When I was in the fifth grade, I had two friends. Technically, I only really had one, and I will call her Lily so that she can remain anonymous. Lily had a friend, (let’s call her Abby), and Abby didn’t like me very much, but Lily liked me so we all hung out together at recess.
One day, Lily and Abby had a fight. I made the mistake of speaking up during the fight (something I think you should almost never do, just don’t get in the middle of your friends’ fights), and Lily turned on me. I don’t remember what was said exactly, something along the lines of “I’m here too” (because they said something about it being the two of them and I felt excluded – still don’t know why I even said anything at all) and apparently this was enough for Lily to call off our friendship.
For about a month, I had no friends. I would sit outside by myself at recess (which to me was honestly less stressful than trying to make new friends) either writing in my journal or reading a book.
One day in class, I was bored and distracted, so when I spotted a piece of paper under my chair, I picked it up to read what was written on it. It appeared to be a note to someone, and the paper read, “do you want to be friends again?” My seat partner, who also wasn’t really paying attention to the lesson, peered over my shoulder and asked what I found. I told her I didn’t know, and when she motioned for the note, I meekly handed it over and watched her share it with other members of our table group. One girl (let’s call her Cindy) ended up with the note in her possession, and later that day during lunch recess I would face the consequences of sharing the note with anyone.
When lunch recess came, I went outside to my usual spot, sat down, and started to daydream. I almost didn’t notice Lily furiously stalking towards me in my peripheral vision.
I stood up, and when Lily reached me she began to yell at me. Lily demanded to know why I had written such an offensive note, and how I could have the audacity to ask her to be friends again after what I did. Her yelling soon turned into tears, and she stalked away as everyone on the soccer field stopped what they were doing to stare at me. I was still, blown away by this confrontation, and I felt like my body had shut down.
When the bell rang, I walked back into the school in a dreamlike state. As I stopped to tie my shoe, a girl I didn’t even know approached me and harshly accused me of being a terrible, nasty person who deserved not to have any friends.
I thought that the worst of it was over, but when I walked into the classroom, Lily was standing by our teacher, who had the note in her hands, and she was shaking her head.
The teacher asked me to explain myself. I told her, shakily, that I had not written the note. Naively, I expected that the truth would be accepted as the truth, because if you told the truth adults would just know. My teacher shook her head, giving me a look that said she was disappointed in me, and also slightly angry. Lily was still standing beside her, tears streaming down her face.
“Now, I’m going to repeat something, something I told the class at the beginning of the year, but maybe you weren’t listening,” My teacher began, “I know everyone’s handwriting in this class. I am very good at recognizing handwriting, and this is yours. I don’t want you to lie to me again. Did you write this?”
I was shocked and scared. I felt like my body went on autopilot that day. I couldn’t speak. I didn’t know what to say.
By this time, the class had filled with students, and the bell to indicate that classes were to begin had rung. My teacher clapped her hands together.
“Everyone, I have an announcement to make. I want everyone to get into your table groups, grab a piece of chart paper and a marker from the back, and brainstorm in your groups what you think being a good friend means.” My teacher then turned to Lily and I, and instructed us to follow her to a small table at the back of the class.
While we sat, my teacher lectured me, Lily cried, and I sat there, frozen. I zoned out of most of the conversation, while my brain ran a mile a minute with worries about what would happen when my parents found out I was in trouble. I was mortified that the teacher was making the whole class a part of what should have been a private misunderstanding, and even more so when the teacher pointed out to Lily that I wasn’t making a big deal out of this. Little did she know that my insides felt like they were tearing apart, and that this experience would embed itself into my brain forever.
The teacher told us that we had to get past this problem and mend our friendship. By the end of the class, Lily had stopped crying and agreed to be my friend again. I could only nod, feeling numb and cold all over. Within the next year, my friendship with Lily deteriorated again, and was only recovered much later when we both matured, but that is another story.
Over the years, I felt a lot of anger towards that teacher, for making our fight everyone’s business, for forcing us to be friends again when neither of us wanted to be, and finally for wrongly accusing me of lying. Today that anger has faded, and I realized that like all other teachers she was only trying to do her best, but the memory of that incident still remains at the back of my mind, as it taught me, for the first time, that adults are not always right.