Shame Shame by Nicole Breit

Most Memorable: March 2016woman in rain under umbrella back facing camera


Raindrops pelt your umbrella like pebbles. It’s October, late afternoon, a charcoal sky. We’re standing an inch apart; you’re shivering. “Isn’t it embarrassing to remember your umbrella but forget your coat?” I ask.

You smirk, poke my arm, “Isn’t it humiliating to remember your coat but forget…”

A voice hollers, Hey! What are you doing with that loser?

Another yells, Yeah! Get over here! Tell us what she does to get you to hang out with her!

The short one stands, hand on hip, purse flung over her shoulder. The tall one in pale jeans pinches a cigarette; smoke rises from her fingertips.

“I don’t need your umbrella.” I step back.

You stretch, hold it over my head. Shoot me a helpless look that says, Sorry, I hate this.

The rain spits sideways at us. A wet dog smell rises from my jean jacket.

Your bus chugs up, spews exhaust; the tall girl throws a butt under the front wheel.

You get on after the ones who, like me, want you with such ferocity they don’t know what to do.

Then my bus screeches into the bay. As I grip the strap, try to keep my balance, my hair drips down my back.

I imagine the short one saves a seat for you; you slide in, too shy to say you’d rather sit alone.

The tall one drops her hand on your leg. Laughs so loud it drowns out the rain nailing the roof.



Hey! You never told us your girlfriend’s name.

The tall one appears on your left, narrows her eyes at me as you pull the orange windbreaker off your locker hook.

You grin with teeth, dodge out of the way before she can grab you. We march down the hall in silence but aren’t quick enough.

The short one’s voice is like hucked gravel. So when are you going to tell her you don’t like her, you just feel sorry for her?

“Ignore them,” you say walking faster, giving the door a hard push.

I chew off my lip gloss and think, “God, I hate those two. What is wrong with them?”

We cut across to the library where, on wet days, I flip through Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs for a glimpse of our future and you hover, laughing quietly at The PreHistory of the Far Side.

Today is overcast; the cool air tastes like dying leaves. We sit on the curb near crow-perched cedars, unwrap our ham sandwiches.

You’re looking down when I say, “I need to tell you…I really, really like you.” Your cheeks and ears redden.

You look over, meet my eyes and say, “I like you a lot, too.” There’s sympathy in that look – it could also be terror or sadness.

I can’t say for sure. When you tell me you always want to be friends with me, I get up. Cross back to the school.

Notice a lone crow and think: How pathetic to not catch a live worm after days of rain.



“I remembered today.”

You lean on my locker, smile, hand me your picture.

Adorable, the way your mouth pulls up at the corner; the photographer caught you thinking of something funny, a sly secret.

I’m sure you can hear my heart – its accelerated beat is persistent as a steady rain banging down the drainpipe. Brash voices, high-pitched laughter, locks clicking open and doors slamming shut can’t conceal it.

You glance down, still grinning. Look away when I flip the picture over and register the word Love.

An indignant heat climbs my neck, spreads over my chest like dread. I know you don’t mean it, signing off this way.

Those girls are right; sooner or later, to whatever extent I have you, I’m going to lose you.

The bell rings. “See you at lunch! Let’s walk to 7-Eleven today.”

You straighten up, stroll down the hall. I watch you shrink until you’re as small as the picture I tuck in my pocket.

At home, I turn it over again and again to see if I can change what I know, but I can’t.

In a few months when it’s all over – your hurtling car, the parked truck – I’ll be the last to leave the funeral home. The other girls won’t show.

I’ll trace the cuts on your hands with my eyes, stitch us a different ending.

I step forward that October afternoon. Kiss you in the audacious downpour. You clasp your warm hand in mine. Walk me the long way home.

nicole brietNicole Breit’s poems and essays have been featured in carte blanche, Exhale, and other print and online publications. She was shortlisted for the 2015 Room magazine poetry prize and longlisted for the 2015 PRISM International CNF contest. She lives and writes in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada. For more info, visit





STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Isabel Antunes, a student from the author’s old high school, Centennial Secondary School, where this story took place.

  49 comments for “Shame Shame by Nicole Breit

  1. “In a few months when it’s all over – your hurtling car, the parked truck – I’ll be the last to leave the funeral home. The other girls won’t show.

    I’ll trace the cuts on your hands with my eyes, stitch us a different ending.”

    Just gutted me. A brave piece of writing. Love the gorgeous imagery and how you use it to create a delicate tension, from start to finish.

    • Thank you, Caitlin, for your response to this piece. I really appreciate your feedback on this memory that is so close to my heart. ♥

    • Thank you, Laura, for the comment. My heart hurt, too, writing it… but eventually, after many years, peace.

  2. A vivid, gripping piece that hits close to home. I love the way Nicole uses all of her senses to paint a complete picture of the scene. Thank you for sharing this personal story in such a beautiful way.

  3. Nicole, as always, poignant and relevant. I most love that you turned this into a multi-media venture, giving students like Isabel an opportunity to add to their portfolio also. Such a generous and thoughtful soul, you are!

    • Melissa, thanks so much for your response. It was such a pleasure to share my story with students at my old high school and get a few involved in an art collaboration. Isabel’s photo captures the mood perfectly — coincidentally, I even had a jean jacket like the girl in her photo!

  4. Things that jump out at me right away: the numbered breakdown putting the experience in order… the succinct language that creates such a rich set of images…what a fantastic job of letting me experience a fragment of life that is so clearly yours but also feels like it could be mine. A real pleasure to read!

  5. Very powerful and well written. I am so sorry for your pain.
    I honestly cried. Sad about the bullying, sad about losing someone so loved.
    It’s always a pleasure reading your heartfelt emotional words – I feel it.

  6. Absolutely powerful. I love how your words weave together into a beautiful piece and create such intense emotional response. Thank you for sharing this. So proud of you.

  7. Written with so much emotion…I can feel your pain. The picture captures the emotions perfectly.

  8. Beautifully written Nicole. A bitter sweet, emotional piece that made me feel I was right there with you, in the rain.

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