tied down to such tasks as overseeing valentines; her solution was for me just to put my name on the back of all of my valentines and pass them out to whoever I cared to. So that was just what I did. But, there was one boy… special …in a way you might not expect. He was the boy everyone picked on. There is one in every class- the outcast. Ours was named John Barsey, and he was the outcast for good reason…. he ate boogers. Unabashedly. I felt sad for, although also repulsed by, John Barsey. I didn’t like the way he was always teased. I was very worried that no one would give him a single valentine, so the only card I actually put a name on that year was John Barsey’s.
In class we all had little decorated tissue boxes to collect our cards, and I really thought that we were all going to walk around and drop notes in each other’s boxes. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way. The teacher, the evil Ms. Smith, collected all our valentines, then read them all out one by one. To Sally from Jane…. to Jimmy from Jill…. and so on. Then the recipient would go to the front of the room and get his or her card. But all my valentines had only MY name on them. So my teacher would quip “Well, here’s another one for you Nicole, aren’t you popular.” “And ANOTHER one for Nicole…. from, well, it doesn’t say…”I would slink up to the front, my cheeks hot, and collect my card. I think that she was waiting for me to admit that I had not addressed my valentines individually as instructed, but I was too mortified to say anything at all. I am sure to my fellow 7 year olds it looked like I had made all those valentines for myself to look like I was popular. Lord knows enough of them asked me that very question later.
But the worst came at the very end when she said “Well, here’s one from Nicole, to John Barsey.” Yes, it outwardly appeared that the only card I had sent that year was to the outcast. The damage was done, I could not rise above it. For the rest of the neverending school year, I was known as Mrs. Barsey, or Mrs. Booger Eater to my friends.