define insanity

They had just called me insane, and now the two of them were slinking down the graffiti-covered corridor, casting venomous glances at myself and Mr. Spencer, my champion of the moment.

"Rachel!" he grimaced, as he fished an honest-to-goodness white handkerchief from his pocket.

I was aware of the blood, the echoes of this latest encounter reverberating in my head. Yet, I was bemused that someone actually carried a handkerchief instead of throwaway tissues. I found it endearing as he wet it in the water fountain and began dabbing my head with the wonderfully cold cloth. I didn't move a muscle as he gingerly patted the bleeding lump over my right eye.

"Rachel, you sure you won’t change your story? Those boys need to be held accountable for what they've done. They need repercussions.”
As kind as he was, I maintained I’d been running down the hallway to reach my class in time. I’d ill-judged the corner, and ran myself smack into the wall. Buzz and Rocky were just calling me insane because of how stupid I was. I’d learned the hard way not to run in the school when everyone knew it was against the rules.
I wasn’t changing my story. Let's see, who’d believe Buzz wanted me to be his girl and that I’d turned him down? Buzz and his cohort, Rocky, had called me insane to turn down such a great deal. To prove how wonderful it would be if I just said, "Yes," Buzz had smashed me around before Mr. Spencer entered the picture. Rejection was not something Buzz took lightly!

Mr. Spencer pressed his now-pink handkerchief into my hand and had me hold it on the throbbing head wound, while he gathered my far-flung school papers and books. I leaned against the wall, as the pain in my head was mild compared to the fire in my left side where Buzz had punched me. I was lucky Mr. Spencer had shown up.
With my books in hand, he put an arm around my shoulder and gently led me towards the nurse's office. When we arrived in the infirmary, there were tears streaming down my cheeks. Both Ms. Shaw and Mr. Spencer figured I was in a lot of pain, but that wasn't it at all. I didn't cry over pain. It was the niceness which brought those tears.

Like I was going to tell them that! I had no memory of ever being touched so kindly, and it got to me a lot! It had felt so good, his arm around my shoulder and the real caring he’d shown me. Mr. Spencer's kind physical contact was so heartwarming, it was totally worth it to be a little bruised and bleeding. Ms. Shaw was more matter-of-fact, after all this was her business. She cleaned the head wound, administering antiseptic. I didn’t mention the fire in my ribs.

What a way to start a day! I assured them I didn't want to go home, and Mr. Spencer departed to his classroom. Ms. Shaw had me rest on the cot until I painfully made my way to math class. Wasn't that big of a deal to finish up the school day. Nothing sweet about being at home in my book!

Rocky and Buzz, glared menacingly at lunchtime. Why? They weren't in trouble, so what was up with them? As if I didn't know. Bullies tend to live miserable lives and take it out on anyone they can. I’d thought about it a lot. They had to have pathetic lives themselves, so when they showed up at school, they were dishing out all they had to give.

If anyone could understand that kind of thinking, it was me. My life was no picnic, but still, and this is where we differed, I didn't take it out on other people. What was the point of that really?

Looking in the bathroom mirror, where I’d dodged to avoid them, I couldn’t see why they picked me from the throngs of girls in our school. Plain brown hair with no highlights. No mascara to enhance the thick lashes that fringed my gray eyes, no jewelry. An ordinary girl, who wasn't looking for trouble.

I camouflaged the bruise by changing the part in my hair, covering the wound rather nicely. Then, I went to the lunch room, gratefully chose my food, and went to a corner table, where I ate, savoring every bite. Today there were no caustic remarks about my free lunch. I notice the looks I get, but eating means more to me than pretending I’ve money when I don't. Somehow I figure these kids ought to get it that I'm not poor because I choose to be. Unlike them, who are cruel snobs exactly because they choose to be. I've thought about that also and figure somehow it makes them feel better about themselves to make fun of people they think they’re better than. I’ve also realized the key word is they think they’re better than others. I'm just glad the establishment came up with free lunches for kids like me.

Myself an alien, I observe the girls who appear downright perfect, laughing with each other in expensive designer clothes. On the surface, they have it all and yet they’re not happy. I see it in their eyes, a deep-down dissatisfaction that is downright grim in my way of thinking. It’s obvious that all those "things" don't make for happiness, but they do make for rivalry and competition.

I wonder how they’d handle only having decent food at school, how well they’d manage hand washing their clothes in a sink. How fun they’d think it was to wear damp clothes to school which hadn't dried. As for me, I manage.

I figure I'm poor, but I'm not dirty. I wash my hair three nights a week and my body every night. It's a routine I make myself do when the coast is clear. I wonder how they’d hold up in a situation like mine where taking off my clothes to get bathed is panic time. I have to be careful and quick, and I‘m both.

I used to wish I had a friend, but when I watch these girls and their friends, I see right through it. What they have going on doesn't qualify in my book. So, I'm fine the way I am. I'm my own best friend. I take care of me the best I can, and I make a point of really caring about me.

Somehow I care about them too. I watch them and the way they interact. I see the affronts they cattily deal to each other. They are glib and oh-so-cute, but I see the hurt they give with their barbed jokes and inane sarcasm. I find myself wishing I could tell them it's okay and could be a lot worse, but I never go there. Yeah, right! Now, that’d be a shocker if I tried to console one of those elite princesses. They’d take it as a personal affront, call me insane, and the thought makes me smile.

I figure I'll wish them well and leave it at that. I wonder if a kind word from me could possibly affect them, like Mr. Spencer's kindness affected me. Who knows? I feel the power I have in my thoughts when I send them sympathy and caring, and I feel good doing it.

I've made it through another school day. I pat my sweater pocket making sure the roll I saved is intact for my dinner.

The last bell shatters my reverie and I move into the crush of the hallway. Oh no! There's Buzz eyeballing me dead on! I try to slip through the throng, but he manages to slam my left side as he charges by. I truly see stars as a piercing pain steals my breath and doesn't let go.

Dimly, I become aware of a brown-haired girl on a white bed with people in green hovering around her. My heart goes out to the girl who is oh-so-pale. Her eyes flutter open and I remark, "She’s beautiful! Those eyes are fantabulous," but no one hears.

In charge there’s a black-haired man with eyes that match. Everyone’s in a state of panic, responding with urgency to each command he barks.

The girl is ghostly white and her eyes are closed now. I'm grappling to understand this scene when I notice my sweater lying in the corner of the room, where a bloodstained handkerchief and a drying roll have spilled onto the floor.

The man is angry, as though this silent, still girl is a personal affront to him!

"She had to be insane to walk around with broken ribs! One bump in that crowd and the lung is punctured! Nothing we could do!"

There's that word again.

It doesn't get to me one little bit.

I feel light and free and a deep glow of blissful peace. I am fine, and I know it. And I know something very good will come from this. I am not lost at all, and the light and perfection of this moment are forever mine.

The End