It was grade 5 and the day to elect students to do class tasks. Tasks like wiping down the chalk board at the end of the day, making sure things were back in place, those kinds of things. Susan McGinns’ hand went up like a piston when the teacher asked the class for nominations. Yes Susan? Teacher said. I elect Debbie to clean the toilets, Susan said turning to me with a big smile, and the class of course laughed along with her. I think I dissolved into my desk, I can’t recall exactly. I blanked out. I think I was partly in shock that she could humiliate me and look right at me. Gutsy.
Susan McGinn started out as my friend who lived across the street. After school I’d go to her house and we’d watch National Velvet and eat cereal, other times I would help her dry the dishes that were left from breakfast and we would play “if I were a millionaire.”
She lived with her dad and they had a pool table where the dining room table should be. Their dog would sometimes shit under it, Susan would come home from school and find it there and clean it up. Her dad would be at work so she was by herself for a bit after school. He liked country western music and drank beer, but I remember he was quiet, kind and gentle.
I spent the night at her house many times and we’d put on “Sugar Shack” and sing ad nauseam in her bedroom and make up dance routines.
I can’t recall what it was that suddenly made her hate me so much. It was like a tap. Next thing I knew she had a vendetta on me. I don’t know what set her off, but my school life became nearly unbearable because of it. Her confidence, as she rained down condescending remarks on me, was solid.
She could rally the class behind her and hold their attention as she picked apart my choice of clothing I wore that day. Man, I wish I had that kind of confidence. But I wouldn’t use my confidence for evil purposes. I think back to all of the great things I might have accomplished if I had had good Sue McGinn confidence. But my deficit in that attribute was deep and crippling. I was the quintessential Shrinking Violet. If you looked up Wall Flower, I’d be there.
Then one day a miracle. Sitting at my desk I feel a nudge from a classmate from my right, I turn to find an envelope being held out to me and I look past it to see Sue McGinn smiling the drippiest, diabetic, sugar drenched smile at me. It was from her. I took the envelope and inside was a card with a beautiful drawing of flowers on the front, drawn by her. She was making up! Finally my torment was coming to an end. I smiled back, then I opened the card.
I should’ve opened the card first so I wouldn’t have smiled first. I should’ve played it cool and taken the card with maybe a furrow in my brow that implied what the hell is this now? To show her I wasn’t falling prey to her wicked ways. I should’ve then opened the card like I could care less, then look right at her (the way she boldly does at me) roll my eyes and toss the card back at her.
She got me. I smiled back before opening the card. She got me perfectly. Hook, Line and Sucker. I can’t recall what heinous hallmark curse was inside, I blanked out again from sheer embarrassed humiliation. My gullibility was chronic. She was goood.
She moved away not long after never to be heard of again. We moved too, out of Garden Grove to Huntington Beach and to a new school and though I never encountered the likes of Sue McGinn again in other classmates since, she did a stellar job of embedding a fear of criticism and being singled out in a group, even if for good things like a job well done or a talent or a job interview. Still very uncomfortable with any attention turned on me. But I’ve worked to overcome as we must as we mature, but she gave me some darn good stuff to work with. So, uh thanks I guess.