Linoleum floors fresh with that watered-down Pine Sol coating. Unexplored hallways, stretching out, curving around endlessly, creating dark corners and an expansive, well-lit cafeteria. There I stood, in my stylish black embroidered top just bought from Kohl’s, with the full, flared sleeves sensuously sliced down the middle from the shoulder, and tied loosely at the elbow. I wore this same shirt on picture day, because I was convinced it was by far the sexiest shirt I owned. Lizzie McGuire had popularized the look on her Disney Channel show. It was decided.
I was almost 12, standing underneath the blinding fluorescent lights in a huge, three-tiered, amphitheater-style lunchroom. At that time, I had braces and a horrific device called a Herbst appliance (look it up), which barely allowed me to close my otherwise no-vacancy mouth. Slightly frizzy hair, slightly pimply complexion. A usual suspect on the first day of Middle School.
I looked around for my seat, the multiple rows of already paired-off preteens stretching upwards, ominously. I decided to avoid the hassle and sit at the sparsely populated table directly next to the lunch line. At the lowest level, about 20 feet from mine and situated at the dead center of the cafeteria, like a sort of King’s table, sat the popular kids. So joyous in their first-day revelry, they were packed like sardines onto the creaking benches, nearly spilling over. Nearest to the head sat Cody Kincaid, a shoe-in for the football team and one of the most well known kids in school. He caught my eye, and to my shock, got up from his seat and started walking toward me, as his whole table watched.
When he sat beside me, straddling the seat sideways (so cool), he paused for the briefest of moments as I felt my first middle school flop sweat begin to materialize. “H-hi”, I said. He stayed silent, drawing out the awkward pause. And then he raised his hand, and gently petted me, as the King’s table erupted with laughter. Before I knew it he was back there, a triumphant knight returning from conquest.
I was confused, and angry. Never the one to be left with unanswered questions, I shot up from my uneaten food and trudged straight over to the merriment. This caused the group to fall silent, and by now more tables had begun to take notice. I looked straight at Cody.
“What did you just do to me?”, I said. Silence.
“Why did you do that?” Silence.
And with their heads looking down at their ankles, snickering, I finally heard one voice faintly let out a word, as if choking on the comedy of it.
Another girl repeated it at the same volume. Then another, slightly louder. horse, Horse.
They were chanting it now, gaining confidence with every repetition. I staggered back, as if shot by an arrow.
“Why?” I asked, breathlessly.
“Your frizzy hair, your big teeth!” One girl replied.
It began to dawn on me that what I’d thought was a long sought-after show of attention was actually a trip to visit a farm animal in a petting zoo. The whole cafeteria could see me, wilting, as the table continued chanting Horse.
I grabbed my backpack, left my tray and ran out of the room towards the nearest door I could see, which was the band hall. I peeled into an empty practice room with a piano, and as I clicked closed the heavy soundproof wood, so retreated my tormentor’s voices. I sat crying there for the rest of the hour, and took my lunch in that same piano room for the rest of the year.
My name is Allie Farris, and I want to be a star. Not solely for superficial reasons (although you will learn that I do love fancy things), but also for the purpose I feel deeper and stronger than anything: I want to make people really happy. I do want to be regarded as one of the best songwriters of my time, and be a Kennedy Center Honoree (if there is still such a thing by the time I’m eligible). I want to travel the world and have the resources to never have to worry about paying for something again. But above all, I want to leave this world better than how I found it.
The beginning of this entry was the closest thing I guess I have to an origin story; if I’m bold enough to think of myself as some kind of superhero. But the meaning of this thing as a whole is to hopefully document my entire story, as I currently strive towards my ultimate goals. Because of that nightmarish scenario that took place at the beginning of middle school, I spent an hour out of every day for the next year on a piano, writing poetry and primitive songs. It soothed my aching ego, like it does to this day after a hard show or a long week.
The following stories are looks back at my past as an unflappable young artist bounding around my Dallas hometown, my three years as a touring musician driving across the country with my piano in my back seat, and everything in between. But I also want to look forward, as I’m hopefully now closing in on the dreams held tightly inside my heart since I was 15 years old. I have Big Teeth, and many other reasons why I shouldn’t be famous, but I plan to be in spite of them. Or because of them. You decide.