Cat Pierro

The Bully


ISSUE 32 | SMALL WARS | SEP 2013

Pretty much everything we did was her idea. The dog poop launch for passing police cars was her idea, collecting cheap beef jerky to survive on in the wild on was her idea, and if we were pretending not to be friends or pretending to be friends, that was her idea, too. Plus there was the confusion with her parents being divorced; I felt like I was following her around because I’d walk to her house and half the time nobody would be home, a quarter of the time her motorbike mom would be there trying to impress upon my uncomprehending brain that “Nina is only here on weekends.” Then also, she would knock me over when I was least expecting it. Her leg would pop out and she’d push me to the ground. The fact that she’d “thrown out” her back “four times” justified her in this—she was equalizing us, actually, teaching me to be able to deal with pain like she could, teaching me not to cry. One time I complained and she pointed out that she’d only ever tripped me when we were walking on grass, never on concrete. I thought back and, to my amazement, she was right. I couldn’t believe she’d never told me before. I looked at her with a kind of awe.

I wasn’t all passivity and admiration, though. It seems strange to remember it, but I never once doubted that I was taller, skinnier, prettier, and smarter. Maybe that’s why I held my own in our arguments, which required a certain clarity of spirit: strings of DID NOT/DID TOO’s lasting thirty minutes or more. Neither of us found these fights tiring. It’s hard to get bored when you’re angry.

We were told by the other girls in the class that we “ran around like dogs together.” This was more or less true. We had a peculiar asymmetrical trot (which we thought was faster; we even tried it out—amid guffaws—for the fitness test in gym class) and occasionally we practiced howling. But the epithet came to mean that we were weird and close and perverted. A classmate once accused Nina of kissing me on the cheek and Nina insisted she had simply brought her lips about a quarter centimeter from my skin and hovered there. DID TOO, he retorted, oddly unfazed by the really weird thing she’d just said.

At least once we did actually kiss, to seal a pact that we were blood relatives (I assume we also exchanged blood). When one girl, I think it was Leah Tabin, asked how we could possibly be related, we invented a long history. Maureen and Jeffrey get married; Maureen and Jeffrey get divorced; Maureen and Jeffrey get married to new people; Maureen and Jeffrey have kids with those new people (that’s us). Next, Jeffrey and Dara get divorced, but Maureen and Louis do not get divorced. Which brings us to today. It was a spontaneous collaboration, half lie, half truth, and along the way we almost got into an argument. I don’t remember what, but I said something I instantly regretted, something Nina should have jumped on me for. Thankfully, she held her tongue until we walked away from the half-convinced girl. “By the way—” “Yes, I know,” I said quickly, and agreeing made us both very happy.

Often it was not quite clear whether Nina was lying or believed her own stories. She had an Aunt Sara who was a ghost who talked to her. This Aunt Sara told her about a previous life in the woods. This was before humans came about—we were horselike creatures, Nina and I and most of the boys in our class (none of the girls were there, of course). The life before that life we were more whalelike, but in our favorite life to reconstruct we were horselike. I have no idea how long this occupied us. At least a week, maybe a year.

Did I believe? I questioned myself about this frequently. I knew, even at the time, that our project looked a lot like wish-fulfillment—especially the parts about our boyfriend horses. On the other hand, I felt instinctively that faith was a virtue and to believe was a power. (If you couldn’t fly, wasn’t it because you didn’t believe hard enough?) Eventually I not only believed—I remembered. Glimpses of our past would come to me when I was half awake and I would hold on to them to tell Nina, who would always have some explanation. One time I let out a happy sigh and exclaimed that it was wonderful that we had so many lives, and wonderful that I was the only person who could remember them! At which time Nina exclaimed, Hey, what about me? Oh, I said with some suspicion, you remember too? All along I thought she only knew because of Aunt Sara. Yes, she said, obviously she remembered too.

I once told Nina about the keychain I kept in my drawer at home. I would stare at it and talk to it and put it against my cheek or in my mouth. It had a leopard photograph printed on it, the same photograph on both sides, but one side was ever so slightly pinker than the other, so slight that only I could tell, and I believed this keychain was vested (only on the pink side) with telepathic powers and that, just by looking at it, I could tell if James Lowey and Gabrielle Griffin were making out. James was a boy we both fawned over, and Gabrielle was my stand partner, a girl I always pictured skipping steps on the way up to strings, “like a gazelle,” I would think. They make a nice couple, I told Nina; I can tell from the keychain that sometimes they make out in a park. Nina seemed to nod understandingly but, for whatever reason, she betrayed me. When we were standing right next to Gabrielle’s best friend Marcy, she began to say loudly that NO I DON’T AGREE WITH YOU THAT JAMES AND GABRIELLE WOULD MAKE A NICE COUPLE and in spite of my protests DID TOO, YOU DID TELL ME THAT THEY WOULD MAKE A NICE COUPLE THE SAME TIME AS WHEN YOU TOLD ME YOU HAD A KEYCHAIN THAT TELLS YOU IF THEY’RE MAKING OUT.

One day I had a memory glimpse that Nina didn’t want to explain. It was an incident between me and horse-James in some back part of the woods, and Nina adamantly denied that it could have happened. I suggested—delicately—that perhaps she wasn’t there, perhaps it was just me and James.

She stared at me as though in shock. “Have you forgotten the most important thing?” she asked.

“What? What do you mean?”

“We were attached! We had two heads!”

After that we didn’t talk about the woods anymore.





















































































Epilogue

bahahahahahaha OMG im in love with this!! I remember little to none of most of my life before 18ish, but I did remember parts and pieces... I know I did more than just trip you, I occasionally set traps for you and would embarrass you periodically, but I really did do it all for your best interest! I did the same thing to Maya too, but way worse... I blackmailed her into basically being my slave until we were 14. I don't remember "ghost" aunt sara, but I had a live aunt sarah that I thought transformed into a monster at night. She would be violent in the morning if I didnt be quiet and bring her down her coffee, and it could only be me because I was the smallest and made the least amount of creaking on the stairs.

I was always totally jealous of you over random things. I remember one time you gave me a picture you drew of Princess, my Samoyed. I smiled and accepted it to the best of my abilities, which I assumed wasnt convincing. As soon as you were gone my mom tried telling me what a good job you did, to which I yelled at her that you didn't even draw it but must have traced it or something and that that didn't even take skill, then threw the picture and walked away. Once I was done being tough and she left the room I went back and got the picture and admired it secretly to myself, all the while examining it for evidence of tracing....

Also I always hated bullying and kids making fun of other kids. I was made fun of a lot and it only bothered me because kids didn't know what I did in my personal life to make me that way. We couldnt be friends because then i couldn't get other people to talk about you in front of me, and thus couldn't defend you or change the flaw that they uncovered. I remember one time your parents made you cut your hair really short and layered and I HATED it. You begged for forgiveness saying you had no choice which infuriated me to know end!! Then in school I heard someone talking about the bad cut, to which I responded "it wasnt her fault, her parents are crazy, they locked her in the basement and wouldn't let her out until they cut it all off. She has a brother too thats still in the basement, I don;t think anyone even remembers his name anymore... she has to deal with a lot at home..."

I think I was thoroughly dissapointed that 1. you let your parents boss you around, that was part of my toughness training and wilderness survival. I've always been a firm believer in things will always get worse if you dont actively make them better, and that theres always somewhere you can go. 2. you had no concept of a split personality. you couldn't do detective work and be mischievous, so I needed to avoid you to do my research. And of course I betrayed you about james lowey, it was James friggin Lowey!!! you scared me and I had to make a big deal out of it in front of people to spread the rumor, and thus drive them apart by "eww's" and "no ways", and I had to make you look bad so people wouldn't think I cared about what either of them did either way lol I was quite devious... definitely a slightly unique bully…

all in all what a childhood!! haha I'm sorry for being such an ass, but I really thought I was being a friend and thats what friends did and I guarantee you I believed my own stories 100%. I had such a rampid imagination that I could watch the same movie over and over daily because my brain would zone out and make up extra parts. This was only recently discovered as before I was just convinced the tape was magic and changed every time. I remember making my mom watch it with me to prove the ending changed… Feel free to use my full name, im proud of my adamant childhood persona!! and no I don't remember what we agreed on, but I think I was somehow offended...

—Nina Park