Fiction

Don’t Shout It Out

NEVER EVER tell the truth about your feelings, because people will pretty much run for their lives.

Illustration by Kelly

04/19/1992

Dear Anger Management Diary,

I hate you. I want to kill you. Ha ha just kidding! I mean, how stupid would I have to be to actually write my real feelings in this thing? One lesson I’ve learned from this whole disaster is NEVER EVER tell the truth about your feelings, because people will pretty much run for their lives. And never put anything in writing unless you’re prepared to burn it, or insist that you were joking.

Confession: I’m currently hiding in the handicap stall of the girls’ bathroom, trying not to cry. I’m supposed to be in the principal’s office with my mom and her lawyer, making angelic expressions and apologizing for the billionth time. My mom is furious with me. We JUST moved here so she could supervise this Apatosaurus dig that’s getting tons of press, and I’m already being an embarrassment. Yeah, I get it, Mom, you’re super important, except have you ever noticed that your job is brushing off dirt from one-billion-year-old dead things? You’re basically a janitor for bones. And you’ll probably be brushing dirt off my bones soon if you don’t start taking my depression seriously. Again, totally kidding! Ha ha ha…

What’s worse is that there are some girls in the bathroom gossiping about me RIGHT NOW. I can hear the snap of their powder compacts as they touch up their identical faces. When I came to this school, the first thing I noticed was the large percentage of girls who look exactly the same. Like, they could probably do each other’s homework and swap boyfriends and no one would even notice. It’s not just that they have similar fashions and hair- it’s something way more boggling and mystical, like an elite shared consciousness. I imagine them peacefully passing in and out of each other’s identities, like the Borg from Star Trek. I wonder if they have the same dreams at night. That would be so cool.

When we first moved here, I tried really hard to be friends with them. I identified the girls in charge, and made sure to compliment their jewelry and stuff. I was going to teach everyone how to play Multi-User Dungeon II, but apparently no one’s into computers here. At my old school in Rapid City, we hung out in the computer lab every day after school and had the best time. Ms. Vega was awesome and let us have Pizza Fridays. I could be having Pizza Friday right now if it weren’t for that stupid Apatosaurus. But I guess it’s pretty immature of me to blame my problems on a dinosaur.

“I heard they’re cancelling the ice-skating party because of this bullshit with the new girl,” I overheard one of the girls saying.

“We can still have the afterparty,” the other girl said back. “Jeannie’s cousin said he’d get wine coolers. But that means we have to be nice to him.”

“Ugh. This is such a drag. My plan was to flirt with Jim Neiken at the skate party, and then ignore him at the afterparty. Now there’s only one party, but I can’t flirt with him and ignore him at the same event or I’ll look like a spaz! This is all the new girl’s fault.”

I didn’t want to hear this anymore. I covered my ears, but I could still hear them.

“It’s Colin’s fault too,” the other girl was saying. “He was being a jerk.”

“Well, she didn’t have to bite him.”

“She didn’t bite him! I heard she hit him on the head with a book.”

“What was the book? How to Be a Freak?”

They were giggling. Then I heard my mom’s voice: “Hollis? Hollis? Are you in here?”

I heard the girls snickering and whispering, “Oh my god! She’s in here!”

Interesting—I didn’t realize I could become more humiliated than I already was. Turns out, anything is possible. I held my breath, trying to be silent and hoping my mom would just go away. But my eyes were stinging, and a hot tear fell down my cheek. Then there was another tear, and then I was crying, and I knew my mom could hear me. She pushed open the door of the stall.

“Perfect!” she said. “Look at those big, sweet tears. This is exactly what Mr. Gleason needs to see. Come on, quick.” She yanked me off the toilet seat and dragged me out of the stall. The other girls were looking at me like oh my GOD. I tried to smile at them, as if I could convince them that this was just a funny prank. Precisely then, the bell rang, and people were spilling out of classrooms right and left, with me being dragged along by my mom, tears streaming down my face like a preschooler.

At that point I pretty much blacked out from embarrassment. I barely remember what happened in the principal’s office. I guess I mostly sat in the corner crying, while my mom and her lawyer argued with the guidance counselor. As it was happening, I vaguely registered that this was a low point I would shudder to remember for the rest of my life. Maybe I could employ a hypnotist to erase this entire day from my memory. Ideally there’s a hypnotist who does mother-daughter specials, and we can both get our memories erased and forget that this awful, humiliating day ever happened.

On the way home, mom let us stop at Sprinkles to get ice cream cones. “Not because you deserve one,” she said pointedly, “but because I do.”

Mom’s lawyer, Don, came too. It was like he’d never had an ice cream cone before. He asked the checkout girl a hundred questions about the origin of ice cream (“How do they come up with all these flavors?!”), and ended up getting a double scoop of rum raisin and rainbow sherbet, which is the most disgusting flavor combination imaginable if you ask me.

The three of us sat down at a table shaped like a cow. I had a cookies-and-cream cone, which is my favorite, but I could barely taste it. It’s weird how none of your senses quite works after you’ve been crying a lot. Everything seems different for a little while—dreamy and airy and dim. It’s nice. I was staring at a big poster of a cow eating ice cream, which I’m pretty sure is cannibalism.

“This establishment promotes cannibalism,” I said, trying to lighten the mood.

My mom shot me a look. “This is all beyond me, Hollis. The guidance counselor says we haven’t been treating your anger-management problem. I didn’t even know you had an anger-management problem.”

“I didn’t either,” I said, and was surprised by how meek and small my voice sounded.

“Your timing couldn’t have been worse. We just started the site survey at Standing Rock.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Hollis, do you realize you were this close to getting expelled? Luckily, Don was a magician and pleaded you down to a one-week suspension.” She patted him on the shoulder.

Don was wrinkling his nose at his ice cream cone, like it was the strangest sight he’d ever beheld. I was starting to wonder if he was even paying attention, when he said loudly, “It was the tears that did it!” Then he took a huge bite of ice cream, followed by another even bigger bite. “Pretty good!”

Mom turned back to me. “And don’t think you’re spending this whole suspension locked in your room on the computer. Where’s that little journal the counselor gave you?”

I held it up. It’s a spiral-bound notebook with pictures of clouds on the cover, and the words: Don’t shout it out, WRITE it out!

“Ten pages a day, no excuses.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“This is a fresh start,” she said. “No more gloominess. No more crazy behavior.”

“Ice cream is good for the soul!” Don boomed in agreement.

Now I’m in my room, finally alone. I looked for Gerry the Warlock online, but he wasn’t around, so I’m playing Zork. Mom threatened to take my computer away, but I think she realized that would be kind of cruel, because at this point the computer is my only friend.

Mom’s yelling at me that I have a phone call. It’s probably my dad, and he’ll make a big deal about how it’s long distance. He’ll say he wants to know what happened, but really he just wants me to talk as fast as possible so we don’t run up the bill. I-clobbered-a-guy-I-don’t-know-why-maybe-I’m-a-psychopath-BYE.

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49 Comments

  • KinuKinu April 13th, 2012 7:14 PM

    ICE CREAM IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL!!!!!

  • Maddy April 13th, 2012 7:16 PM

    aha cute! nice

  • Dylan April 13th, 2012 7:28 PM

    ahaaaa I LOVE this story!

  • eireann April 13th, 2012 7:45 PM

    Such a cool piece! Loved reading it!

  • Shweta April 13th, 2012 8:03 PM

    Pearl Jam<3 This was a really interesting story!! Make more!

    • Maggie April 14th, 2012 1:34 AM

      When I was writing this, I posted a question on Ask Metafilter about what music a girl in the early nineties should be listening to. It turned into a pretty interesting discussion:
      http://ask.metafilter.com/208546/music-for-good-girl-gone-bad

      • bam-cha-wham-olivia April 23rd, 2012 3:54 PM

        hahaha that’s great! i hope one day someone asks me what would a girl listen to in the spring of 2012 and i could be that analytical. i just find it hilarious, but maybe that’s just me.

  • Moxx April 13th, 2012 8:04 PM

    Dem old games yeshhhh

  • anisarose April 13th, 2012 8:07 PM

    Yay! I’m glad that this story had a happy ending.

    I think that a lot of the issues that I faced in middle school and part of high school occurred because like Hollis, many of us think that the key to happiness is popularity. In reality, teens should be taught to be comfortable to be who they are— geeks, musicians, academics, athletes, idiots and all! Realizing this really helped me find a great group of friends and now that I’ve seen the irresponsible things that those “popular” kids do, I am ecstatic to be in such a kind and mature group of friends.

    http://anisarose.blogspot.com/

  • AllieBee April 13th, 2012 8:40 PM

    This story is great! I’m reading it now in my scary empty house while I panicked-ly wait for my family to come back with ice cream from my neighnorhood stand…0_o

    http://www.thatalisonwonderland.blogspot.com/

  • I.ila April 13th, 2012 8:45 PM

    This is a really wonderful and endearing piece. This is the really great writing that I love from rookiemag.

  • ravenflamingo April 13th, 2012 9:04 PM

    This is a really good story! You should make a novel out of this honestly. I would love to know what she does when she gets back to school, and what made her hit that kid.

    http://www.ravenflamingo.tumblr.com

    • Sea goddess April 13th, 2012 11:52 PM

      Yeees i want to know why she hit the dude !

  • hungry April 13th, 2012 9:07 PM

    “Ice cream is good for the soul!”

    Sure is. And the heart, and bones, and brain.
    Lovely, and authentic Maggie x

  • Ruby B. April 13th, 2012 9:52 PM

    aahh, i love this so much, and writing it in the form of a journal entry is such a good idea!

  • andrea April 13th, 2012 10:33 PM

    “Ha ha ha he just jumped off a cliff like five times!” so funny! gooood story :)
    ps: i was looking for the page 3 buttom, ill love to read more from this!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE?!
    andrea.
    http://www.eraseandread.blogspot.com

  • MissKnowItAll April 13th, 2012 10:36 PM

    This is so wonderful. Kudos to you!

  • AnguaMarten April 13th, 2012 10:49 PM

    this is brilliant. this is how you write a relatable story. none of that bella swan bullshit where the narrator is generic and bland.

    also, my middle name is hollis.

  • TheAwesomePossum April 13th, 2012 10:51 PM

    Please tell me this is just an excerpt from a book, because I really really want to keep reading.

  • Tyknos93 April 13th, 2012 11:00 PM

    Somewhat Unrelated note: Have you seen the show The Mortified Sessions? It’s when they take celebrities and have them discuss their childhood and read their diary passages on TV. It’s wildly transfixing and it’s kinda like being a fly on the wall in an awkward therapy session.

    http://blazoningpens.tumblr.com/

  • Katie April 13th, 2012 11:55 PM

    This was really cool! I would really like to read more of this

  • wilde-steinbeck April 14th, 2012 12:53 AM

    Er…I really want to say I love this story and everything, but the popular girls fit perfectly into the “pretty, superficial, mindless, fatuous mind games” popular girl stereotype. Even if they never apologize to Hollis or anything, they could have at least been made into three-dimensional characters. Also, what Hollis was writing in the bathroom sounded a little bit like girl hate. It’s not really in the right context or anything of the sort to be considered girl hate, but this story could have been a little more girl positive.

    Also…”boy saves girl from her lonely despair?” It would have been okay if they were just friends, but he likes her, so it’s not…I know he’s not popular. However, it’s still reminds me of Rapunzel (and all damsel-in-distress tales), only the evil witch is her principal and her tower is a one-week suspension. (To finish the analogy, I suppose Rapunzel’s hair is “MUD2″?)

    Besides that, I greatly appreciate that Hollis, a GIRL, is really into gaming. :)

    • callie April 14th, 2012 7:28 AM

      but hollis isnt perfect
      obvi the girls at her school arent all identical biatchez but sometimes when you feel alienated it can definitely seem that way. I dont think hollis is meant to be an ideal girl – after all she did hit someone in the face.

    • Sterling87 April 15th, 2012 12:52 AM

      Unfortunately, I instantly related to the descriptions of the “popular girls” in this piece because they sound like replications of a lot of the girls at my high school. Also, I think because it’s a short story deeper character development for the “popular girls” is really challenging to do.

      Also, there is nothing wrong with having a guy be the character that Hollis relates to. Just because there is a certain structure for a lot of fairy tale type stories wherein a guy saves a girl, doesn’t mean that for this story an entire half of the human race has to be crossed off the list for who Hollis becomes friends with. She was alone and now she’s not. The character role could have been filled by a guy or a girl easily.

    • Emilie April 15th, 2012 9:52 PM

      not liking the story because there is a guy who likes a girl is just as bad as liking it because there is a guy who likes a girl.

  • ivoire April 14th, 2012 1:44 AM

    Aw, I loved this <3

  • Cruicked April 14th, 2012 2:50 AM

    I love this!

  • awesomelikeapossum April 14th, 2012 1:15 PM

    Great story :D

  • neenah April 14th, 2012 4:15 PM

    Great! I wish it was a book, and that I knew what Colin said (or did) in order to be hit in the head with a book with that kind of force.
    Go Hollis!

  • anonymouse April 14th, 2012 7:24 PM

    Super good. Hollis’ observation of Don-the-lawyer eating ice cream was hilarious. Also, if the cow in the poster was a young calf it wouldn’t be cannibalism that would be like sugary breast milk. Cannibalism means eating the meat of your own species. :]

    • Maggie April 14th, 2012 9:39 PM

      sugary breast milk. the most special treat of all

  • MinaM8 April 14th, 2012 8:41 PM

    Hahaha, this was great! I loved this, and the whole ice-cream story was hilarious.

  • Pashupati April 15th, 2012 7:14 AM

    That story is amazing for all its text-gameness. Also I’m (most recent character) Olyfter on SDF’s ResortMUD. (though I don’t play much more)
    Text games are not dead, people. <3

  • mirandab17 April 15th, 2012 5:22 PM

    Currently I’m sitting in a coffee shop, supposed to be studying physics, but I started reading this, thinking to myself, “Oh, I’ll just read the first paragraph…” Nope! That didn’t happen! Not only did I chuckle to myself, and did my mouth literally drop open when Ian said that he loved her, but I’m fairly sure everyone in this coffee shop thinks that I am REALLY enthralled by my physics studying! Fat chance.

    Anyways, really fun read. I would greatly appreciate it if you start writing another IMMEDIATELY AND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

    x

  • SweetThangVintage April 15th, 2012 9:31 PM

    This is so great! I almost cried, I laughed, and I smiled. Love!

  • Emilie April 15th, 2012 9:49 PM

    this is so good.

  • whodatgal April 16th, 2012 6:01 AM

    Too good. Me encanta ROOKIE!

  • shelley April 16th, 2012 11:16 AM

    This is amazing! I loved it. I want to know what happens next and why she hit him too!

    http://shelleycatcat.tumblr.com

  • bedazzledbandannas April 16th, 2012 5:43 PM

    I loved this! just the right mix of funny and touching. was this sent in by a reader? because if it was, this basically confirms my belief that all Rookie readers are amazing.

    • Anaheed April 16th, 2012 6:47 PM

      It is by a Rookie reader turned Rookie staffer!

      • bedazzledbandannas April 17th, 2012 8:52 PM

        american dream right there
        *sniffs*
        *raises right hand in salute*

      • Pashupati April 18th, 2012 7:35 PM

        When I click on “Maggie” to see her other posts or at least this one, it tells me she hasn’t posted anything… it should at least show me this one post, I guess?

  • sowarlus April 17th, 2012 1:39 PM

    this was great, maggie!
    the way you wrote, it didn’t even seem like it was fiction. I actually thought the whole time it was a diary entry or something from “live through this”!
    love it love it!

    • thunderbolts April 19th, 2012 12:24 AM

      yeah, I thought this was real then I saw the “fiction” on top and realize it’s only a fiction!
      a real great one!

  • Hedwig April 20th, 2012 11:17 AM

    Yaayyaayaa!

  • just.whoever.aline July 6th, 2012 7:12 PM

    This story made me giggle!(: