Her arms are clean. No cuts. No scars. Nothing. Envy rises in me, the longer I stare. I wonder what it’s like to have clean arms as I look down at my own. Pink lines, white lines, red lines, purple lines. There isn’t an inch of clean skin on my arms. I frown, suddenly perplexed at the realization. When did my arms become covered? Did I really cut this much? I look back at the girl with the clean arms. I wonder if she wears pretty sundresses on summer days. If she laughs too loudly at her friends jokes. If she kisses her lover good-bye at the end of the night. If she wears cute pajama shorts and a tank top to bed. If she gets up half an hour early to get ready for school. If the sun reflects off of her pale skin in the spring sunlight. If she swings at the park down the street and lets the wind blow through her long, red hair. I should ask her if she does these things. I should be her friend. Maybe then I can know what it’s like to have a normal life.
A paper hits me in the head, and I jump. A boy in front of me sneers and nudges his friend, who turns and laughs at me. I frown back at them and wonder why they’re so mean. I don’t touch the crumpled paper on my desk. If I open it, they win and that can’t happen. The teacher clears his throat, a command for the boys to stop their sneering. I send my teacher a silent thank you and continue staring at me peers.
There’s another girl who wears baggy clothes, and has a skinny face. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom after lunch I hear her throwing up. I know her secret, and I know she knows that I know. She looks at me as she exits the stall. We don’t say anything. I don’t tell on her. That would make a hypocrite. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not a hypocrite. I see her in the cafeteria; she stares at her food, a sad expression on her face. I wonder how many people she fools. I wonder how many people tease her. I wonder if she gives her food to her dog, if she has one. I wonder if she thinks she’s beautiful yet.
A boy with glasses scribbles the notes at a rapid rate. He’s hunched over his desk, and his eyes dart across his paper. He has pimples on his face and his hair sticks up in all directions. He packs his lunch every day, and he sits alone. Kids don’t notice him. I wonder if he likes being ignored; at least he doesn’t get made fun of. I wonder if anyone asks him to do their homework; I hear he’s smart. I wonder if he gets A’s on all his tests. I wonder if he hates his pimples, or if he’s learned to love them yet.
A girl texts her girlfriend from under her desk. She dyes her hair different colors every month; this time it’s bubble gum pink. She talks back to the teacher sometimes. The boys snicker when she walks by. She wears short skirts, and lets her stomach show. She has a cup cake belly ring. I wonder if she has any more piercings. I wonder if she and girlfriend lay in bed for hours on the weekends, kissing each other. I wonder if she loves her with all her heart. I wonder if she feels powerful talking back to the teacher. I wonder if she notices the boys snickering at her. I wonder if she cares what people think of her.
The bell rings, and we all separate; the girl who is perfect, the boys who snicker, the girl who wants to be beautiful, the boy who is smart, the girl who loves herself, and the girl who wants to be all of these and everything in between.