Saturday, August 9

seven seconds

(um, no, not seven seconds in heaven)

When Johanna* and Louis came to my high school three years ago, we were ready. Different cliques, bored of the same gossip and politics were eager to see these elusive French siblings. Eager to judge their clothes, their hair, their allure.
They say it takes seven seconds for humans to judge another,

we were ready for those few seconds.

Two weeks after they arrived, I sat with them on the oval. Her, yellow-blond pony-tail, skinny jeans rolled up slightly at the ankle, studded red sunnies, platform shoes. Her, a wavering smile but a laugh that made her throw her hair back and show teeth, little pieces of her hair flying everywhere.
Him, eyes framed with dark eyelashes, Jansport bag, tall. Him, his breathing a little too heavy.
Both, manicured, witty, speaking quickly, a stream of words.

I sat with them that day, because Louis and I had talked in class about Frankenstein, and he had talked to me about his host family's fishy habits. "The little girl sits in my bed and eats." He said laughing "So when I turn around at night, I hear crunching noises,and I think: 'probs a Twistie'. At least they bought me a phone though!". The first day we talked the light was soft and I felt confident. I felt heard, I liked trying to explain my day-to-day reality: the school rules and cliques, the wacky teachers and the soggy nachos that came in an aluminium box that you did not want to buy at the canteen. 

Another French boy that I vaguely knew and with whom I had had a negative encounter, was sitting with them, David let's call him. He was eighteen, two years older than us, he smoked weed and drunk till he vomited every Friday night, or at least that's what he says. Louis liked him, so did Johanna, they thought his stubble was cool. On the oval, in a circle with these people (Steph, from Switzerland was also there), I felt happy to be sitting amongst these good-looking people. It was one of those distinctive "movie-moments" that could definitely have a song playing in the background (Fill Yourself by Mia Dyson preferably). This was me being a teenager.

I understood everything they said - I had been studying this language my whole life, writing all my exams in it and practicing at home with my mum - though the words that I thought were "in" turned out to make me sound like a thirty year old aunt trying to speak "the teen-lingo". They laughed when I would say "boum" (disco) instead of "soirée" (evening party) and snickered when I told them that Australia had some pretty cool parties. A question started, very, very, excruciatingly slowly, to dawn on me. What the hell was I doing with these people? What had we in common? A love of Mary Shelley with one out of these four people? My background music was slowly starting to change into Snarly by Miko.

While I was just thinking that Slowly Sinking by Lyke Giants would probably be a better fit, the eighteen-year old took out his lighter and slowly, oh-so-casually, lit up the detention slip he had been given earlier in the morning (Lunchtime, Room 24, Detention, Name: David Leek), when it shrivelled up he threw it into the dry Australian grass.

I'd like to say that everything burnt, that the twins quit hanging out with this thug and started to speak slower. Instead, they looked at me to judge my reaction as if I was a teacher in disguise. Seeing that I visibly was not going to tell them off, or worse tell on them, they started to talk again, all at once about the difference (the huge! difference) between France and Australia. The difference in clothes (what the Aussies wore was just material, they wore art! they said with a smile), of shoes, of school, but above all: the parties.

Johanna looked at me suddenly ready for a laugh, her hair yellower than ever and asked: "You ever got smashed, babe?" I shook my head, seeing very well where this was going. In an attempt to inject some humour in the convo I said grinning: "Nope. Never drunk, never smoked, weed or other!" Steph smiled and tried to change the subject (Later she conspiratorially whispered: don't worry, me neither. But I guess it was a bit late). 

David, poking the crumpled piece of paper on the ground with his lighter said to me slowly: "You've never lived Zoé".
And for a moment, I believed him.

by Maggie Dunlap

*All names here have been changed in an attempt to keep these people secrettt

1 thoughts:

Thank you so much for taking the time to say 'hi'; it's great hearing from you. ❀