“When I Was A Dumb Teenager”

The youths of this world will forever be maligned purely because of their youth. Those who have grown into adulthood forgetting entirely that they were once that age. Nay, wanting to forget—because they know all too well it was so much better then. That they already had their shot and blew it. For, sadly, the adage adults so love to drill into children’s heads—“youth is wasted on the young”—is entirely accurate. But a garden-variety dumb bitch like Caitlin McRand (née Jorgenson) couldn’t remember that she, too, had once been young (even if every day, her beauty regimen actively sought to keep her looking that way). And that, just as she had wasted her youth, she was now wasting the agency that was theoretically supposed to come with adulthood.

Caitlin never had much ambition in high school, other than, of course, looking hot. Which was fortunate because, if she hadn’t been, then she never would have attracted a jock like Jake McRand. Although he could have had his pick of any snatch in the joint, he only stuck to the cheerleading squad (what a surprise). And Caitlin got an edge on drawing his attention when she made head cheerleader junior year. Sure, the two had “canoodled” at parties before, but Jake had never really talked to her much beyond that. Not to say Jake was an excellent conversationalist to begin with. But still, when you had his favor, you knew. He was talkative. Attentive. Caitlin had dreamed of the day when he would show some token of his “affection” (more like erection) for her. And it finally came the night of the first big game with her as head cheerleader. After their team won, Jake approached Caitlin and asked her to join him at an after-party at Stu’s house. Stu was best known as the richest guy in the entire school, and his parents were accordingly absentee—off somewhere enjoying their wealth in places like Tahiti or the Maldives.

Caitlin was beaming as Jake said, “You know, I think our win tonight had something to do with you. You might be my lucky charm.” He then made the offer for her to join them. It was all she could do to keep her cool as she casually replied, “Sure.” And while a lot of the cheerleaders were going too, Jake hadn’t specifically asked any of them to attend. Caitlin knew she was special now. She had clout.

While Caitlin hoped the party would be exactly like Jake Ryan’s unwanted one in Sixteen Candles, she was in for a rather rude awakening. For more was expected of her than just “enjoying herself.” No, tonight would be a test. An initiation. And if she could pass it, she would be “in” for the rest of her already fading high school tenure. In enough for Jake to tell her that they would be “steady.” Maybe he would even marry her and they would live out all of her unimaginative suburban fantasies. If she just did this one thing they asked of her. And when it was asked, she knew that refusing to do it, without them needing to say so, would result in her ostracism. So she agreed. All they wanted to do, they said, was “have a little fun.” Engage in some “harmless” tomfoolery. And maybe it was harmless. Caitlin couldn’t think otherwise after it happened, she being the one to remove the handicap signs, complete with the wooden poles they were attached to, from the few spaces in the school parking lot that had them. As Jake helped her load them onto the back of his truck, drunkenly laughing the whole time, he praised her, “You’re a down-ass bitch, you know that? I think I might marry you.”

That was all Jake needed to say for her to know that what she had just done was right and just. No matter that, the following week, when Monday arrived, the handicapped juniors and seniors who usually had no trouble parking were left flummoxed and bewildered by the absence of the signs. It was quickly interpreted as a hate crime (or prank), and all the upperclassmen were questioned with particular perspicacity. Caitlin felt like she might buckle under the pressure when she was called in by the principal for questioning a second time. But Mr. Bellend just seemed to want to stare blankly and openly at her tits again in a closed space, excusing her after five minutes. And that was the end of it, really. There were whispers for the next month among the handicapped and non-populars about which popular kid was responsible, but it never came to anything. Caitlin had won. She did what she needed to do to get Jake’s approval and, presently, she was Mrs. McRand. Which had been her lone objective as a youth. Since made rough-hewn by more than a few nips and tucks.

And sure, her life would never again be as exciting or “thrilling” as it was when she leaned into being a total reckless asshole that night, but she made the most of her daily errands. Often involving the grocery store or a beauty service (nails, hair, face, body—there was so much to constantly maintain and perfect). Then there was always the bank. Jake would often jibe that she spent more time there taking out his hard-earned money than one of the tellers.

At the bank today, however, Caitlin found herself in an unfamiliar position: waiting. She was usually first in line, but somehow, another woman managed to get in front of her. A woman who proceeded to complain to the teller while she waited for her transaction to be completed.

Caitlin could hear the conversation as she inched closer, eavesdropping being something of a housewife’s pro sport. “…and honestly, who would do such a thing? I went outside and the handicap sign had been removed, so I ended up being ticketed even though I was parked legally.” The teller nodded sympathetically and agreed, “That’s just awful, hon.” The woman, who Caitlin suddenly noticed had a cane, continued, “I don’t know what’s wrong with people.”

“Probably some kids messing around,” the teller offered.

The woman balked, “Kids? Aren’t they supposed to be the sweet and innocent ones before they grow up into monsters like the rest of us adults?”

“Can’t grow into a full-fledged monster without being a little one first,” the teller reminded.

The woman kept talking as though to a wall, “When I was a dumb teenager, I never did anything that dumb. Did have someone pull the same stunt in our high school though. Not sure why anybody thinks it’s so damn funny to harass the handicapped.”

It was then that Caitlin recognized the woman as Sarah Balchik, one of the handicapped juniors who was sobbing the first day the signs were noticeably missing. It was because of Caitlin that their high school actually painted the handicapped sign on the asphalt now. And used metal poles instead of wooden ones. Sarah, like the others, felt attacked when it happened. The parking spot caper was emblematic of something greater. A disdain for handicapped people. A disdain for anyone “other” to the Aryan ableist-revering society everyone was forced to live in. Caitlin never had to feel “othered” in that setting, and she also knew she didn’t have to work so hard to make fellow students feel that way.

All at once, a rumbling in her stomach occurred. Like she was going to retch. Sarah turned around to look at her, immediately recognizing Caitlin.

“Well. Caitlin Jorgenson. How are you?”

Caitlin didn’t bother to correct about her last name, knowing Sarah had done it on purpose. Plus, she was too busy trying not to throw up to bother speaking.

Offended by her silence, Sarah added, “What? You’re still too good to talk to me? High school’s over, I don’t think you’ll lose rank on the social scale.”

Unable to hold it in any longer, Caitlin threw up. All over Sarah’s shoes and the bottom of her crisp, cream-colored pants.

Sarah glanced down from her feet to Caitlin and finally said, “You really are a fucking bitch, aren’t you?”

Exposed and spotlighted for who she was, Caitlin turned positively red with embarrassment as she ran out of the bank. She rushed to get safely into the confines of her Barbie-pink Mercedes, sticking the keys in the ignition and hitting the gas pedal. Her escape might have been swift, too… had she not been so flustered that she didn’t notice the handicapped sign she was backing into. The one that fell with a metallic thud on top of her car after she made blunt contact with it.

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