This is the second part of a story that I began in my previous post. If you missed part one then you might want to go back to read that before continuing on with today's post. This story about cruelty and bullying was inspired by a post that originally appeared at Robin's Your Daily Dose blog.
While Betty Rose was generally considered to be the ugliest girl in school, Minnie might have been the fattest. The name Minnie was actually her birth name rather than some descriptive moniker bestowed upon her by other classmates as was the case of one of the bigger boys who had been known as "Tiny" for as long as anyone could remember. Tiny wasn't so much fat as he was really big and he good-naturedly accepted this given name as his mark of distinction that set him apart from the other boys.
Minnie also seemed pleased with her name and appeared to carry her sizable frame with a sense of pride. She had a pleasant demeanor with a continually cheerful countenance. Some might have said she had a "pretty face" though it was decidedly a very round face tinged with a rosy hue in cheeks that looked as though they could have been storing food for later in the day.
Perhaps it was Minnie's obesity that attracted the small cadre of homely girls who gathered around her. They might have been long time friends from grade school or maybe the neighborhood where they lived. Rumor had it that they all came from the Five Points area at the bottom of the hill where the school was located. I knew where the intersection known as Five Points was, but I was always somewhat unclear as to what exactly comprised the Five Points neighborhood. To my understanding Five Points was one of the "bad neighborhoods" like Parham Hill or Home Avenue. Those were the places were the lower class folks lived--the tougher rougher kids who were of low reputation and were undoubtedly headed for bad futures.
At least that's what some people said. I didn't know for sure where any of those girls came from or what kind of families they had. For that matter I didn't know anything about any of them including most of their names. And now after so many years the only names I remember are Minnie and Betty Rose.
Each morning as I bided my time with my group of acquaintances, I would see that group of female outcasts on the opposite side of the auditorium on the front row near the stage gathered as though plotting their revenge on the mean students. Or maybe they were just gossiping, commiserating, or dreaming about a better life away from the school society that had seemed to be rejecting them. On the whole they didn't appear to be too displeased about their lives or their situations. More than likely I was reading my own interpretations based on what I imagined about those girls.
Sometimes, drawing the attention of everyone in the auditorium, Minnie would burst out into a fit of gleeful laughter evoking titters from the assemblage around her. I almost envied them because they seemed so happy. Happy about something. Or amused. Maybe they were laughing at the rest of us. None of us knew because none of us associated with those girls.
In fact, once the school day started I don't recall ever seeing Minnie for the remainder of the day. Sometimes I might see Betty Rose passing alone through the hallways, ignoring the mean comments from the boys she passed. She was like a silent specter disappearing into the crowds between classes. In the mornings she seemed to be a part of a group, but the rest of the day she appeared to be on her own without a friend anywhere.
Those girls were all in grades below me so that might have been one reason I never encountered any of them during the course of the school day. Then again, maybe they passed or were there in plain sight and I didn't see them. After all these were not the in-crowd girls or even the girls that any of us might want to get to know. I would have never said anything mean to any of them, but there were the students that didn't think twice about hurling insults or making what they thought were funny remarks to show off in front of the other students. For my part, Betty Rose, Minnie, and all of their circle of friends were the morning crew who for the rest of the day were people I tried not to think about.
After I graduated, at the end of the following year, my sister, who was in the grade below me--the same one as Betty Rose and Minnie--brought home the graduation edition of the school paper. The tradition for this edition was for the departing seniors to publish their "wills" to the incoming seniors of the year to come. Each graduating senior would will some funny item, give some words of advice, or have some bit of wisdom to offer to the those who would be the next crop of seniors.
As I perused those words of the graduating class members I came to what Betty Rose had to say. After so many years I cannot recall her exact words, but she said something to this effect:
"My wish is for all students to have consideration for each other and not to say hurtful things."I'm pretty sure she worded it more eloquently, but whatever her words were, my heart stopped for a moment and tears came to my eyes.
How much meanness had she patiently had to endure in her years of high school? What kind of life had she faced? I thought of Minnie and her cheerfulness on the outside. What kind of pain had she felt? Those other girls who I now don't remember. They were all part of the club of exiles, rejected by peers, but clinging together in whatever it was they had in common. What had happened to all of them?
Some forty years later I got a copy of a school alumni directory. This is one of those directories where the compilers make an attempt to contact every alumnus of the school to collect data about their spouse, number of kids, occupation, and so on. Having lost touch after so many years I was curious about those with whom I had attended high school. I guess a good many others were equally curious.
After I received my directory in the mail, I spent a good bit of time looking up those folks from my past to see where they were now and how their lives compared to mine. When I came to Minnie's name there was no indication that she had ever been married or had any children. She still lived in the area and for occupation the listing indicated that she was a care provider for the elderly.
Betty Rose was not listed in the main part of the directory. Looking in the index where all students were listed by graduation year I found Betty Rose's name listed. She was among those few designated as "Address Unconfirmed". This meant that she had either not filled out the information request that had been sent to her or she had never received one.
Another pang of sadness welled within me. Had high school been so painful for her that she had tried to run away or forget it after so many years? What had happened to her after graduation and had the experience of high school scarred her in later life? I suppose I'll never know. I don't know if anyone else cares whether they know or not. Betty Rose might even prefer that no one ever knows what happened to her. I hope things turned out well for her.
Do you remember any of the outcast students in your school? Do you know what happened to any of those students? Did you ever befriend any students who were treated poorly by others?