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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.
"Yea, coincidence."

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.

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Comments

Just to be sure - wish that I win the lottery.

Either way, I'm considering being extra special nice, just in case.

Wow. Your story is scary. Not the witchcraft part, but your descriptions of how pre-teen and teenaged girls interact with one another. Growing up with two brothers, this is a new world to me. My daughter just turned 7. I don't think I can take what's going to happen in the next 10-12 years. Do you know anyone who owns a time machine? Not a big one, I just want to skip about 12 years.

Barring that, what's the best anti-depressant for parents of teenaged girls?

Ohhhh, I'm a man. Bullies and peer pressure and hormone maddness. Thank God I was born a male. I could not handle being a girl.

Now I know why you liked Mean Girls.

About that whole 'not causing her death' thing... do you think you had an premonition of her death?

That is not only an amazing confession, it's very well-written. Thank you for sharing that with us; it's a vivid window into the world of young teen girls.

At the time, were you made out of wood?

This is eerie. I had a very similar experience at the same time in my childhood. I was never one of the "in-crowd". I was brainy and, worst of all, I was fat. There was a nice boy in my 7th grade class - I'll call him Mike. He was quiet, good looking and tall for his age (which is a dreamy thing for a tall girl in junior high school). I can't say I had a crush on him, but I thought he was very nice despite not knowing him all that well.

For some reason, Mike chose the day before a holiday break to join the gang picking on me. He had never been unkind to me before. I stayed in my small circle of friends and he ran with the cool kids. He called me fat - in front of a crowd, with his friends snickering in the wings. I hated him at that moment. I wished him dead over and over.

He died the next day. He was killed in an ATV accident less than a mile from my house. I too had to go to the wake with my father. They had gone to school together and it was a small town. I have never forgotten that incident. Every year, when that holiday rolls around, I think of Mike. I don't think I've ever thought of him without feeling guilty for what I though that day.

He was the first kid I'd known to die.

Dang.

I am now amazed at how well-adjusted you are, Michele.

That's some serious stuff to handle. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Bullies and peer pressure and hormone maddness. Thank God I was born a male.

Good thing you went to a Quaker "Friends" school, by the sounds of it, or you would have dealt with the same things regardless of gender. Here's a reason I'm glad I'm a male: my guy friends and I will tell similar stories about bullies and punks that met similar ends, but we'll laugh and laugh and laugh about it. Knowing, of course, that justice was meted out by the universe. Yep, the laughter of the just. Or the warped, take your pick.

When I tell you this, know that this is a true story and can be verified by my sister:

I predicted Chris Farley's death the night it happened. We were talking about overweight people and Farley was mentioned. I said that "he's going to die young like John Candy because he is just so overweight."

Next day the news broke that he had died. Yes it was drugs, but that didn't make it any better. My sister was weirded out more than I was, and I was pretty freaked out.

To add to the weirdness of this whole story, his memorial was in Santa Monica California, at the same church my parents were married in and I was baptised in.

So, I know about this, Michele. I know.

This isn't so much about predictions or premonitions (as it wasn't either) as much as it is about letting out the guilt I've been carrying around with me for over 30 years. I said a terrible thing. And then a terrible thing happened. While the two aren't interconnected in reality, they have been - in my mind - for all that time.

If I wanted to write stories about premonitions I could do that til the cows come home. This is just me be haunted by something stupid I said when I was a kid.

13 can just be a horrible age, as I was talking to someone about last night. You're old enough to know how to be incredibly cruel, but not yet mature enough to realize just how much your cruelty hurts your peers (i'm thinking now of the actions of others in your story, and not really about your own). That's why I dread the day my kids are in middle school. Last week, a classmate told my 5 year old that his very best kindergarden friend never wanted to play with him again. He cam home that day in tears, and told me that his "heart broke open, and all the love spilled out." Then this "friend" told him that she wished he was in heaven, which, upon questioning from the teacher, turned out to mean she wished he was dead. What the hell's going to happen when they all turn 11 or 13? It's amazing any of us emerge as well-adjusted adults.

wow. That is an amazing story, and like a punch in the gut. I recognize a lot of that from growing up (except, I never wished someone dead at the same time as they were in mortal danger, and then felt that I had somehow caused their death).

All I can say is, as much as some things about being a grown-up suck rocks, I'd never ever ever want to be 13 again. Never.

Oh, and as for your friend "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"?
Damn, I thought I was the only person on EARTH something like that had happened to, only with me it was 7th grade, and it happened because my friend got popular, and she "dismissed" me by handing me a note in the hall.

I didn't then (and still don't) wish her dead, but there are times I envision her living in a double-wide trailer with a toilet full of petunias out on the front lawn next to the Corvette up on blocks, and with six or eight children, all of whom somehow managed to be in diapers at the same time....and a husband with a dead end job and a serious fondness for hanging out in strip joints.

I'm glad you felt you could let this off your shoulders here. It is so strange how things connect in a person's mind. Things that in reality aren't connected in any way. I think these connections are worse in adolescents because they are trying so hard to make other connections - the right ones - and find their way in the world. I remember being curious about reincarnation when I was about 11 or so; when I wondered aloud to some "friends" (not close, core-circle friends, mind you) if I might be a reincarnated soul from the Renaissance, they laughed at me. I was trying to see if others were curious about such things - and what they thought - and was laughed at. I kept my questions to my closest friends after that.

Jesus. At least we men resolve our differences through violence.

My father made my mother cry when I was very young (3 or so) and I wished he would go away. When I was 15 he left without warning and I KNEW it was my fault because I had wished him away so many years before!
I know now that it wasn't my fault, but we still have guilt over our thoughts and you were never an "idiot" for thinking that way at 13!

Sparta -

HAH-hah!

I've had the reverse happen to me. I was at a party a few years ago, and one of the 'random' guests pissed me off. I told him to fuck off and die - or at least take his friends and leave the party. I was drunk and rude, he was just drunk and having fun. I eventually ran him off.

The next morning I woke up a realized I had shit the bed. Karma truly is a bitch; a seething, vengeful, vile, vindictive cunt.

Yea, that's just like the opposite of what happened to me. Exactly.

/sarcasm

The opposite of what happened to Michele would be if you treated someone like a total asshole would; then, in their teenage angst and pain, they made a rash comment about wishing you dead, and then you died. Somehow I doubt that has happened to anyone here, unless the afterlife comes with a T1 line.

When I was 15 my best friend told me on New Year's Eve that he was going to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train, and I pooh-poohed it. Next day his parents call in the evening--have I seen Jim? Day after that it's in the local papers. Man, I suffered guilt trips for years over that one.

Worst part was that people who wouldn't have given me the time of day a few weeks before that were all buddy-buddy, not to console me but because they all wanted to know the inside story. I never told anybody, not my parents, not my closest friends, for years afterwards that he had told me of his plan.

That was truly disturbing, all the more so because it's true.

I sure hope you never wish me dead.

My mom used to make me go to sunday school when I was a kid, and the preachers daughter was a little bitch from hell. (We had a church picnic, and the morning of it she called to ask if I was going and needed a ride, and I asked and got permission which was a miracle in itself, packed my little lunch, and no one ever came. I found out later, that she'd told them I didn't want to go purposely and made fun of me sitting at home waiting.) Anyway, I hated her. So it was time to go to church one Sunday, and I didn't want to go because of her, and so I prayed and prayed that I wouldn't have to go. My dad gets a nosebleed that morning that he literally almost bled to death from, the neighbor had to drive him to the hospital cuz my mom couldn't drive, and for years I believed that I had caused it by praying that I didn't have to go. So I felt like I almost killed my dad, and didn't pray for a long time after that. Serious guilt. I remember crying and crying over that too. And I can't imagine how I'd feel if someone had died, jeeze. And I didn't tell my parents about it till earlier last year. They freaked. People suck.