I remember the other
day while I was working a day shift at the restaurant I work at, a group
of maybe 20 came in, a girls’ soccer team and their parents. They were
preteens, some middle school age, some maybe a year younger. They were
all talking excitedly and chittering amongst themselves, the whole
table, which was actually three tables pressed together, their parents
separated from them. They were all eagerly looking at phones, talking
about boys, gossiping and laughing together.
All but one girl.
She sat at the end of the table, the ‘cap,’ as we call it in the
restaurant business. She sat at the end of the table with her knees
drawn up to her chin, curled up in the chair. She sat quietly, reading
the menu. I felt a familiarity with her somehow, her stick-like legs
pressed into her chest, eyes seeing the same words over and over,
looking for a detail she’d not read or somehow missed, while all around
her girl talk happened. She did not take part in ir.
        A mom
asked, part-way through the meal, if the girls were including everyone
rather than playing separate games. All of them nodded vehemently. All
but one girl.
        I knew this girl.
        I was this girl. I still am this girl.
        I remember when I was in elementary school my mother frantically bought
and read a book titled ‘Odd Girl Out,’ desperately trying to figure out
why the girls I had known since our toddler days suddenly stopped
including me, why I wasn’t good enough to play their games. They left me
out. I used to wander aimlessly on the playground of mcpolin
Elementary, on the hills next to the playground equipment, wondering why
no one wanted to play with me and why it was ok for some girls to be
friends but why I couldn’t be a part of the clique.
         In fourth
grade I became a part of the “popular” group of girls, briefly. I was,
however, never the favorite of boys to flirt with, if you can call
chasing each other around flirting. My mom wouldn’t ever buy me the
brand of clothes the popular girls wore, and I remember wearing the same
pink Roxy shirt over and over again to school. I never had a boyfriend,
though, and I also distinctly remember my best friend at the time
telling one of the boys I was sad because none of them ever asked me out
on a date. One did, promptly, and forcefully. He asked me, “Hey, Annie,
wanna go see ‘The Da Vinci Code?'” I said no. He had a speech impediment
and a dark green t-shirt.
        I wanted to tell
this girl that it gets better. I wanted to tell her someday she’s going
to have a best friend that no one will ever take away from her.
        But I couldn’t. I can’t. It doesn’t get better. Not for me.
crave connection. I crave to be the center of someone’s life. I wish I
had grown up the popular one, the funny one, the pretty one, the -one-,
but I didn’t. I’m not. I’m just -that- one. That one girl. Sitting at
the head of a table, draped in her mom’s windbreaker. This girl.

  Louise Doll