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It's time to go to my last class, and we bid each other farewell. As I walk through the courtyard to the building, I feel the sting of everyone staring at me. Once in the classroom we're given busywork because the professor showed up drunk again. I'm grateful for it, because I can't concentrate and am in no place to pay attention or speak out. It's finally a quarter to six, and class is dismissed. I walk fast to the picnic table. It takes me barely two minutes to get there, and Sacha's already there, waiting.
"You’re early!" I say.
"So are you." She says with a grin.
"So I don’t know any of the restaurants around here... should we walk around?"
"I know a place right outside the campus," she gestures with her head toward the main street that passes by. "Good food, good people. They’re actually some friends of mine. It’s also right near my house."
She guessed what I was thinking from my face. "Most things in my apartment are normal sized, you know."
I felt a little foolish. "Let’s go," she says, and we head to the restaurant. We walk about a block from campus and down an alley that looks a little shifty for my taste. We walk into a little hole in the wall on the right. It’s warm, dimly lit, and small, but very cozy. There are tapestries all over the place, and middle-eastern music playing. One of the waitresses spots us and greets Sacha in Romani. She motions toward a table in one of the corners, and as we head over, one of the waiters brings over a taller stool for her.
We sit down and everyone who works there gathers round the table and they and Sacha all converse excitedly with one another. I can’t understand a word, but I’m pleased to meet her friends. They all look alike... must be cousins or siblings. Being it’s such a small place so tucked away, and even still with no name, it has to be a family owned business. While one of the women is talking, she looks at me and gestures with her hair. Ah, yes... my crazy hair.
Her friends disperse from the table and she looks at me. "They think you’re almost as freakish as I am."
I laugh, slightly nervous.
Her face turns to stone. "Think that’s funny, do you?"
"No... I’m just shocked your friends would say something like that to you."
She purses her lips and looks down at the table, playing with her spoon. "Yeah. I guess I don’t have any real friends. They’re charity friends."
My throat tightens. I know she’s going to say something awful about me next.
"And you... well, I guess I add some flare to your freak flag, don’t I? I’m your portable show and tell toy, earning you the notoriety you crave."
I don’t want her to see me cry, but I can feel my eyes burning with tears. I stand up grabbing my coat and, after knocking over the glasses of water I flounce out of the restaurant. Walking fast with my hand cupped over my mouth I feel the cold spread across my back and realize that I ripped the sleeve of my jacket when I put it on. I’m dressed a little too fancy for my own good, and as I clop angrily in my high heels my right foot fumbles over an uneven break in the sidewalk and my ankle gives, landing me on my side on the ground. Fair enough.
I get up thinking it’s just a fumble and as I step on my right foot, pain shoots through my shin all the way to my knee. I take off my heels (why, why, why was I wearing heels on a school day, for fuck’s sake) and try again. Pain still. I lean against the wall, turn my face to it and sob.
"You crazy bitch, look what you did." I know whose voice that is, but I can’t look at her.
I slump down the wall and bury my face into my knees.
"You're not much for deadpan humor are you..."
I find the courage to peer over my knees and look at her, and she sees my brow, twisted in agony, wet with tears.
"Do you realize I was being sarcastic?"
I put my head back down and I hear her groan. She puts her hand on my knee. "You really are a freak. You don’t need my help."
My sobs shake me, and her words sound like babble. I could care less what she’s saying. She tousles my hair with her other hand. "You’re so fragile."
My crying dies down, and I sit up."I think it’s time for me to go home."
"You can’t. You fucked up your ankle in those damn stilts you’re wearing."
"I can take a cab."
"Don’t be ridiculous. Look, I live right across the street from here. The least I can do is let you spend the night." She reaches in and turns my face to look at hers. "I’m a smart ass. Now you know. It was just a little freak-out, it’s not the end of the world. Let me help you." She wipes my tears with her thumbs and plants a long kiss on my mouth. "It’s very dirty and cold out here. Let’s go home."
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