What if you get caught? asked Julia. She was standing on the driveway between her house and her neighbors. Her school backpack was straining on her shoulders, but she didnt remove it thinking shed be going inside any moment.
How would that happen! Marsha was defiant. Are you going to rat on me? Are you? Marshas low rise jeans exposed her belly button; a tiny flash of a stone inserted in the hollow glinted when she moved.
Of course not. But taking drugs to make you run faster or be stronger is just plain stupid. Julia didnt understand her neighbors risking so much for so little.
Oh, holier-than-thou girl, with your prissy slacks and your proper tops, dont you ever get tired of not fitting-in? Marsha was sarcastic, Ill bet youre so good that you even eat all your vegetables at night, take out the garbage to be helpful, and clean your room. Do you keep all your pencils sharpened the same length?
Julias face felt warm. She actually did keep her pencils sharpened the same length, and liked having her private bedroom neat and clean. Somehow, hearing Marshas remark made her feel as if these traits were bad.
Marsha quipped, Got you, didnt I? You do eat your vegetables, and sharpen your pencils! Marsha began to laugh. Listen, that shot-put lady, Irina Korzhanenko, who lost her medal when she tested positive for stanozolol in the Athens August 2004 Olympics was stupid. Im not. Besides, Im not in the Olympics; I just want to run a record in junior high. Whats wrong with winning? Im young. Nothing is going to hurt my body at my age. Who has any proof that steroids affect girls, and Ill look a lot better than those skinny gymnastic kids.
Julia blurted out, I just think you can prove your running talent to yourself, and you might find that you are the best because ...
Yeah...because Ive earned it. Marshas voice was sarcastic. She also began to show irritation at getting a lecture from someone her own age who was such a goody-girl that she wasnt popular. Im going inside. Why dont you get on a soap-box with the girls who have eating-disorders? Those starvation girls are sure to have a lot of medical problems and you might even do some good to them. Me? Hey. I am a winner. Watch me.
Julia got angry and exclaimed, And big deal if you arent one! Julia wondered why she seemed caught up in trying to change Marsha.
Well, goodie-two-shoes, it is a big deal. Who gets scholarships later on? Good-graders get enough to pay for a few books, but athletes get the whole tab paid for.
Julia thought she was being honest and helpful.
I dream big, girl. And steroids will make my dreams come true in high definition, like the TV, and fill the entire screen really crisp. You must dream in black and white like in the olden days. Im surprised you dont wear long skirts with those pinafore aprons over them. Marsha started walking away.
Julias mother was in the kitchen. Mom. The urge to fix something that isnt right is really getting to me. Marshas doping to win. a scholarship. Doesnt think she can without dope. Do you think she can?
Complicated answer. Julias mother sat down at the table opposite her daughter. Do you envy her popularity and want to make her more like you, or do you really care about her? Do you believe that she wants someone to stop her and give her good reasons why? Do you think shes lonely also and just hangs with the crowd she does, dressing and acting like everyone in that crowd, because she hasnt figured out where she belongs? What, Julia, are your reasons for getting so involved?
Dont know. Honestly. Dont know. Guess I have to think about that. Youre amazing, Mom. You never once said how doping is wrong and not even legal, or made Marsha out to be a bad girl. Guess I really do have to think about why I feel so driven to get her to run without doping. And what do I really know about running anyway. I just know what Dad says about drugs, and what Ive seen about Aunt Beverlys problems after simple pain-relievers. Julia picked up another wedge of melon.
Youre going to have to sort this out for yourself. Youre 12 now, and junior high is almost done. You need to be in touch with the reasons you decide to campaign for change, and why you decide not to bother when its another cause that might benefit from your enthusiasm. Julias mother bent down, kissed her daughters head, then left the kitchen.
The computer on a small desk in the kitchen was on. Julia put down the melon and typed in Google, then typed in the words steroids and athletics. At a site from the American Pediatric Association, a page listed what performance-steroids do, but it also had a bold line that said play safe, play fair. Maybe that was whats bothered her. Not Marshas maybe ruining her body, wanting an edge to get a scholarship, desire to be a winner at any cost, it was play fair. Unfair play always bothered her. Its my problem. My priorities and stuff my parents taught me. Me. Julia was speaking aloud. She wanted Marsha to see this, but maybe Marsha already knows. Maybe she doesnt! Julia knew now what to speak to her mother about regarding her own reasons for being on a soap-box, as Marsha had put it, and called out Mom?
Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.