I believe what Mama used to tell me: If you get too big for your britches, someone will take you down a notch or two. Yes, she really talks like that. Usually what takes me down a notch is Fate or karma or the Force or the universe at large.
When I was in sixth grade, I was a smart-ass, but hardly anyone at school knew that, because I didn't talk that much. Ever since my parents had lied me all the way from Honolulu to the god-forsaken frozen prairie of Illinois two years before, I had drawn my mouth up into a tiny anus and refused to cooperate. I scowled in silence. I demanded mangoes and fresh pineapple and sugar cane. I didn't get what I wanted. People I didn't even know felt free to tell me how cute I would be if I would smile.
Make me, I'd think to myself.
What gave me a great deal of pleasure at that time was to be better than any of my classmates. I could draw and write, and I loved to hear how wonderful it was so I could blow off the compliments with my snotty eyebrows. I was wearing a cloak of meanness, and it was a good thing because that place was freezing.
So...sixth grade, and Valentine's Day was approaching. Mrs. Guthridge told us that we would have a contest. Each student would bring a box to decorate, as our Valentine mailbox. We would vote on the winning design. I knew then that I was going to win.
Most kids brought a shoe box, so I was ahead already. I had a shirt box, with a large surface for decorating. I was going 3-dimensional. This thing was elaborate. I covered it with little lace-doily umbrellas with bendy-straw handles and red and pink hearts, and plenty of glitter. It was beautiful. I sat in my sullen bubble and waited for the votes to be counted. I was the winner. Of course.
I acted like it didn't mean a thing to me, but I felt good inside my bubble of superiority. I might have to put up with these dumb farm kids referring to my birthplace as HY-why-ya and asking me if that was why I had slanty eyes, but I enjoyed my hateful thoughts.
The day of the Valentine's party, we took our boxes full of candy and bad puns and cheap little envelopes home with us. I had to walk six blocks, and the wind was sharp. The kids with the shoe box mailboxes just tucked them under their arms and went on their ways. My shirt box caught the wind and escaped like a kite. The whole box flew up into the air, sailed right into Mr. Gordon's tree, and burst open. My Valentines flew away like birds.
Goes to show you.