matted feathers, and led me home. She took me into my OWN house and explained to my mother why I was so upset. Joan patted my back and told me everything would be fine, to get a GRIP already, and she'd see me in school tomorrow.

The next day it was as if none of this had happened. Joan refused to speak to me. She was still mean as hell. She lied constantly and continued to rip off anything she could get her hands on.

I didn't understand. Of course I *was* only eight years old.

A few days later some official-looking person came into the classroom and called Joan's name. Joan stood up and gathered up all her belongings as the teacher explained to the class that she would NOT be coming back. I tried to meet Joan's gaze as she left--but she stomped past me, face rigid and flaming--with tears in her eyes-- and left the room in stony silence.

I never saw her again.

I did see, however, my pink plastic pencil pouch sticking boldly out of her belongings as she marched out.

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