Before the 8th grade, my grades were perfect. Every test I took, I knocked out of the park. However, the change of events in my home life started spilling over during the day at school. Living off sugar had a terrible impact on, well, everything. My breakfast of candy bars and skipping lunch left me sleeping through math and everything past 1 pm. I had a little bit of energy in the mornings for PE. Not that I wanted to have the energy for it, because it was my least favorite class. My eye-hand coordination was so bad that I was the last person to be picked for any team sport. Heck, anything involving a ball. If I was on your team, you were sure to lose. If you didn’t participate in group sports, you had to work out in the gym on the equipment. Naturally, nobody taught us all how to correctly use anything, so we would go over there and do idiotic things that made us hurt a lot later. I didn’t like weights either, so I started pegboard climbing, which was great because nobody else wanted to do that, and I had it all to myself. I became so good at pegboard climbing that I started competing against other people and schools.
What is pegboard climbing you ask? It is a flat board mounted high on the wall filled with holes and numbers. Without using any of your lower body, you climb from one spot to the next, or you swing your body over to a number called out. When your body gives out from exhaustion, you fall to a cushioned mat below. My upper body strength became insane, though I was only about 90 lbs, so it wasn’t like lifting much. This was the closest thing to a sport I’d entertain. Unfortunately, after the 8th grade, I never saw a pegboard again.
The worst part of my day was changing into and out of gym clothes. I would rush to the locker room and try to beat the rest of the students there to slip into my gym outfit without anyone seeing me naked. That sometimes didn’t work, so I would fake that I needed to pee and change in a toilet stall. After class, the toilet stalls were often full, so I mastered the art of changing my shirt without anyone seeing anything. I’d put a shirt over the shirt, and then, like a magician escaping a straight jacket, I would wiggle my way out of the dirty gym shirt. Sometimes I would just leave the gym shirt on because it was a nice grey color and well, fuck it. I had less of an issue being in my underwear, but I didn’t want anyone to see my chest or lack of one. I was flat as a board.
My friend Katie however, had the most beautiful breasts ever, and when we changed, I would look over at her and peek. If I had breasts like hers, I would walk around naked in front of everyone like she did. I was in awe of them and filled with envy. In the 8th grade, she was easily a D cup, and her body was small in proportion, so they stood out. I didn’t understand that I was not just curious about Katie but attracted to her. She was in my mind, the perfect girl, and she reminded me of Snow White. If she ever cosplayed as Snow White, it would have been perfect. I loved sitting next to her and watching her put her makeup on after her shower and loved watching her get dressed. She made PE worth going to.
She and I also had one other class together, which was speech and debate. She chose me as her partner most of the time and invited me to her house to practice our lines for performances. Her place was excellent compared to mine, and when I went over, I loved being a voyeur. I now wonder if she knew that I stared at her because at her house, she’d change out of her school clothes in front of me, and she had this rack in her closet that had her tank tops neatly, no perfectly folded on them. She’d pick one out and slip it on, and I would stand there looking at her perfection.
I didn’t yet realize that girls could be into girls, so I shrugged it off as fascination with her beauty instead of attraction. If she had understood it and held my hand, I think my mind would have exploded. I’m not sure what I would have done because I was still in the fairytale land of finding the perfect boyfriend and the ideal hands to hold.
About halfway through the year, I started ditching school with my friend Connie who lived in the nearby cemetery on the NAU campus. Her parents were groundskeepers, and if I wanted to go to her place, I often had to climb the cemetery fence and run as fast as I could to avoid their dogs who’d chase after me. I have an active imagination, so I also imagined zombies chasing after me as well. I’d have to work up the courage to see her, so I would usually beg for her to come over to my place. Hanging out with her didn’t have a lot of substance. She mostly liked to talk about eyeliner and boys. While I liked boys, I didn’t want to talk about them. I wanted to be with them and do “boy” stuff.
So, if she weren’t down for ditching, I would head out with my pal Aaron Vyvial. Aaron and I became locker-mates when I decided to make a move out of the gifted hall. I moved out because being over there seemed elitist, and I didn’t feel remotely elite. Aaron had a voice like Christian Slater, and he rode a skateboard, and he treated me like a sister. We’d skate and run around town. Sometimes we’d sit in the park, and he’d tell me all about this girl on the bus he had a crush on who had bright red hair and she wore it in a ponytail but on the side of her head instead of the back, which I found weird, but he said it was perfect. Aaron also was blunt, and I liked that about him. One day, when we were hanging out at Wheeler park, he looked down at my legs and said, “Cyan, you need to shave.” I had not thought about this before. My legs didn’t exist until he brought them to my attention.
That night I not only shaved them, but I went to the store and picked up some self-tanning cream. I didn’t read the instructions and lathered it all over my legs, arms and face and satisfied that I’d wake up with a beautiful tan and smooth legs, I fell asleep. When I woke up, my sheets streaked with oily orange stains, my hands came into focus, and they were bright orange, with lots of darker spots around my nails and knuckles. My legs were a nightmarish orange color. Mortified, I jumped in the shower and scrubbed and scrubbed until I was red, but that hardly made a difference, so I called in sick. I then read the instructions and realized I did everything wrong. So, I stayed in the bathtub and kept scrubbing, finally succumbing to my orangeness later in the day. After two days, I got up the courage to go back to school, and Charlie, my ex-boyfriend, saw me in the hall, looked me up, and down and said, “nice tan”! I played it cool and just said, “thanks,” but I knew he didn’t mean it.
Aaron said, “what the fuck did you eat”? I told him what I had done because I hoped that having smooth legs and being kinda tan would be hot. He just laughed and hugged me. I loved seeing him every day because Aaron made me feel like someone cared about me. He hugged me every day and told me jokes in-between classes. However, hanging out with him caused tension with my friends Trish and Sarah because Trish started obsessing over dating Aaron and following me around, asking me questions about him. Eventually, like Charlie, I had to start calling him at night for her and asking him all sorts of stupid teenage questions. I admit that I kind of liked bothering them both because it was something to do, just like playing my french horn loud.
My friend Sarah and I would meet up after school, and we liked to play a game of who could shoplift the craziest stuff. It was no longer about selling candy bars to make money to eat, but a sport for us. I started stealing things I didn’t even need because the thrill was addictive.
We both had the same rule, or at least I thought we did that we weren’t supposed to steal from small businesses. We finished our rounds at Wal-Mart, Bashas grocery store, and Payless. I was done for the day because my favorite part of it was heading home and dumping things out of our pockets to see who won based on absurdity or price. Sarah wanted to make one last stop at a stationery store. I figured this was fine because I didn’t think she’d take anything, given it was not a chain. I went in with her and looked around but grew bored knowing I couldn’t buy anything, so I lingered around the front of the store. Sarah looked around and eventually headed up towards me, but when she got towards the door, the store owner got in front of her and said, “where’s the eraser you were looking at”? Sarah looked at her and then looked at me, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” Sarah tried to walk over towards me, but the owner of the store blocked every move with outstretched arms. Sarah then looked at her and then looked at me and told the woman that she didn’t have anything.
”Well, then you give me no choice - you wait right there.” She went over to the phone and called the police.
I looked over at Sarah and asked her if she took something, and she nodded her head yes. If she hadn’t, it wouldn’t have changed anything because the police would find our pockets filled with other things, and we’d be in trouble for that. So, I thought quickly, grabbed her by the shoulders and looked at her straight on, “Sarah, the police won’t be here for at least five to ten minutes. This woman isn’t going to touch you, so when I tell you to, you run. I’ll leave first, and you follow me. You run until I stop, understood”? She nodded, yes. I took one look at her, and then I looked towards the door, and I bolted. It was snowing outside, and there was about a foot of snow on the ground, so I could hear the loud crunching noise of snow packing down with each step I took. I ran until I was out of breath into the forest near the shopping center, and then I finally stopped and looked behind me. No Sarah. She did not run.
I paced around, screaming profanities. Why didn’t Sarah run? What was wrong with her? Then I had a crisis of loyalty. I was off home free as I knew she wouldn’t turn me in. I could just go home and see her at school and find out what happened, but I couldn’t do that. She was my friend, and if she was going to go down, I had to as well, or I at least had to see to it that she was safe. So, I buried everything I had on me in the snow and headed back to the store. When I got there, there was a police officer, and he had Sarah in handcuffs. He was talking to the store owner.
“Well, well, look who came back. I didn’t think you would. Officer, I didn’t see her steal anything, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t”. She looked at me with disgust. I looked at her directly and said, “I don’t steal from small businesses.” She retorted back, “but notice you didn’t say you don’t steal.”
“Whatever, I’m not leaving my friend here.”
Sarah looked at me and started to cry. The officer asked to search me, and I let him. He didn’t find anything. He took Sarah to juvi, and he dropped me off at home but hand-delivered me to my doorstep, hoping to talk to my mother about what I had done, but she wasn’t there. I explained that she wasn’t ever there, but he had enough of me and eventually gave up.
About an hour or so later, my phone rang, and I answered it. It was Sarah’s mother, Rory. She was furious.
“Cyan, you are no longer allowed to hang out with Sarah. You are not allowed in my home. I never want to see you again”.
It was then that I learned about consequences. Up until this point, we got away with everything, and there wasn’t an adult around to tell us we were wrong, but the result was losing meaningful connectivity with my best friend. From that moment on, I was only allowed to see her at school. No more sleepovers and no more hiding under her bed when kicked out of my house. Worst of all, no more of Rory’s spaghetti.
I vowed that I’d never shoplift again. Not from anyone small or big. I had to figure out some other way to make money, and I also had to find some other form of entertainment. My stealing days were over.