This story first appeared in the Fall 2007/5768 issue
Illustrated by Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn, from China
I ran upstairs, tears flowing down my face, and my curly red hair streaming behind me. Why are the kids in school socruel to me? I thought to myself. But I already knew the answer: I was different. Every day since I moved from Boro Park, New York to Opp, Alabama, I was tormented by the other kids.
We aren’t really observant, but I had never been in a place without
Jews. I was so surprised to see everyone on the first day in school, none of the boys wearing yarmulkes. Most of the kids here have never heard of a Jew before. They question me non-stop about why I won’t eat cheeseburgers.
There is one particularly mean kid at my school. Her name is Phoebe, and she teases me about everything. I keep kosher at home and I try to keep kosher at school. This is a perfect opportunity for her to taunt me about eating. She does things like pouring milk on my hamburgers and pouring meat sauce on my omelets. The only way for me to escape the horrors of my new school is to go online and blog. Some of my friends from Boro Park know just how I feel and can comfort me on a blogging session that we have together.
Today, however, I was too upset to be reminded by my friends about the true meaning of Judaism. I went under a new blog listing and saw a username that lived in Alabama. I thought
to myself, “Maybe she’s nice and I’ll make a new friend.” I clicked on the link and typed a simple message:
A response popped up almost instantly on the screen.
Every time I wrote a response to d3bbi318429, she wrote me back instantly. We learned that we go to the same school (Oppville High), but the odds of us meeting each other in the halls are slim because there are 574 8th graders. The next day, I got up early. I was so excited about my blogging session that I was on cloud nine. But my good mood was short-lived—as soon as I walked through the doors to the school, Phoebe was waiting for me, her usual jibes under her belt. I just ignored her and tried all day to find someone named Debbie (probably) who was my secret online friend.
That night, I went online again. I went back to Debbie’s blog and wrote:
miri90210: I was looking for you at Oppville High all day. Whose class are you in for science?
d3bbi318429: I’m in Mr. McDonald’s class. You?
miri90210: Same! It’s so weird that you and I are in the same science class and didn’t even know it. By the way, did you get question 10?
d3bbi318429: Yep. Let me get my planner and we can go over it together.
By the next day, I was so eager to find Debbie that I distracted Mr. McDonald and looked at the roster for the class. “Debbie” wasn’t on the list.
miri90210: You’re not on the class roster. What’s your real name? I looked for Debbie and Deborah and there was nothing there.
d3bbi318429: Debbie is a…bit of a secret. No one, not even my teachers, know my real name’s Debbie. Don’t tell, OK?
miri90210: Deal. My real name’s Miriam, but all my friends call me Miri.
User d3bbi318429 has logged off.
I felt so alone that I dared to go on the official Boro Park blog just for company. My old friends greeted me, and I stayed on the blog all night with them. I tried not to think about Debbie as I drifted to sleep. I felt too sick the next morning to go to school. I stayed in bed all day with a thermometer in my mouth and my laptop in my lap. I waited to go on the blog site until 3:30, where schools in Opp and Boro Park let out. I found Debbie logged on.
miri90210: Why did you log off last night? I’m really sick here in bed so please don’t be mean to me again.
d3bbi318429: I didn’t intend the sudden log-off to seem mean. How about we both print out the page of this blog, bring it to school, and get to science class early so we can meet?
I printed out the page. By the next day, I was feeling better, so I went to school. I got to science class early, but the only person there was Phoebe.
“What are you doing here, stupid head? I’m waiting here for a reason and you’re intruding in my time.” Tears welled up in my eyes. How could Phoebe be here to humiliate me in front of Debbie? As I fought back tears, I noticed a folded piece of paper in Phoebe’s pocket. I noticed Debbie’s username at the top of the page. I clumsily took out my binder and pulled out my page. Debbie and I stared at each other for the longest time, and then we swept each other into a big hug. I pulled Phoebe in a corner. “So you told me you’re really called Debbie.” She nodded, and choked back tears as she said, “I’m Jewish, my name’s Deborah…” and then she started crying. I hugged her really tight and escorted her to the bathroom where she could have some privacy.
After I had dried Debbie’s tears, she told me that I can call her Debbie, but only in private, and that maybe one day, she might muster up enough courage to tell everyone her name. “By the way, Miri,” she timidly asked, “Will you come to sleep over at my house on Saturday night?” I nodded. Then, Debbie and I walked through the halls to our next class, hand in hand.