You Look Lonely

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Sage Tyrtle is a high school girl on the outside looking in until a new friend brings her into the fold.


Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT from PRX and NPR, the "Partner in Crime" episode. My name is Glynn Washington. And, public radio listeners, we're going back now to the place where a lot of you were pointed at and made fun of because we know our demographic here. I know you. We're going back to high school. And as you might recall back in high school, that even worse than being called out was not being noticed at all. Sage Tyrtle tells us her story.

SAGE TYRTLE: So I'm 12 years old, and I'm the ugliest, fattest kid at my school. And one day I'm standing outside of class and this girl comes walking up to me. And I have no idea what to expect. But experience has taught me, it's likely to be bad whatever it is. And she stops, and she says you seem really lonely. I see you every day eating lunch by yourself in that library reading a book, and I think you should eat lunch with me and my friends. And inside my head there's this, like, chorus of singing angels. But to her I just say, yeah, I'd really like to. I start eating lunch every day with Marta and her friends. And soon Marta and I are best friends. We spend every single moment together at school. We play endless games of backgammon, listen to Depeche Mode's "Some Great Reward" on the record player, and we laugh. And I bloom into a new girl with her. And the years pass, and now we're 15. And Marta gets a crush on the most boring boy in the entire world, Scott. He has beige clothes and beige skin and a beige mind. Suddenly, she's playing backgammon with him during lunch. That's a two person game. And now when I call her after school, her phone is busy. So I commit the ultimate betrayal. I hold Scott's hand all throughout the school performance of "My Fair Lady."

And if we adjust for inflation, imagine I've just told you that Scott and I made love in the aisle all throughout "The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain." I mean, this is the enormity of my betrayal. Marta finds out. She corners me at school, and she screams at me for 20 minutes. And everything she says is right. And all I can do is stand there saying please tell me what I can do to fix this. I will do anything. And she walks away, and she stops and turns back. And she says, nothing. There is nothing that you can do. For the next two weeks, I cry in the bathtub and the grocery store and math class. And my dad is like, Sage, you'll find another friend. And I'm thinking, it took me 12 years to find the first one. I'm going to be in university before I make another friend. And also I wish Marta dead in this great variety of interesting ways, like when she's savaged by wolves in our little suburban park and there's a thread of blood trailing out of her mouth. Two weeks later Marta has a brain hemorrhage. She's in the hospital in a coma for a month - a grinding, awful month.

And my dad says you can't go visit her, but you can send her flowers. So I do. I send her flowers. And Marta spends the next year in the hospital learning how to write and talk and eat all over again. And then she does come back to school. And I'm standing outside class, and I'm waiting for it to start. And she comes walking up to me. And her gait is unsteady, and she's wearing this big plastic helmet to protect her head. And I have no idea what to expect. And she stops in front of me, and she says I just wanted to say thank you. After all those terrible things that I said to you, you sent me flowers, and that really meant something to me. And I'm looking at her and thinking I could live to be 102 years old and I will never be as kind as this girl. And then she invites me to her house. And all through that fall and that winter, we play backgammon and we listen to Depeche Mode on the record player. And it's really frantic, and it's really forced. And there's always this shadow Sage and this shadow Marta. And they are laughing together, and we're not.

WASHINGTON: Thank you, Sage, for sharing your story with the SNAP. It was produced with the assistance of Anna Sussman and Julia DeWitt.

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