I can see the Foursquare court, white lines painted on the black asphalt to the back left of the elementary school. We were so excited when the school turned an empty, unused parking lot into a kiddo’s game paradise. Foursquare, tether ball, permanent hopscotch–who wouldn’t be in love? But I remember Foursquare the most.
Four separate boxes connected only at their edges, box 1 sharing sides with 2 and 3 but never 4. The only place all four touched in one tiny moment was the center. The crossroads. A singular place and time where four separate entities united to form one larger whole. Like my friends and me. Our lives touching on the edges, separate individuals but linked in such a way that for that time we were something larger. Something greater than the sum of the parts. At least that is what I had always thought, until that day.
I can’t remember the timing of it. Did we wait until the parking lot had cleared after school? Was it a meet up on a non-school day? I don’t know. I just remember the squares. The white lines in stark contrast to the blacktop. I remember each of us sitting in square, so close to the corners we almost touched, but still separate, divided by the lines. Divided by differences.
Because that day was the day my friends, the few that I had, sat me down in the Foursquare box and each took their turn telling me all the things they hated about me. Each weakness examined, judged, and verbally cataloged as if they were compelled by duty to make sure I knew.
I was a terrible human being: vein, stuck up, goody-goody and, perhaps the worst, fake. A shell of a person.
I never saw it coming.
And then they said, almost in unison in my memory, “Now it’s your turn. What do you hate about us?”
I was stumped. Up until that moment there was not a single thing that I hated about them. Not one part of their character that I ever thought to catalog. I squirmed. I didn’t want to say anything, but I felt the pressure to join in the verbal cutting. Their eyes stared and dissected me all at once, and in that stare I saw a challenge to either participate or be shunned.
So I opened my mouth and said things that I never should have said.
That choice haunts me.
I will never forget that experience. And I don’t believe I ever want to. It exists as a reminder to me of the injury words can cause–wounds that can take a lifetime to heal. I never want to be that girl again, the one who opened her mouth to point out someone else’s fault. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail, epically.
But I keep trying, because of Foursquare. Because I know that once said, words can never be deleted.
What regrets do you have? What’s that one experience you’ve had as a kid that you wish you could do over? And would you? Would you want to give up your difficult memories?