By Meredith Broome
I am sitting at the dinner table at my best friend, Annemarie’s, house. Annemarie and I are in the third grade and have been best friends since kindergarten. Tonight we are eating spaghetti and meatballs with her mom, dad and two little sisters, and I remember a joke my father told me about balls, which seems relevant to the meatballs we’re eating. I stab a meatball onto my fork and hold it up in the air in front of me as a prop, not understanding that the ‘balls’ in the joke refer to testicles. I clear my throat and shout over the conversation.
“Speaking of balls…” I tell the joke, hit the punch line and look around, expecting a big laugh. Instead, Annemarie’s mother and father are frozen in what looks to me like fear. Then Annemarie’s mother’s face reshapes itself into steeled hatred, and she points it at me like a sword.
“Get up from the table,” she hisses. “You are excused.”
Nobody else moves. Annemarie’s ears turn red. She doesn’t look up from her plate. Shame weighs me down like a hot blanket as I walk heavily into the living room and sit down on the couch. I wait for what seems like hours listening to Annemarie’s family finish their dinner in silence. I can hear forks scraping plates. I try to listen even harder, until I think I can hear the sound of a cloth napkin being placed on the table, or the sound of Annemarie’s father, finally blinking his eyes. Continue Reading…