Monday, July 14, 2014

Dispatch #24: The Story Not Told

by Lupe Fernandez

Everybody tells the truth on Facebook.

Okay, maybe it's a case of selective memory.

I found a former high school alumni on the omnipresence FB. I remembered said alumni - we'll call "Barbie" - as my journalism teacher's assistant during seventh period. As a senior, I had that period free and used it to work on a video project for the National Science Foundation in the back room of Mrs. L's class. Video project for sounds fancy, but using 3/4 video tape machines for editing is like petting a cat with dental floss. Barbie would type notes and/or perform other clerical work for Mrs. L in exchange for class credit.

So I reintroduced myself to Barbie by citing this memory.

Barbie said it was not her. "You must be thinking of my sister."

I rechecked the FB photos and my year book. Barbie was Mrs. L's assistant, not her sister. I never knew her sister. While Barbie admitted to being an alumni, she denied knowing me, working for Mrs. L or spending anytime in the back room. It was not her sister. It was her. Barbie. We would talk about school, my video project or Barbie's social life.

So why would Barbie deny knowing me? Let us put aside the "you're a creepy guy" explanation for the sake of argument and my reputation. Since this is about young adults, let us concentrate on the high school experience. Why would a teenage girl hide her identity?

What could have happened to Barbie that she would deny knowing an alumni decades in the future?

For the sake of storytelling, let us example three fictional scenarios:
Barbie is a slender, fashionable clothed party girl. Looks good in a tube top. Her hair sandy blond hair is shoulder-length and feathered. She smokes in the quad - it is legal in these days - and parties with her friends in the school parking lot.

The summer of her junior year she goes on spur-of-the moment car camping trip with two girlfriends. In the mountains they stop in a campground to use the outhouse.

A good-looking guy shows up on a yellow and black motorcycle. He encourages the girls to ride the bike. Barbie wants to show off so the three of them climb on. They have one helmet between them and argue who should wear it. The other girls don't want to wear it because it makes them look stupid in from of the cute guy. Barbie doesn't trust her friend handling the bike so she wears the helmet. Before they roar off, the cute guy takes their picture.

Six hours later, Barbie wakes up in a county hospital. Her parents weep at her recovery. The police ask about her two missing girl friends. Barbie can't remember anything after the photo flash. She tells the police about the cute guy and the motorcycle at the campground. No such campground exists. No trace of cute guy or motorcycle. And how did she get the strange scar on her abdomen?

Back at school, everybody thinks Barbie is hiding something, covering up. She can still smell pine needles and exhaust fumes.

Drugs? Murder? Guilt. She just wants to forget.

Barbie types up Mrs. L's notes for a proposal on expanding the school newspaper pages. The last bell rings. The skinny guy LF turns off all his video equipment, grabs his stuff and says goodbye. He's out the door. Barbie turns in the typed notes to Ms. L and goes to the door. She searches her purse for her pack of Marlboro cigarettes. Barbie's sure she had the pack. Maybe she took it out and accidentally left it in the back room.

She looks around the video equipment and piles of LF's video tapes. No Marlboro. She hears noises in the journalism dark room - adjacent to the backroom - but nobody's supposed to be back there. Maybe LF came back and is playing a trick on her. He had talked some science stuff about the dangers of smoking. Yawn! Barbie opens the door, passes through the black curtains and finds the red lights on. On the counter is her cigarette pack. She collects it, but notices photos hanging from a clothes line. Group photos of students with circles drawn around several popular and not so popular kids.

"They're spies, Barb." It's Mrs. L. "They work for the other side. We have to stop them."


"War is coming and only a few of us can stop it."

Mrs. L isn't kidding. This is no joke.

"You'll be trained in weapons and martial arts. But no one can know. Not your parents. Family. Friends. Anybody."

This is too weird.

"Do you want to graduate?"


"Then say yes."

Okay. When do I start? 

"You are adopted."

What now you tell me? I'm going to graduate next year. What a minute?

This is some kind of sick joke. I look too much like my sister. Everybody says so. No way I'm adopted. I know I've said I don't look anything like my sister and my parents are too weird to be related to me but I'm not adopted. There's all those pictures and shit. Why are you doing this to me? If this is about the time I almost burned the house down with those guys at my sixteenth birthday, I said I was sorry. I thought it was lighter fluid, not gasoline. I mean, look at my hair. It's just like hers. Well hers is more curly but she perms it.

By the way where's my curling iron? I need a new one. The old one is frying my hair.

This is not funny. I'm not laughing. Oh my God, you people are crazy. Have you been smoking weed? Oh my God, Mom. Dad. You're a bunch of dope heads. That garden you keep. The one you told me is special herbs. No wonder you're always going to Berkeley. Shit Dad, now I know why you wear those ugly tinted glasses. Your stoned all the time. They let university professors get away with all kinds of shit. In a magazine? Really Mom? Modeling. I'm so sure. I'm so disguised.

I'm changing my name and disowning all you guys.

Well, there you have it. 

Perhaps one. Perhaps none. Maybe some people just don't remember high school and have better things to do than answer questions on FB from a stranger.

Then again, the messages I wrote to Barbie have disappeared from FB.



  1. I pick Scenario three, although they all have great possibilities. One of the worst things you can do to a person is question their memories. Wasn't that a murder device in some movie?

    1. I wish I could forget some movies.
      Popcorn Critic

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for playing Kit.
      Option Four

  3. Hi Lupe, I think you should choose one and enlarge your short short into a longer story. I personally like the Spy one. Oh, my daughter is adopted and I think the worst thing is for parents to "wait" till their kids are older to tell them. I like telling early and then answering age-appropriate questions. I told my daughter when she was two or three, I don't remember. She was and is fine with it. (But it was international adoption, so hard for her to track down her birth mother since I haven't even gotten her a passport!) I don't know why people would be on Facebook if they don't want to be "discovered." Thanks for the scenarios. Penny

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Penelope.
      I always wanted to be a Secret Agent so I could fly a jetpack.
      Airborne Alumni

  4. I pick Scenario 1. She got hit in the head and forgot who she was/is. And many of us try so hard to do just that. It wouldn't take a wreck to do it. Great post and what a high school novel waiting to be written, Lupe.- Hilde

    1. Whenever I get hit on the head, I remember the pain.
      Cranial Ouch

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Kenley. Why does your name link to PMP Training? Are you a real person?
      Identity Curious


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