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Teens & Young Adult High School

We had our graduation party at McDonalds.

It was a Thursday, the day before our final day of high school. At 3:30PM, after we heard the bell ring for the second-last time, one hundred seniors streamed into McDonalds. It must have been quite a terrifying sight; a flood of 18 year olds whose identities were built on flagrant contraventions of the school dress code. All of us had our skirts hemmed above the knee, our legs were stockingless, our bulky school bags replaced with sports bags and handbags, and our winged cat-eye eyeliner extended so far past the corners of our eyes that they almost touched the end of our eyebrows.

We stampeded across the freshly cleaned floor to invade the long tables that lined the outdoor seating area. We thought we were being fantastically considerate by sitting outside. After all, we didn’t want to disturb the other patrons. Of course, we didn’t account for the decibels generated by 100 excited girls. If we had been any louder, I am sure we would have shattered the sliding doors of that McDonalds, the way opera singers smash wine flutes in tacky old movies.

We ordered a dozen buckets of 50 chicken nuggets. The staff took forever to prepare the food, and Jessica P approached the counter three times to ask when the nuggets would be ready. They weren’t happy about that.

The ceremony began with us raising our diet colas and lemonades for a toast. Made by me, of course.

“Girls. Can I first say…” Oh no. Already emotional. Get it together, Danielle. “…that I love every single one of you?”

Claps and ‘aww’s all around.

“We’ve known each other for years and years now, and even though high school was hell, I don’t regret a single second of it. Because I met all of you.”

More ‘aww’s.

“Ms. Quan won’t let us have a proper Graduation Party as you all know...”

Groans.

Now, why weren’t we allowed to have a proper Graduation party? Oh yes, because of Lilli Miller. Lilli Miller in the grade above us had been voted ‘Most Likely to Commit Murder’. When it was announced at the school graduation party, Lilli had cried and confronted the Head of the Yearbook Committee, Olivia Tang, resulting in a physical altercation that only convinced the rest of the grade that she was indeed the most likely among them to commit murder. Ms. Quan, the principal, cut the party short, and six months later, when Lilli Miller was actually convicted of murder, she scrapped the idea of Graduation Parties and Yearbook Committees all together. My grade felt unfairly punished for a crime that Lilli had allegedly committed. So we went to McDonalds instead.  

“… But that’s okay, because we’re all here together, and our Secret Yearbook Committee has something special planned.”

Cheers.

“So over to you, Jessica.”

Jessica P stepped up onto the chair where I had been standing. “Thank you, Danielle.”

A smattering of applause greeted Jessica P. Being the most obnoxiously loud and aggressively opinionated of us all, I guessed she would be awarded the coveted prize of ‘Most Likely To Be President’.

The ceremony continued without drama – Ina was Most Likely To Fix Climate Change, and Penny was Most Likely To Win X Factor. Selena, who was training to be an Olympic javelin thrower, was awarded Most Likely To Commit Murder, and everyone laughed.

Towards the end, when we were all stuffed with chicken nuggets, Mels burst onto the ‘stage’, pushing Jessica P off the chair. Jessica P’s small “Hey!” was drowned out by Mel’s announcement.

“Guys, guys! I have an award to give to a very special person. Most Likely To Be President… Drumroll, please.”

Hands slapping against the cheap McDonalds booths. Jessica P straightened up, her anger at Mel entirely dissipated at the realisation that the interruption was for her, not a thwarting of her.

“Danielle!”

Cheers.

I pointed at myself questioningly, eyes wide, a gentle blush colouring my face. I noticed smugly that Jessica P’s face was also coloured by a blush, albeit a violent one.

“Danielle, you’re probably the friendliest, most approachable social butterfly in the whole world. If any woman can break that glass ceiling and become Madam President, it’s you.”

*** 

That Graduation Party was 20 years ago. My ‘Most Likely To Be President’ certificate was defaced by my nephew a long time ago with crayons and highlighters and saliva. This is fitting, considering that my identity as a friendly social butterfly has also been defaced. Defaced by a personality that was lying dormant within me for the first 20 years of my life.

The first time I entered the workforce, it was as a receptionist for a major regional bank. Greeting people day in and day out makes you quickly realise that the general population are not your friends. Exuberance and approachability were sucked out of me, and in the subsequent vacuum of my personality, extreme reclusion and introversion claimed supremacy.

I had to quit that job as a receptionist because I couldn’t stand working there, with a phony smile plastered on my face and a pencil skirt cling-wrapped around my legs. I'm sure that if I continued to work there for another week, I would have joined Lilli Miller and become worthy of the coveted prize: 'Most Likely To Commit Murder'.

Now I work in a boring office with a non-descript job title, and the four walls of my cubicle feel like a massive hug. It’s okay, the walls say, no one will talk to you in here. 18 year old Danielle would be horrified. Oh, 18 year old Danielle, how I miss you and your general zest for life and people.

18 year old Danielle would be more horrified however, by the ‘Breaking News’ Tweet I hold before me. ‘Jessica Partridge wins the US Presidential Election With Flying Colors’. Oh my gosh. Jessica P is Madam President. Well, I guess she was right to be angry about me usurping her award as ‘Most Likely To Be President’.

Does it say something terrible about the state of the nation that someone as loud, annoying, and aggressive as Jessica P can be voted in to represent the country? Yes, unless... Maybe there’s a small possibility that the sociability and zest that I lost was found and adopted by her? No, don’t be ridiculous. 

July 30, 2021 00:02

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