The Latter Day Confessions of a Teenage Witch
When I was 13 I believed I was a witch.
I was in junior high school, just starting to come out of a misfit stage and finally feeling welcomed by the "cool" kids. Having actual friends - this was a new thing for me and I treaded very carefully, making sure not to step on any toes or say the wrong thing or wear the wrong band shirt. I was, after all, a people pleaser. And there was no one I wanted to please more than Kymber (don't call me Kymberly) and Donna.
Our school budget had failed to pass a vote that year, so we were on austerity, which meant walking the mile and a half to school every day. This is how I got to be friends with Kymber and Donna. Our paths would cross at the same intersection every day and one of those days, Donna started talking to me while we were waiting for the light to change. By the end of the week, they had let me into their little circle - I was even invited over to Donna's house to hang out on a Friday night. Big time. I had made the big time.
Truth is, I didn't even like Donna or Kymber. I thought they were obnoxious. I didn't like the way they flipped their hair constantly or openly flirted with boys who had no chance in hell with them. They were cruel, as 13 year old girls can be, but they weren't being cruel to me, and that was key if I was going to finally shake the misfit monkey off my back. I struggled with this and even lost sleep over it. Was it worth it to hang out with people I loathed just to keep from being loathed myself? At the time, the moral sacrifice was worth it.
So I mingled with the in crowd and they dressed me and made me over and turned me into one of them, completely - a Stepford friend. But I was enjoying school, enjoying life in general and this whole thing was a real slap in the ugly face to my neighbor and former friend Lori, who in sixth grade told me that while she would hang out with me at home, she couldn't be seen with me at school. That changed in seventh grade, didn't it? Lori was practically begging to be let back into my life now that I was her social better. But I told the girls what Lori had said to me in sixth grade and they shunned her. They shunned her for me. They had my back. Wow. Heady days.
I had a nemesis in those days. Her name was Susan. I had gone to grade school with Susan and she was one of those kids that my mother tried to force me to be friends with because she was "such a nice girl, from a nice family." I didn't like Susan because she made fun of my clothes, stole my milk and stealthily tied my sneaker to the leg of my chair one day. While I was wearing it. One day my mother forced a "play date" with Susan and her next door neighbor Stacy and I had to go over her house and eat her mother's disgusting tuna sandwiches with onions and celery and then sit and watch as Susan and Stacy did each other's hair and whispered and giggled while I silently plotted each of their deaths. The next day Susan told everyone that I forced my way into her house and demanded that she play with me.
When I became friends with Donna and Kymber, Susan was livid. She wanted to be friends with them. She wanted to hang out on Kymber's porch while Donna highlighted her hair with lemon juice. She wanted to be me. Hah. What's that saying? Turnabout is fair play? Susan's envious misery was my salvation.
Susan would not let it go. Desperate to oust me from the in crowd so she could take my place, Susan started rumors about me. She told Kymber and Donna that I wet my pants when I was over her house. She told them that I picked my nose and ate it. Totally uncreative rumors, stories you would tell in third grade, not seventh.
One day we were walking to school and Donna brought up the Susan rumors. I explained that Susan had it in for me since grade school and she was just making up stories to get everyone to hate me. Kymber just nodded, as if she was contemplating all the rumors, thinking they just might be true. I started to seethe. Susan was once again going to destroy my life. I muttered aloud the first thing that came to mind: "I hope she dies."
Fifteen minutes later we stood at the intersection of two main roads. We were headed north. The east/west road was a six lane highway, normally busy with morning commute traffic. Today, there were no cars coming from the west. We looked down the street and could see flares and a road block set up. There were ambulances and lots of wailing sirens. Ah, another accident. Common for this road. We crossed the street and headed towards the school. As we got onto the school grounds, we could tell something was going on. There was a nervous buzz amid the usual morning chatter.
Did you hear? Do you know? Oh my god, I can't believe it! Those ambulances and sirens? Susan was hit by a car on her way to school. The story was flying around the building, gaining momentum, and by the time we got to home room Susan had not been hit by a car, but a huge truck, and she flew about 100 feet in the air, tumbled at least forty times and then landed smack on top of the truck's hood, then fell to the ground.
I felt sick to my stomach. I knew how these stories could get out of hand, so I comforted myself with the knowledge that this was all nothing more than embellishment and Susan would walk into school the next day with a cast on her arm and maybe a limp.
During third period, they made the announcement. Susan had died. The whole thing - big truck, flying in the air - was true. I asked for the bathroom pass and spent the rest of the period dry heaving into the toilet bowl. I killed Susan.
The remainder of the day was spent in self loathing. And hiding. I avoided Donna and Kymber because they heard me mutter my death wish upon Susan. I went to the nurses's office during fourth period and my mother picked me up from school, certain that I was just devastated over the death of my "friend" Susan.
I couldn't sleep that night. In my 13 year old mind, I had really caused Susan's death. I hope she dies. I kept hearing those words - in my voice - over and over again. I was a witch. There was no other explanation. I had witch powers. I could make people die.
I went back into loner mode. I kept my head down, avoided contact with anyone and certainly avoided saying anything. I didn't want to accidently cause another death or even the maiming of a teacher or classmate.
My mother forced me to go to Susan's wake. I stood in the back of the room and watched her parents cry. I watched her friends and relatives file past the closed coffin. I so was consumed with my own selfish feelings of guilt and remorse at having killed Susan that I didn't even feel sympathy pains for all the mourners who were part of Susan's life. Every time I looked at Susan's mother, I would say to myself I killed your daughter, I killed your daughter. I worried that I would lose any grip I still had on my sanity and start shouting those words out loud, turning the wake into some melodramatic movie of the week.
I walked out of the funeral home, needing some fresh air and an escape from the cloying closeness of the viewing room. I walked smack into Donna and Kymber. I hadn't talked to them since the announcement was made that Susan was dead. I waited. Waited for them to point accusatory fingers at me and shout "she's a witch, burn her!" Instead, Donna just said "This is kinda awkward for you I guess." I stared. What exactly did she mean by that? "I mean," she continued, "she was such a creep to you and now you have to go her funeral. Ugh." Kymber pulled a cigarette out of her pocketbook, a bent, half-crushed Marlboro she stole from her older brother. "Let's go smoke."
We walked a few paces up and stood in the doorway of a biker bar. We took turns taking deep drags on the cigarette and blowing smoke rings. Kymber french inhaled, a trick she learned from her brother's girlfriend, which I thought was gross. Feeling comfortable for the first time in days, I finally let out what I had been holding onto. "Do you think I killed her?" Donna and Kymber both looked at me like I was crazy. "What? She was hit by a car, dope. How could you have killed her?" Donna was laughing at me. I recalled the conversation when I wished her dead. "Oh please," Kymber said. "I wish my stepmother dead every day and so far, nothing."
"Yea, but I wished Susan dead and ten minutes later, she was."
"Uh, hello? When we got to the corner, the ambulances were already there. So she had to have been hit before you wished her dead."
She was right. Susan, according to my parents and other experts on children being hit by cars, was probably dead way before she hit the ground. Meaning, she was most likely dead before I uttered my horrid words.
"Just a coincidence, then," Kymber said.
They started laughing, snickering at first, then bellowing with the kind of laughter that makes your stomach hurt, makes tears well up in your eyes. They were, of course, laughing at me. Not with me. Donna managed to gasp out a last sentence before I left them - "I told you she's an idiot."
I turned from them and started walking home. My house was just a few blocks away and I broke into a jog at the last block, eager to get into my room, get out of those funeral clothes and cry.
And I did. I cried out of relief that my words did not kill Susan. I cried because a 13 year old kid was dead and her parents would never see her again. I cried because my days with Kymber and Donna and the in crowd were over. I cried because I let myself be fooled into thinking they really liked me. But mostly I cried because at the age of 13 I felt that death's claw of mortality. We would all die eventually, whether anyone wished it on us or not. I laid awake for hours that night, wondering when it would be my turn and how I would go. I hoped it wouldn't be like Susan. When I said my prayers much later into the night, I prayed that I wouldn't die fifty feet in the air, in the midst of a spiral towards the sidewalk.
The next week my parents announced that I would be leaving my junior high school at the end of the year and transferring to the Catholic school. I put up a fight because they expected me to, but I was mostly glad to get out of there, away from the Donnas and Kymbers, away from the specter of Susan.
Of course, that specter never went away. I still think about her all the time and I'm still sorry that I wished her dead. Just one of those things I have to live with.
I dreamed about Susan last night, which is what prompted me to write this today. I've never told anyone this story and I've been harboring a sort of guilt over it for over 30 years now. I know my words had no effect on what happened to Susan, but I still feel awful for saying them.
The story is entirely true; only the names have been changed.