Anwyn Li

Sasha and I primarily communicated in hard contact. I’d nudge a little kindly and
Sasha would nudge back, harder. Both of us would continue until we drew a temporary line for the day, or rather, Sasha yelled at me to stop.

In the theater room, the black plastic foldable chair wiggles under my butt, pinned
up by flimsy screws and struggling from the years of maltreatment from middle
schoolers. Sasha and I sit in the back row, waiting for class to start. I swing my feet and eagerly blab. Sasha is my friend. The idea sits pleasantly in my sixth grade brain, just like I sit happily, turning to my friend for affirmation. Sasha tolerates me, hoodie pulled over her head, and slouches into the space she’s created for herself. I ignore the danger of her silence and continue to talk, confiding in her my opinions, the workings of my day, the things that irk and the things that soothe.

“God, why are you so f**king annoying?”

Today, however, I make one too many stupid comments. Sasha slaps me right
across the face, the sound muffled by her hoodie’s sleeve. She’s tall and bears a lot of
leverage over me, but it doesn’t hurt. Her slap doesn’t even sting. My cheek simply
pulses, a trilling alarm slammed on snooze, and I stare a thousand miles into the

“Sasha!” Mrs. Brown snaps, dropping her arms stiffly by her side and marching
over. “You can’t just hit someone like that!”

Neither of us reply. The class observes the spectacle, quieter than ever. Maybe
they aren’t as well-versed in the language of pushing and shoving as I thought. Sasha’s quiet indignation provides filler for their silence. She has long wanted to render me mute.

Thus, it doesn’t surprise me that I’m the one getting hit today. I’m too eager, and
that next time, I should keep my outbursts in check. But she and I are friends.
Mrs. Brown asks if I’m okay, and I give her a meek yes. She offers me a trip
down to the nurse’s office, and I shake my head furiously and say the slap didn’t hurt.
Without hesitation, Mrs. Brown whips her finger at the door and orders Sasha to the
principal’s office. My friend pulls herself out of the plastic chair and drags her feet out the door. For the rest of class, I glue my arms to my sides.

I didn’t really have choices. Sasha was one of the only people that talked to me
regularly back then. I had Alice, who talked a lot and couldn’t read the room, and
sometimes Sabrina, who seemed to draw to different types of people, but they didn’t
know me, not like my friends had back in Florida. So I shuffled through the few potential friend candidates I had in this little school. I’d try them out like T-Shirts. After a period of time, I put them aside. T-Shirts provided some sort of wall for the skin boundary, another layer away from the blood and heart.

But unlike the others, I wanted to cling on to Sasha for a little longer. The factory
cotton of our friendship kept me warm. So I told myself that if I put a part of myself away, put it out of reach from Sasha’s fingers and instead into the force of my own hands, slaps like these wouldn’t hurt. Because they didn’t.