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i got up this morning a little after 2 p.m. my throat hurt, my nose was running, i was hungry, and i needed some water for my parched throat. i wandered sleepily out to the kitchen to get a drink, and i discovered lauren and 3 hot girls staring at me from the main room. i stared back. lauren said hi, and i attempted to answer, which was when i discovered that i had no voice. of course, i discovered it a little to late to take back the sad croak of a greeting i had just uttered, and lauren said 'awwwwwww, you sound awful!' i hid my face, and all 3 hot girls joined in, 'awwwwwww...' i felt a little dumb. i avoided them the rest of the morning, which meant i didn't eat much, and i didn't get a chance to warm up my voice... i knew i would sound a little better after i talked for a while, but i wasn't going to talk to these random girls, so i talked to myself on the way to the bus stop instead. i felt dumb.

i got to work and wandered over by marie. she said hi, and i croaked, 'hi,' and she asked in concern, 'are you ok?' i think she was worried that i was upset or dying or something, because when i told her i was just a little sick, the concern went away and she backed up and said, 'don't breath on me.'
i said 'don't worry, i won't.'
she went home a half hour later, and that was all she said to me.

alyssa said i looked awful, and then said, 'i'm sorry. you probably don't want to hear that.'
taysha told me i sounded awful, and when i gave her a sarcastic, 'thanks,' she replied, 'you're welcome, dumb-dumb.'
justin also told me i sounded awful.
rashid just teased me incessantly, every time my voice croaked or squeaked or cracked.
i wish sicknesses were invisible.

i showed justin some more stuff on self-check today, because neither dana nor terrie were around to yell at him to leave me alone. by now, justin can run self-check almost as well as i can, and he's proud of himself, and of me. when his brother came to pick him up today, he made him come over and use self-check, so justin could show him everything he knew. then he added proudly, 'loser's taught me everything!' i just laugh. he reminds me of me when he gets so proud to know stuff he's not supposed to know. if this were his job, though, he'd hate it and be lazy about it.

for the same reason justin could stand by me, taysha could tease me for the entire night. dumb-dumb used to be an joke/insult that she tossed at anybody, but now, it's become a reserved word... she only uses it with me, justin, and her brother. if i call anybody else a dumb-dumb, she'll correct me.

amit let me go home early so i could catch the bus. normally, i would want the hours, but it was only a half hour, and i really am feeling a little run-down. besides, these paper towels were turning me into rudolph... the sooner i could get to some real tissues, the better.

i've been thinking again, and it's got nothing to do with christine, for once. i'm thinking about 8th grade, because i just made a realization... but first, some background info:
in 8th grade, i got picked to go to a weekend-long retreat/camp thing. there were ~200 8th graders at my school, and only 20 of us got to go. we didn't really know why, and i'm still not really sure what they looked for when they were picking us. they gave us next to no details about the camp-out, or the purpose of it, or why we were picked, or anything, but i didn't really notice because i was used to being part of select groups. i was always either good or bad, but never in the middle. if the entire cafeteria erupted into a food fight, but they needed a small group of students to punish, i was in the group. if they needed a small group of students to represent our school in a math competition, i was in the group. so i didn't question why i was picked, but i didn't want to go. i didn't really know any of the kids who were going very well. i just wanted to stay home and hang out with my friends, but my parents told me to go, so i went. when i got there, i discovered that nobody really knew anybody very well, and looking back on it, i think that was the point. they had picked a little bit of everything... there was bobby, the weirdest kid in the grade. everybody made fun of him, always. then there was val, class president, sports star, and all-around nice girl. we had the star of the boys' basketball team, and the best musician in the grade. we had one of the popular girls, with all the makeup and the stylish clothes, and we had the tall skinny awkward-looking new girl, who just moved here this year. we had the computer geek and the girl who was a model. and then there was abby, who i didn't know at the time. she is quiet now, and back then, she was even more quiet. i don't know what i was, but i'd imagine i had a label. i think they carefully selected one of each category; i just don't know what the categories were. maybe i was the clown, or the female geek, or the trouble-maker.
the weekend was fun. we played fun games, got to know each other, and just had fun. that was all i thought about it then. now, though, i know it was about a lot more than just having fun. the games weren't about winning, but about teamwork. the activities were always conducted so you saw everybody's good side. everything was carefully put together, so that if you did well, the other kids would benefit, but if you did poorly, they wouldn't lose anything. you encouraged your teammates to do well, but you weren't ever upset with them if they failed. i think they were trying to teach us about teamwork, and to appreciate other people, and to look past the stereotypes. they were trying to teach us to be nice to people, which is a lesson that most 8th graders desperately need to learn. overall, this one weekend didn't really change much. maybe the 19 of us teased bobby a little less when it was over, but we couldn't stop the rest of the school from teasing him, and once we were back with all the kids who hadn't 'learned' what we had, we didn't want to stick up for him, for fear of being teased ourselves. i think it was a good idea, but ultimately, adolecents will be adolecents...
anyway, the point of this is that on the last night of this retreat, they had a dance. there were 10 boys, 10 girls, and it was that way on purpose. unfortunately, they hadn't planned on me or abby. i hated dances. i was vocal about this, and i always had been. i thought people looked dumb when they were dancing, unless it was some choreographed dance routine like you see on tv. the electric slide was ok, or the hokey-pokey, or the chicken dance. but at these dances, you didn't do dances like those. you either hung all over some guy, or you stood around and bobbed your head and made up your own dance and you looked dumb. or that's how i saw it, anyway. so in the cabin, while all the girls were flitting around, getting ready for the dance, i complained. i said how i didn't want to go, and how this was stupid. the teachers told me i had to go. i said 'fine, but i'm not dancing.' they said i would dance, and i said i wouldn't. they said i would, and that was final, and then they left to get the hall ready. that was when abby whispered my name. i turned around and realized that throughout this, while everybody else was preparing, she had been sitting quietly on her bed. she told me quietly, 'i don't like dancing either. i don't want to dance. i'm scared they're going to make me. will you stay with me at the dance?' i told her i would. so we went to the dance, and abby and i found ourselves some chairs, and we sat down and talked and listened to the music, while everybody else danced. (actually, i did most of the talking, and mostly i was just joking around and making her laugh. i didn't know her well enough to do anything but that, and i knew she was happy i was here, no matter what i was saying.) then, they started a 'snowball' dance. it starts out one guy and one girl, and then they break apart, and the guy picks a different girl, and the girl picks a different guy, so then there's two couples. then two couples become 4 couples, etc. the problem was that for all their careful planning, there were two guys with no partners, because i steadfastly refused to dance, for me and for abby. the teachers were frustrated. this was all about community, and acceptance, and here the two guys were feeling left-out. so they came over to me, and told me, 'if you don't want to dance, you don't have to. but you have to go sit in the other room, because this room is for dancing.' the other room was pretty much empty, except for about 5 or so of the teachers, who were playing trivial pursuit. i didn't care where i was sitting, as long as i didn't have to dance, and they knew that. where they went wrong, though, was in figuring that i was the one keeping abby from dancing. i went into the next room, and was perfectly content wiggling around in a chair, playing with the lego man in my pocket, and listening to them play trivial pursuit. i was only there for 30 seconds when one of the teachers, miss andrews, came over to me. miss andrews was one of the band's assistant directors, and she had known me for 3 years now. i thought she was a very nice lady, as far as teachers go, and she was one of the teachers that wasn't so bothered by my constant motion, just so long as it didn't interfere with my music. she asked me if i wanted to go for a walk. i said, 'no,' because i didn't. she looked at me, paused, and then said, 'come on, let's go. it's nice outside.' i realized that she hadn't asked me the question because she wanted to know the answer; she had only asked so i would feel like i had a say in the matter... well, whatever. so i got up and we went for a walk. as we headed slowly away from the building, she asked me why i didn't want to dance. i said dancing was dumb, and i hated dancing. she asked if there was any reason, and i told her 'because it's pointless. and a waste of time.' she asked if there was anything i wasn't telling her about it, and i said no. she asked if maybe there was anything else i wanted to talk about. i was completely confused, and answered, 'no, i don't think so...' she was asking these questions like she knew the answer, and just wanted me to say it, but i had no idea what she wanted me to say. she said she had been a teacher for a long time, and she had heard pretty much everything. she said there was nothing i could say to her that she hadn't heard before, and then asked if i was sure i didn't have anything i wanted to discuss. i was absolutely lost. she thought i had some deep dark secret, just because i didn't like dancing?!?!?!? i reassurred her, 'no, everything's fine. i just don't like to dance.' she said ok, and she sounded disappointed. she said that was it, then, and we could go back now. she had just thought maybe i had wanted to talk.
when we got back, i went back to my seat in the trivial pursuit room, but they came and got me right away. abby was in tears because (surprise!) she really hadn't wanted to dance, only without me to stick up for her, she was scared and didn't know what to do, and she had tried a timid no, but the teachers, still figuring that deep down, she wanted to be a part of this, had tried to talk her into it, had ignored her quiet 'no's, and she had started crying. i came in, and picked up where i had left off, joking with her, while the teachers tried to calm her down, and eventually, she was back to laughing at me, and the teachers left us both alone for the rest of the night.
in 12th grade, i found out that miss andrews was gay, but still didn't make the connection. i just never thought about it. but now, i thought about it. in 8th grade, my teacher thought i was gay. she had to have. you can't explain that conversation any other way, can you? in 8th grade, before i even completely realized that i was in the closet, somebody was ready to help me out of it. i wonder... i wonder if she only thought that because i didn't want to dance, or if she had thought that all along... i wonder how many other people have thought that, and i've just not known it... i wonder what would have happened if she had been more specific, on that walk. at that point, i had a pretty good idea that i was gay... i just had no idea that that's the secret she was looking for. i guess i was a stupid kid, but i didn't connect dancing and sexuality like that. and i wonder if maybe that's why i've always hated dances so much. i always thought i hated them just because of the reasons i gave her on that walk, but i wonder if maybe it was the girl-on-boy, boy-on-girl thing that was bothering me the whole time. i wonder if i would have hated dancing so much if i had been dancing in gay clubs, instead of teen-night at the straight clubs... it just blows my mind, how much more sense things make when you look back on them. miss andrews wasn't crazy. she just knew me better than i knew myself...