To 2016-2017

By Maya Joseph

  1. Untitled
    By Dharma Hufnagel




“Oh—would you look at that, we have a new name on the roster.” The teacher looked up with a warm smile, squinting at the girl in the back of the room. The rest of the class followed suit: twenty-five heads immediately snapped back, shamelessly ogling at the new student. I, too, looked at her curiously, and despite all the attention, she remained unfazed in her seat. “Do you want to introduce yourself to the class?”

“Erin.” She made brief eye contact with the teacher. Everyone sat in silence, expecting more, but she went back to scribbling in a journal.

“Alright. Nice to meet you…“ My teacher moved on, calling the rest of our names out before beginning class. I couldn’t pay attention to my friend talking to me by my side as we were set off to do our individual classwork. I kept glancing over at Erin. She was working alone and managed to finish all her work before everyone else, pulling out a book for the rest of the class.

As always, everyone was into the new student. They tried to help her with everything and were constantly talking to her, but it was more of an interrogation if anything. I felt bad for her, especially since she never replied to anyone and just continued to do her work in silence. And as the week passed, everyone eventually lost interest and treated her as if she wasn’t there.

“That new girl, Erin or whatever? I don’t like her.” My friend, Megan, chose this as the opening topic at our lunch table on Friday. I could remember at the beginning of the week she was so excited to have another girl in our math class, it was funny how opinions changed so fast here.

Everyone around the table agreed while I stirred around my lump of mashed potatoes in my lunch tray. I would usually join in on the gossip, but I couldn’t bring myself to.

There was something about Erin that had me so intrigued. Throughout the week, Erin had been exceptionally different. Even though our school had no uniform, there was an unspoken dress code that existed: don’t stand out too much. But Erin wore the brightest colors and the weirdest fabrics and patterns, and it fit her so well, and maybe she knew that too because the stares that people gave her didn’t bother her. If anything, she walked down the halls confidently, she was weird, but I liked her.

Despite it being her first week she was barely in class, but when she was there it was like she never left—she got everything correct and the teachers absolutely adored her. The students liked her even less. She ate lunch alone but it didn’t look awkward or lonely, she looked at ease by herself.

I was walking home alone one afternoon, avoiding the huge puddles from the heavy rain that poured throughout the school day. I must have been too distracted not getting my new sneakers wet that I bumped into someone who was crouched on the sidewalk right next to a puddle. She tumbled in slightly, getting the bottom of her pants wet and I gasped, “Sorry!”

Upon a closer look, I discovered it was Erin, who just stared at me wordlessly. Her eyes were bright and round, her messy hair slightly falling in to her face and eyes. I felt bad seeing her expression, so the only thing I could think of was to jump in as well, effectively wetting my brand-new shoes and my jeans.

Erin paused, then she snorted before bursting in to a short laugh before standing up, easily wiping off droplets that got onto her. I stood there awkwardly, feeling silly about my childish action but she looked at me and smiled. “You’re weird, but I like you.” Was all she said, it was a bit ironic, but it was how our friendship began.
Spending time with Erin made the days go by faster, the more I got to know her, the more interesting she became. My friends disapproved of our friendship but I couldn’t mind them, when I was having ten times more fun with her.

“What are you doing?” I yelled out as I watched her walk towards a back door instead of our math class one afternoon. Erin turned around with a determined smile.

“Learning something more important.” She exclaimed and I fought with myself briefly before eventually running to catch up with her.

“Like what?” I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion and she held on to my arm before linking them together.

Erin laughed as we crossed the back of the school, perfectly practiced as we have done this many times before. “I think I could name a million more things that matter that aren’t y equals mx plus b.”

I didn’t think skipping class was smart, but I cherished the memories we started to make together as we went exploring. I didn’t realize how sheltered I had been, more places existed than school and home, which was all I knew before I met her.
I began to change, breaking out of the mold that I had settled in like the rest of my classmates. I was becoming a new person, and I felt free. My friends left me one by one, awkward conversations turned into never speaking to me again, and it wasn’t long before I was getting stared at as well.

After a while, I couldn’t say I didn’t care anymore, I got frustrated and felt embarrassed. Everyone noticed I was changing and I started to feel disconnected from the place I had once belonged in.

It started building up inside of me and one afternoon I ended up yelling at Erin. Blaming her for making me like this. All she did was stand there and take it all in until I finished, shaking with emotion. “Are you finished?” She didn’t even wait for me to respond and just dragged me from where we were, and kept on pulling me along despite my protests.

“This is stupid, what are we even doing?” I had asked, but received no reply.
We were walking through the forest by the school until we reached a clearing with a tiny hill, she brought me all the way to the top, this was one of our favorite places that came out of our adventures.

“It doesn’t make you mad that people say all that stuff about us? About you?” I pressed her as we walked closer to the edge, “Even though you’re really…” I stumbled with my words, trying not to be too embarrassing. “Nice?”
“That just proves my point.” She stops and looks up at the sky but I don’t follow her, I just keep staring at her face, her gaze was warm and soft, bittersweet even as she spoke. “The most beautiful things in life aren’t just right in front of us. You need to find them.”

She turned towards me before speaking again, “Who cares about what people think? You’re happy, aren’t you?”

I couldn’t say or do much of anything because as always, she was proven to be right. I just nodded quietly and looked at the scenery. I focused on the sun that sat on the horizon and remembered how she told me she loved seeing the thin line between the sky and land once the sun sets. I found myself liking it as well, falling for the way the reds and yellows and oranges bled together as the sun disappeared. And as it went further away, getting smaller and smaller, my anger ebbed away just like that.

Reading my mind as always, she asked, “Feel better?”

“Yeah...” I let out a sigh of defeat and linked our arms together. “Now let’s get down from here, I’m hungry.”

Erin grinned at me and I smiled back, maybe no one else would understand, but at least we did.