The Death of Yam Girl
“You wanna what???” he asked with a grin that suggested no matter what she said he would not take her seriously.
“I…” she timidly began, “I just wanna sit next to you and have lunch.”
He laughed loud enough it garnered the attention of the rest of the cafeteria. Heads turned. The hum of gossip and jokes and stories and songs all quieted down. They all looked at her. She didn’t know what to do. She promised herself at New Years she’d be braver this year, unafraid, willing to take risks, like walking up to Harvey and asking to have lunch with him.
When he caught his breath he noticed she retrieved a yam wrapped in foil that was placed in a plastic bag already torn three times from the previous days of the week she carried her lunch in it. She poked her fingers into the top of her baked sweet potato, broke it into two pieces, and offered Harvey one half. He laughed. Hard. She looked up at him.
He towered over her and took the half she broke for him. The cafeteria was silent and weird. He gripped her offer and slowly said, “I wouldn’t eat lunch with you if you were Michael Jordan and every time you farted cash came out of your butt-hole. You’re odd. You’re…you’re…
You’re Yam Girl.”
The laughter in the cafeteria was like jets. Her ears began to ring and she lowered her head as she began to recall every horribly embarrassing moment that had ever taken place in her life up to that point. Harvey stood and watched her. She turned and very carefully tried not to trip as she darted from the cafeteria with half of her lunch that she’d throw away because her appetite disappeared.
She ran all the way home, passing the trees and the barking dogs and the stop sign and the mailman and the neighbor who always waved to her and the candy store that burned to the ground last year and the Kinko’s where some guy asked if he could Xerox her face and the street with the house where it was discovered that a young couple were raising baby kangaroos and training them to fight because they “could no longer trust Congress.”
When she went inside her parents were drinking Jasmine tea in the kitchen. The TV was on. Dr. Phil. She watched them watching TV.
“Mom?” She asked with a trembling chin.
“SHH!” Her mother replied.
“This guy Harvey called me…”
Her father stood up and stepped into the kitchen garbage can and pulled the lid over himself.
Her mother said, “Now look what you did! It’ll be hours before her comes outta there!!”
She turned and walked upstairs. Her brother’s bedroom door was open. She peeked her head in. She meekly muttered a “hey”. He was playing a video game and ignored her.
“Um, this guy called me ‘Yam Girl’ and everyone laughed and my ears felt really hot and I ran home and I feel really silly and—“
“QUUUUIIIIIIEETTTTTTT!!!!!” her brother roared, controller in hand as a rainbow of flashes sputtered on the television screen. “CAN’T YOU SEE I AM PLAYING MEGATRON BLASTOID HEADLESS CLOWNS 4???????????” He was out of breath. His eyeballs had no pupils and the corners of his mouth were caked with spit and 7 Up.
She walked to her own bedroom. She played a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song on her iTunes. She stood in front of the mirror, staring, wondering if she’ll live alone when she’s old. A lobster appeared on her shoulder. She gasped and became very still with the fear the lobster will pinch her eyes out of her sockets.
“Hello,” the lobster said waving a claw, “My name is Wendel.”
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Are you gonna pinch my eyes out of my sockets?”
“What do you want?”
“I just wanna sit next to you and have lunch.” He reached behind him and brandished a brown paper bag with his name scrawled across it. He poked his claw into it and took out a yam.
“You like yams, too?” she asked.
“Yes. I love yams. They taste like gold and make me feel like dancing,” he said as he shook his tush. She giggled. “Wanna be my friend?”
The two new friends bonded by laughing and singing and quoting “Edward Scissorhands” and driving fire trucks real fast and giving out lollipops to people at the post office and playing dodgeball with Blue Man Group. It was a fun day. When it was over, Wendel went home and she went to sleep.
The next day she went back to the cafeteria and everyone began to chant “Yam! Girl!” in unison. Her belly filled with dread, but then her feet began to tingle. Then her legs. Her arms. Her head felt like helium. She thought of Wendel. She smiled real wide. She leapt into the air, clenching her fist above her head, and just before reaching outer space she bellowed:
“I am not Yam Girl! My name is…
When she landed, everyone in the cafeteria was cheering and whistling. They stood on their feet and music played. Everyone danced. Subhah smiled, walked past Harvey, and sat down at her own table that was made of peppermint. He tried getting her attention, but she ignored him because she was enjoying a delicious baked sweet potato.
Fred sat down next to her. He pulled out a plum. “Hey,” he said, “want half of my plum?”
“Thanks, but I already have my lunch.”
“Ok. How ‘bout I give you half of my plum and you give me half of your sweet potato?”
She agreed. They exchanged. Fred and Subhah sat in the cafeteria munching on their food and looking into each other’s eyes as everyone in the cafeteria danced around them (except Harvey).