Short Story: The Cold War of Fifth Grade

That time again came; It is the season premiere of Downton Abbey, but that meant nothing to me. What got me jumping up and down was that while my Mom was downstairs drinking wine with her friend Jenifer, I would be upstairs with Jenifer’s daughter Delia. In my tiny bathroom we would stick our feet in a nasty blow up foot bath, and paint our toes with crappy glitter nail polish. We would chat with each other about the latest second grade gossip and how dumb we thought our moms were, (especially for liking such a boring show). I also vividly remember planning out our adult lives. Delia wanted to be a fashion designer, I wanted to be a painter and we both wanted to live in New York together. Delia and I still had many differences; I was shy while she was loud and outspoken. Nevertheless we clicked.

“I have no idea how we get along so well.” I’d say.

“It’s because opposites attract.” She said.

Years past and it was the first day of fifth grade. I was the big kid now, the top dog of the school. My clout levels went even more off the charts when I saw four of my friends in the same class as me, including Delia. It was my first year ever getting to be in a class with her. Our little group sat at the same table together everyday. We were a self defined “squad”. It was going to be the kind of epic school year I’d seen on Disney channel, or a Bethany Mota video. Or that’s at least what I hyped it up to be.

In the first few months I was ecstatic to be spending so much time with one of my best friends until my perspective on Delia began to change. She went to school like it was show and tell everyday. She had everything from pet rocks, little japanese candies, lip smackers to colorful glitter pens sprawled out on her desk. One day in our English class she was showing our little group a pack of sticky notes that folded out like an accordion. We were all mesmerized, this girl had a holy grail we did not. Unfortunately, this presentation was going on while we were supposed to be working. The teacher stomped over and got us in trouble. Delia was upset with the teacher while I thought the teacher had a point. How could Delia have been so careless and rude? I was always a rule follower and an all star goody-goody and it became clear Delia was not. Many more occurrences like this followed. 

I also learned she was very blunt, while I was very sensitive. If I got a math problem wrong she’d spy over at my paper with her green snake eyes and with a hiss, letting me know about my error. If I talked about having a fun weekend at the pool, Delia was proud to share how she felt chlorine pools were gross. She preferred au naturel pools. I was also one of the last kids to believe in Santa Claus. I was dumbfounded when she plainly told me my parents were lying to be, but luckily I knew she was just trying to trick me out of getting presents. This behavior of hers was way too out of line for me. She was a ruthless savage and I felt my friends and I were falling victim.

When I began to resent her and I didn’t say anything. That would be crazy, so instead insensibly I began to play mind games with her. To me the reading carpet and the small green chairs were the terrain of a battlefield. The smizes we glared at each other from across the tables were sniper bullets. Our mutual friends were allies we had to win over with pseudo relatable jokes like “pizza is my bae!” Everytime the teacher asked a question we both blasted our hands up in the name of our cold war. Everyday was a competition, but that’s just the way it had to be because I knew she was out to get me. The hardest part about the nature of our fighting was that every shot fired had to be with the silencers on.

By that next spring no issues in our friendship had been officially declared. I felt what was left of my childhood friend was too far gone into this moody preteen. I knew what I planned to do would bring troubles to our friend group, but Katy Perry released a new music video so I felt inspired. 

I passed her a note that said “meet me by the swirly thing during recess…come alone.”

And so she did.

“What did you want to meet me for Michelle?” 

It felt as if the ambiance of playing children had silenced for that moment.

I took a deep breath “Delia, I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time, but I just feel like you’re not the person I used to know. I think that it’s best if we take a break for a while.”

“I feel like you’ve changed too. And I agree that we should.” She replied.

I was SHOCKED. I thought I was being the bigger person, I thought I was in charge, but no. She so casually managed to steal every last bit of power from the conversation. She must have seen the Katy Perry video too, or something even stronger like Taylor Swift. 

From that moment on the cold war began to heat up. Delia and I were on and off again. What started as pettiness soured into deep seated insults. We would write each other long angry letters to cut off our friendship then write long dramatic apology letters to reunite only to get fed up and break up again. We both had our special ways of expressing the pain. Delia would begin getting cold until she would say something mean. I would be passive aggressive until someone tried to talk to me then I would run out of class to the bathroom to cry. I was so pissed at her sometimes that if she even spoke I would book it. Our friends began to pick sides even though they had little understanding of the ever changing friendship status. Of course we were frequent visitors to the counselor’s office. It would be hours of tears and ranting from both of us with no resolution. The funny thing is I can’t for the life of me recall what she said or what she did in those months. All I remember was the feeling between love and hatred.

One day towards the end of the year while we were together I received a break up letter from her. It said she didn’t want to be friends anymore and I wasn’t allowed to sit at the lunch table anymore. I was so upset she thought she could just exile me from the group. Somehow before lunch time she had changed her mind and wrote me an apology letter. She used puffy stickers so I knew it was the real deal. In the cafeteria, now reconciled, Delia and I were laughing together coming back from the lunch line. Oddly, when we were sitting down one of our friends gave Delia a look.

“I thought we agreed she wasn’t sitting with us anymore?” she said.

I dropped my tray of curly fries. I had no idea what Delia and my friends must have been feeling then. All I knew was that I was Cinderella and my sisters had just torn my dress to rags. I zoomed to the bathrooms and set up camp in the second to last stall. I cried and cried and cried and cried some more. I couldn’t believe that cutting me out of the squad was a group decision. I felt so ashamed that every little insecurity I had turned out to be true. I felt so dumb that I always hoped our friendship would one day be how it was. I recalled what she would always tell me back when we were little. “It’s because opposites attract.” Opposites attract my stinky butt. She was wrong, we did so clearly not attract. 

From that day on I sat with the boys. I sometimes glared at them from across the room, but no longer did I bother opening their apology letters. No matter who had done what the bottom line was our friendship no longer made us happy so there was no use trying to fix it. A week or two after the split one of our friends made the treacherous journey to the boy’s table to inform me that she had no part in the lunch incident and that she no longer wanted to sit with the others. Even with someone else by my side the whole thing still consumed me. My dramatic self couldn’t even brush past Delia in the hall without going into a breakdown.

Back then I wished she would get sent off to boot camp and out of my life. Now I would never wish such a fate on her, especially knowing what I know today. Around the same time we were fighting at school she was dealing with some other things at home. She did her best to explain this to our group but none of us could have comprehended how that made her feel at that age. When she was acting in anger it was rarely ever related to me. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been to do her best to communicate with me only for me to run off, to not have a clear answer on what she was doing wrong yet to still be pinned as the villain. So much of our fights were outlets to barf our unrelated emotions. I was just as bad to her as she was to me if not more.

Two years had past of not speaking and the country was then in the hellscape that was the 2016 election. Petty elementary drama was the last thing on my mind.

I had 7th period English with Delia. I wasn’t bothered by her presence, though I sometimes looked over at her desk. I was glaring no longer in envy, but in curiosity. She still of course had a gazillion trinkets at her desk, but she seemed so different from before. One day we were both sweeping for the teacher after class. I was the broom and she was the pan.

I broke the silence and cut to the chase “Hey I’m so sorry about the whole fifth grade thing. I was so insecure at the time and I really took it out on you.”

“No hard feelings dude, we were both so stupid back then.”

That day was the dawn of a new dynasty. Little by little we relearned each other. We would bond over the same trashy emo bands we glorified as poetry. Then the next year we hung out while waiting to be picked up after school. We had the same sense of humor that mainly revolved around Shrek.

Now in Highschool, we hangout all the time in and out of school. We still both have our differences, but that just keeps things interesting. She is a friend I know that we can always be 100% honest with one and other. She’s also a friend that always has my back. Compared to my other friends that I have never even had an argument with, I feel more connected with her. We both still dream about living in New York together. I don’t know if that will happen, but I do know that no matter what life puts us through, our friendship is going to find a way. 

By Michelle Miyamoto, Contributor

Featured Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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