This First Smack

"I know I’m dramatic. My mom think’s it’s a vice. I think it’s fun."

by Malu Marzarotto


If you can look AROUSE in the eyes and say that your middle school days were emotionally stable, we will be the first to order you a personalized trophy (that is an unbelievable feat and you would deserve it) then proceed to call the police—chances are a person with that response is not so stable today. Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe you’ve buried those emotionally charged memories so far in the temporal lobes of your brain that middle school it just a muddled thing that never existed.

We get it.

AROUSE too has tried all these years to forget, yet now, it’s time we come clean. Bringing you memories from our deepest depths of our darkest days, we bring you: AROUSED on Pizza Fridays—Memoirs of a Confusing Time.

This First Smack (Maybe.)

I had always known this day would come. It was bad enough when your parent was within a hundred-mile radius from you, let alone the same building. But now, this was different.


This made last year’s first-day-of-school-toilet-paper-on-my-shoe-and-the-hottest-boy-michael-laughing seem like the best case scenario.

This was going to top the pizza sauce white dress picture day of 6th grade, or the headgear and homemade caramel disaster of 7th.

This was 8th grade.

This was the saga of tight Aeropostale shirts and blue Axe body spray smothering the halls.

This was where the “early bloomers” were top of the food chain.

This is where I wished I was one of them.

This was when my mom told me I would be a “late bloomer”.

This was not just 8th grade.

This was the year that my dad would be my teacher.

My homeroom teacher.

This was not happening.


First thing’s first, I have to clarify that I know I’m dramatic. My mom think’s it’s a vice. I think it’s fun.

First days of school are never easy. I’m not being dramatic when I say this either, because I think most people can testify to this statement. This day especially, I knew that even the tightest Aeropostale shirt, the white one with yellow polka-dots that was so tight it showed the line of my new training bra, could not hide my terror.

First people to school.

My dad loved to be first to school.

First he would start up the coffee in the office. He was the first one there and had his computer on before the secretaries were in. Close behind him was the middle school Principal, father to my best friend, Hannah Bloir.

My first steps inside found a sense of calm in the familiarity of the office. The fake plants and smell of carpet cleaner welcomed me as I took my seat in the office and waited for Hannah to join me. We liked to sit in the office and look through the glass walls at the other students having to wait in the hallway to be released. They were like animals round up in a zoo—the monkeys squirting strawberry milk at one another through their straws, giraffes who were stumbling around after a summer of puberty making their bodies lanky and unfamiliar, and the new flamingos eager to show off their vibrant new styles. We watched and laughed, safe from the wild animals behind the glass.

First Period was about to start.


Smacking on her bubblegum, Darbee Noblet was the hottest girl in 8th grade. If she had Tutti Frutti gum, so did her minions. I preferred Big Red, but only for a few chews before I spit it out. Gum hurt my stomach.

This year, I bought Tutti Frutti.

I always had a locker next to Darbee. I would hear her gossip and know all about her and her boyfriend Michael. I could always smell her fruity perfumes and could verify the rumor that she actually owned every Lip Smackers flavor.

Lip Smackers.

I drew Hannah a picture in 7th grade of me giving them all “Smack Lippers”.

That made me laugh.

It still does.

On my way to my locker, I stopped.

Smack in the middle of the hallway was my dad. Holding his oversized “NO WHINING ZONE” coffee mug, he saw me.

He knew what to do to embarrass me.

He waved.

I waved back.

No one noticed.

Could have been worse.

I still just wanted to smack him.


Maybe this day wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Maybe he would be the cool teacher and I would get to be late to class or turn in assignments from home instead of school.

Maybe everyone would think the “NO WHINING ZONE” mug was funny.

Maybe I wouldn’t be a late bloomer.

Maybe Darbee would give me one of her fruity lip glosses and we would become best friends.

Maybe Michael would secretly like Big Red gum and choose me over her.

Then maybe my first smack would be right on Michael’s lips.

Maybe everything was going to be okay.


Maybe if I had been looking where I was walking as I headed into class, I would have seen Michael’s foot sticking out as he slumped “too cool” in his chair.

Maybe then I would have caught myself as I fell flat on my face in front of everyone and maybe I wouldn’t have hit my head and chipped my tooth.

Maybe then I wouldn’t have had to spend my first day of 8th grade in the office. . . watching as kids looked from the outside in at the spectacle.

Maybe I was the animal stuck behind the glass.

I had dreamt and wished of this moment forever.

This first smack with Michael Shupe.

Stupid Tutti Frutti...

I sat crying in the office, now I was unable to chew any gum because of my tooth.

Maybe I should have been more careful about what I wished for.

Malu Marzarotto is host to Indoor Recess, A Novel on AROUSE Tuesdays from 6p-7p.