Has someone ever said something seemingly small and insignificant to you that has stuck in your mind and you can’t figure out why? I don’t mean a phrase that your Mom said all of the time or a memory of an entire conversation, I mean a tiny little phrase, a word or two from your past that your mind recalls every so often? I do. I have a few actually. One that really sticks.
In seventh grade, we had a couple of classes that took place in out buildings, like a portable modular classroom. I had science in one of those rooms. One day I was running late to class and made it on time but realized that I’d forgotten my notebook in my locker. I had a pen but no paper and we needed to take notes. The lockers were not only all the way back inside the main building, but also upstairs. No way I would be allowed to go back to my locker for paper. I was sitting next to a boy who was very quiet, shy and very smart. I rarely if ever talked to him, just because he was super shy and I just really hadn’t had a reason to talk to him. In seventh grade, you don’t just strike up conversations with boys for no reason. That’s how rumors get started you know? Well, He pulled out his trapper keeper type notebook and I saw he had a whole package of loose leaf paper in there. I leaned over and whispered, “Could I have a piece of your paper?” He slowly pulled out two sheets of paper, turned and looked me straight in the eye and said in a disapproving quiet voice, “Parasite.” Then he handed them to me. I took the pages in a shocked daze and didn’t say a word. I felt my face turn red and I instantly felt so embarrassed for asking, but also pretty angry that he would say such a thing. I hadn’t asked him for anything before, I wasn’t eating half of his lunch or begging him to give me test scores, I just needed a few pieces of paper!
It was a brief moment in junior high, a blip on the radar… but I swear that damn word has popped into my head over and over and over in my life. I need a piece of gum and see a co-worker that has some? There is a quiet little whisper in my brain before I ask for a piece, “Parasite…” Any time I’ve been tempted to pull an old school move and run over to the neighbor’s house for a cup of sugar or an egg, I imagine that seventh grade boy answering my neighbor’s door with an exasperated, “Parasite.” and I just go to the store instead. I would be shocked if this kid, well, now a man in his thirties, remembers that he said this to me and I’m certain that if he does remember, he would never think that it would have affected me throughout my life. But I’m left wondering why did it affect me so? I’ve had plenty of mean stuff said to or about me over the years, and most of it has rolled right off my back. I think I am a pretty nice person and I don’t go out of my way to isolate or hurt anyone, nor do I take advantage of people. I’ve never been accused of free-loading or using anyone for anything in my life, I work hard and pay my way. So what makes that stupid word stick? Today I was bored and scrolling through those Facebook “People you may know” photos. There he was. All grown up and looking like a run of the mill nice guy…and all I could think was “Parasite.” Needless to say, I won’t send him a friend request.