Seventh grade, 5th hour study hall in the library, sitting with my friends, laughing about the dumb things kids laugh about. I thought I was really cool, even though I was kind of an ugly duckling with long straight hair and braces. It didn't matther that I was kind of a tomboy, cowboy boots and shirts with snaps instead of buttons, country before it was cool. I had personality, a great sense of humor and connections, so I got to hang with the "in crowd."
There I was, 5th hour study hall in the library, sitting at a table with all my cool buddies when in walked my big brother. Now my big brother, he really did have it all; personality, sense of humor, a macho guy with a soft heart and good looks. Girls loved him, guys loved him, a few of the teachers even liked him. Charisma just wafted off him.
I really thought it was neat when my big brother, three grades my senior, called me out in the hall. That is until I saw his angry expression.
“Why is Mary Jane sitting over there by herself?” he demanded.
Let me explain about Mary Jane. When she was a little girl, I guess her dad didn’t like her much. In fact, he hated her so much he threw her on the bed, doused her with gasoline and lit her on fire. Needless to say, Mary Jane had lots of scars, and, we thought, not much personality. She pretty much kept to herself which was fine by me and the crowd I hung with.
As my brother waited impatiently, I gave him that innocent, stupid look that came so easy to me back then and replied intelligently, “I dunno.”
“I’ll tell you why she’s sitting by herself,” he said. “She’s sitting by herself because you aren’t sitting with her."
Then he threatened me. My big brother whom I idolized and who didn’t have a mean bone in his body, threatened me! He proceeded to tell me that if he ever walked in to a room again that Mary Jane and I were both in and she was sitting alone, he would beat the holy crap out of me. He used a little different language, but you get my point.
From that day forward I sat with Mary Jane during 5th hour study hall. We didn’t talk much. I pretty much watched her stare at the clock for fifty minutes. I guess her scars said it all.
I got some funny looks from my friends and took a bit of ribbing. Looking back now, it was worth it.
Nobody knows why things happen, why we are put in a certain place, at a certain time. But things always seem to happen for a reason. Certainly, my big brother, nor I, could foresee that Mary Jane would get burned again. But she did. The school year was just about over, when Mary Jane’s big brother was killed in a car wreck. Her big brother, the one she idolized. He was the one and only subject she ever did talk about. Another cruel twist of fate ripped her life apart again.
Being the loner she was, Mary Jane wouldn’t let anyone close. She asked only for me. So I spent a very long night by her bed, quietly holding her hand. Like usual she didn’t say much, her sobs said it all. I was grateful for the lack of conversation, because I had no words that could make her feel better. And I was grateful for my big brother, who had taught me that no one should ever have to face this world alone.
I’ve lost track of Mary Jane over the years. My hair is short now, almost salt and pepper. I only wear boots when my work dictates it. My big brother is still here, the lesson, still there. And the scars, they will never go away.