Loser by Andy Kushnir


When I was in the first grade I was a bit overweight, chubby you might say, which I would then ask you why you’re making fun of a six-year-old with body issues. The thing is, I remember feeling overweight, which I think says a lot about me and how self-conscious or vain I might be depending on how you view body image concerns. I also was dying to be liked, and I don’t think that makes me different or anything. I think most of us have that inherent need to be beloved by our peers. I think that’s why I wrote this; to make you love me, and maybe tell your friends, who will then tell two friends… who will then tell two friends, and one day the whole wide world will love me.

So portly and desperate at a young age, I had to quickly figure out how I would make my mark before I was reduced to 1st grade loserdom. I took to telling jokes, but at the time I was shy and I didn’t have the courage to bomb, the only thing I feared more than being chubby was being the unfunny chubby kid.

I came from humble beginnings and started out small, getting my first gig when my art teacher, Mr. Fairman assigned Micah Thirston and I to the same table. Now, Micah Thirston was the supreme athlete in school. He was a beautiful blend of Mexican-American culture, he was tall, lean, and he could corre like the wind. Imagine Benny the Jet from The Sandlot but without the compassion to take a young misfit whose main after school activity were Dunkaroos.

I sat down at the table, letting myself believe that Micah was as excited to be in my presence as I was his. The class got off to its usual start, Mr. Fairman explaining the day’s assignment, I somehow getting a multitude of markers all over my fingers and hands, and me praying to Picasso that Mr. Fairman would take into account effort rather than application.

At some point during the class I found my opportunity to strike with what I like to imagine was a clever quip, but odds are it was most likely fart-related. I said it ever-so quietly, as if it were a silent butt toot, on the pretense that in case it flopped, maybe nobody would hear.

But someone did hear, the boy of my dreams, Micah Thirston heard. And upon hearing it, he cocked his head back and let out an uproariously loud laugh, “Ha-ha-ha.” It echoed in my soul, David had taken down Goliath. Micah had laughed at my joke and the sweet-sweet nectar of the Gods rained down on me.

But what happened next, could only be described as betrayal in the highest degree. Without skipping a beat, Micah propped himself up on his chair and announced to the class his own version of my astute observation about flatulence. To put it more clearly: He. Stole. My. Joke. The class burst out laughing, kids were laughing so hard they were crying, a girl puked from sheer delight, and Mr. Fairman exclaimed, “He’s not only athletic, he’s also hilarious!” And I… was rendered silent.

When Micah completed his own rendition of my joke, I waited, oh how I waited for him to give credit to its creator. I waited for him to say, “Andy said that wonderful knee-slapper! Let’s hoist this stout boy on our shoulders! For he is king of the classroom!” But that call to glory never came my friends. Micah had stolen my joke and made it his own. I didn’t even fight for it, thinking it too petty of a quest to endure. I had become the negligent mother who loses her children at the mall, too simple minded to ever set a meet-up point, or bother to reclaim her babies.

I went home that night, well I guess 3:30 when school got out, but to me, everything had turned to darkness. I went home that night, furious at what the day had brought me, lambasting to my mother about Micah the joke thief. She comforted her weird six-year-old by assuring me it was all right, and to take solace in the fact that at least Micah thought I was funny. Thus firmly stamping in my mind that 1. There was a social ladder and 2. Whenever a rung presented itself, one should climb upwards and shut the hell up.

This pattern went on for months, I told a quiet joke, Micah plagiarized it like the rat-bastard he was, and I would cry to my mother.

Micah was a king and I a pawn, and so was the pecking order. So I had resigned myself to the idea that I better get busy livin or get busy dying… or go to recess.

Then one day after school I was walking back to my mom’s car when I saw my fellow classmates begin to congregate near the benches. They were all in an especially joyful mood, running around, chasing each other in amusement. So my pudgy little thighs meandered over to this large group of students, and I asked what the fuss was all about.

The group came to a sudden halt, children stopped running, birds stopped singing, the sun set at an alarming rate, and a lone brave soul emerged from the pack. Head down and ashamed, this classmate looked as if she were about to tell me my husband would not be coming home from war. Then she peered up at me and said the following, “It’s Micah’s birthday party.”

My World. Started. Spinning. “What the fuck did you just say to me? No, no, don’t touch me, get off of me! I’m cool, I’m cool man. It’s this motherfucker’s birthday? Well where the fuck is my invitation Micah?! Huh?! I gave you everything!! You ungrateful snake in the grass!”

Now of course I didn’t say that, in reality I broke into tears. Crying and sobbing, I felt so deceived. I had been feeding this guy zingers for the better part of a school year, and he didn’t even bother to invite me to his birthday party? I mean we went to a small school, I had 44 kids in my class, and at least 30 were invited to this shindig. Clearly it wasn’t a, “we don’t have enough room in my mom’s minivan” situation.

I was a mess, the marker I had gotten on my face in art class that morning began to smear. I was utterly inconsolable, positive there had to be a mistake.

My mother found me, lying in a heap of despair and after school snacks. I could barely get the words out when she asked me what was wrong, “Micah, didn’t… invite… me… to… his birthday party…” I bellowed.

Springing into action my mother of the year vowed to make this right, saying she was sure it was an accident, that they probably just forgot. I know she was trying to help, but it’s not like being forgotten feels a whole lot better than not being invited.

My mom returned quickly with Micah in tow, saying Micah had something to say. Without even looking me in the eye, he said something to the effect of, “Sorry Andy, I totally invited you. I’m sure it got lost in the mail or something.”

I wish I could tell you I told him to piss off, that I didn’t need his invite. That I was a lone wolf who would not be pitied. But to be honest, this all made sense to me, I firmly believed that the invitation was misplaced.

Playing it cool, I reined in my emotions, my tears instantly evaporated, saying,

“Oh need not worry my good man! These things happen. Ha-ha, oh lord, the mail carrier system can never be trusted!”

I jumped up, sprinted to the other kids playing like I had always belonged with them on the jungle gym. I went absolutely ape shit, totally unabashed in my excitement, not reserved whatsoever even though moments prior I had been a pariah. I cozied up next to my fellow partygoers, relishing in my newfound-popularity, albeit forced, juice box in hand, swirling it around as if it were a martini and I at a luxurious dinner party, saying things like, “You would not believe what almost happened to me… I mean can you imagine? Me? Not invited? Oh lord, now that would have been a travesty. Crisis averted, people.”

Micah and I later became friends, but I like to think I got my revenge when he ended up leaving our school a few years later after his parents got a divorce. Okay, that’s unfair, and I’m sorry.

Now obviously I know that I was not invited, that invitations just don’t get lost in the mail. Although you’d be surprised how recently I came to that conclusion (within the last two years). But however disillusioned I was, I felt like a king that day, for on that day I wasn’t a loser.

Thank you.

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