Kim, the Lonely One
Written in 2004
Once upon a time there lived a girl named Kim. She was always alone. The other kids would be the same as each other. Like if one person tripped another kid would. Kim was kind of a sad person. Not even a very funny joke would cheer her up. Everyone made fun of her. She got used to it. One late morning when she was walking to the bus stop some kids were really making fun of her about how different she was. She couldn’t take it any longer. She ran to her secret fort she had found. That day was her field trip day. It was time to leave but she wasn’t there. “Her parents didn’t call the school,” thought her teacher. Kim’s teacher called home but her parents didn’t understand. Kim’s parents searched for her. They told cops how much she weighed and stuff but still didn’t find her. The next day she walked to school. Her teacher called her parents because she came back. “Hey copycats, if he jumped off a cliff would you,” asked Kim. “Yes,” said a kid. “Think again. You could get killed,” said Kim. The kids thought that day and decided not to be the same. From that day on no one was a copycat again and everyone was fine with that. The End
Happy May, readers! Welcome to another Aged Anecdote; I’m your past and present host, and this is the blog series where I share a story I wrote as a child and offer my modern-day response to my early work.
This week, I’m sharing “Kim, the Lonely One,” which has a little bit of a different tone than the other stories I’ve shared. My childhood stories were mostly lighthearted and silly, but this one has a more serious mood. At the time I wrote it, I would have been eight years old.
This story begins with our protagonist, Kim, who is supposedly always alone. The author immediately contrasts Kim the loner with the all the “other kids,” who apparently have a “groupthink” mentality, where they go along with whatever the main crowd is doing. The author even includes this very cute example of how much they copy each other, so that if one person trips, another kid also trips to be like the first kid.
Juxtaposed against “all the other kids,” Kim is a sad girl. How sad is she? So sad that “not even a very funny joke would cheer her up.” Like, think of the funniest knock-knock joke you’ve ever heard, and not even that would cheer her up. That’s some pretty bad sadness. We find out that the other kids make fun of her, presumably for being different from them, and Kim is unfortunately used to this mistreatment. Perhaps she is sad because they make fun of her; or, perhaps she is sad and that is why they make fun of her. Regardless, it is clear that Kim does not relate to her peers, and this disconnect causes tension and discontentment with her social environment.
One morning on her way to school, the teasing is especially cruel. These other kids try to make Kim feel inferior because she’s different from them, and at this point, all the bullying she’s endured compounds and she has had enough of it. It’s like Kim thinks, “You know, all these kids work really hard to make me feel unwelcome at school, and if I don’t like all the other kids, and if all the other kids don’t like me, I might as well go to the secret fort I found in the woods and be by myself.” (The story doesn’t say that the secret fort is in the forest, but I know myself and I’m sure my author instinct was to visualize this fort in the woods.)
So Kim skips school to avoid the unpleasant social aspect of it, even though it’s the day of the field trip! If you remember being a kid, field trips were a treat; if I were a kid, I would not want to miss out on the field trip. I would have run away from home on the day of the spelling test, not on the day of the field trip—-that’s how you know Kim was really fed up. When she doesn’t appear at school, the teacher is alarmed by this because Kim’s parents never called to excuse her from school. Like a responsible adult, Kim’s teacher calls her parents to figure out where Kim is. However, the confusion escalates because Kim’s parents believe she’s at school, which must mean that something happened to Kim between home and school.
Before we know it, Kim’s parents are in contact with the police, and they give the authorities important information about Kim, such as her weight “and stuff,” so that everyone knows who they’re looking for. But even though they gave the police something as useful as her weight, the police and her parents still cannot find her. I imagine that her parents are quite hysterical about this, as Kim doesn’t even return home, but rather the next day, walks to school.
As soon as Kim shows up, Kim’s teacher notifies her parents right away, but meanwhile Kim is making a sort of comeback speech. When Kim makes her entrance, she calls out her peers, saying, “Hey, copycats.” (This is so funny to me because in elementary school, this is such a big, mean insult.) She asks the class, “If he jumped off a cliff, would you?” Some kid answers, “Yes,” and then she schools them all: “Think again. You could get killed.” If this story took place in 2019, I expect this would be where Kim does a mic drop and says, “Boom.”
This dramatic-but-not-dramatic speech seems to have an impact on her classmates, because they start thinking at least on a surface level about the implications of groupthink. “Wow, we could get killed for not thinking through the consequences of our mindless actions,” they seem to realize, which is sort of a big deal for children, because children are still developing all sorts of important cognitive functions that adults take for granted. But then, miraculously, and almost too-easily, Kim’s peers are no longer copycats and apparently everyone is good and well with this.
It cracks me up that when Kim makes her big return to school after being a missing child, she could’ve told them off for picking on her, she could’ve insulted them even more, she could’ve tried to get revenge for all the teasing, but instead, she decides to give them a life lesson that makes everyone’s life better. I imagine someone truly jaded would storm into that classroom, get on their soap box, and go off, saying, “Look at yourselves. How dare you taunt me! You are all cruel and dumb! You don’t deserve to play with the toys you have! I hope Santa doesn’t bring any of you presents this year, because you should get nothing but coal!” But instead, she comes in there, has them prove her own point about their “sheeple” mentality, and then basically says, “Well, you could get killed if you don’t think things through. Be careful.”
Don’t you think that’s kind of cool? Kim has all the makings of someone who turns into a villain—-she’s a loner, she’s bullied, she’s sad. She could take out whatever rage or frustration she feels on her classmates, but she doesn’t even do that. Yeah, from her language, she’s not giving that speech with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face, but her words are purely productive. Rather than retaliate with more war, she comes back with a lesson of growth. She doesn’t punish her tormentors; she educates them. And so, despite Kim being a loner and an outsider, she’s actually quite compassionate. And then the whole class is better for her act of bravery, for her being different enough to approach this situation the way she did.
So, what did Kim do while she was a runaway? How did she spend that night in her secret fort? This is the big question I walk away with, after reading this story. Did she play in the woods, blowing off steam? Was she adopted into a family of witches and wizards who bestowed upon her centuries of wisdom in the duration of one fateful night? Did she have to fight off werewolves and the near-death experience gave her a new outlook on life, to face her fears? Maybe she fell down an inconspicuous hole covered by leaves and found an entire new world on the other side of this hole, which made her real world seem more bearable? Perhaps she encountered a very kind skeleton roaming about the woods, and made friends with this individual, who picked yellow flowers for her to cheer her up. Or maybe she wrote in her journal and read some books, and found relief in writing about her feelings and comfort in the characters of her books, and learned some things about herself.
Anyway, what do you think Kim did while she had run away? What would you have done, as a child? When I first read this story, I felt sorry for Kim, and for the little girl who wrote this story and was beginning to understand these very complex emotions and social dynamics in real life. I saw traces of my depressive adolescent years foreshadowed in this story, and worried that the tone of Kim’s tale was one of someone struggling herself. But, after re-analyzing it through this Aged Anecdote, I realize that this is actually an amazing document to witness. I think, yes, it does allude to my future struggles, but it also demonstrates that in the face of those problems, if I remove myself from the situation and get a little alone time, I’ll come back with some sort of a better solution. And if absolutely nothing else, I’m happy that this little girl had the tools and resources to write about it and figure it out that way, through her childhood stories, through her adolescent journals, and gave her an art form and a craft that would not only satisfy her soul but save her life. That much I gather from this beautiful story of redemption and overcoming.
Thanks for reading.
Happy 20th birthday to my brother, Timothy! In the spirit of this Aged Anecdote, I would also like to share in honor of my little brother’s birthday this sweet relic from my childhood, in which I discuss how important he is to me.
“My leaf is Timothy. He is the most important part of me being a red rose.”
For more Aged Anecdotes on Slanted Spines, visit this page!