Adeleke McMillan age 17
New york city
“Teach our girls bravery, not perfection.” - Reshma Saujani
The worse thing about our town was Lisa. Everyone in my town, even those
who usually lived in their heads like Crazy Mike, knew she’d been sent away to The
Lenards School. She grew up with me, in a small town in Connecticut, in a place I’m
sure you’ve never heard of. She was sent to Lenards before eleventh grade. Lenards
was the school were parents sent their worst girls. The criminals, the narcissists, the
mentally unstable ones, and the sluts, all shared the same twenty acres. I knew from
stories I’d been told growing up that if the teachers there didn’t beat the girls numb
by the end of each day, they usually ending up clawing and fighting each other. And
if they didn’t fall victim to any of this violence, they cut themselves, to become numb
to their mental suffering.
Almost directly after her thirteenth birthday, Lisa began to call herself “Isa,”
pronounced eye-suh. She was always going around, swearing that was her birth
name, but we knew better. In this small town, everyone knew everything about
everybody. And I guessed she hated that. She didn’t want to be sweet little Lisa.
I say her name. It comes out sharp and cold; it cuts like ice.
All we knew about what happened to her at that school we got from rumors.
The rumors had it that she committed suicide after the first semester. When she was
living in town, she was all anyone could ever talk about. Her “slutting herself around
town,” scanty clothes, and criminal record were enough to keep my town humming
with chatter for the whole sixteen years she lived with us. Then one day, her
parents, the Mosley’s, sent her away. They were ashamed; I could see it on their
faces. Molly, her mother, was too eager to help with the annual church fundraiser, or
join the housewives in their weekly Girls Night Out. They never told the town that
Lisa was dead, they just moved away suddenly. Then, the town gossip made a big
show in spreading around town her cousin’s husband’s daughter’s best friend’s
mother had some newcomers recently move in. Sure enough, they called themselves
The Mosley’s but they denied ever having a daughter in the first place.
The excitement that came with The Mosley’s moving out of town and settling
in a big huff elsewhere was fleeting. Afterwards, my neighbors and me were all
forced to go back to our boring lives, and the housewives had nothing more to talk
about other than the stale bread foreign lunch ladies used for the school lunches. I
knew that everything was different now that she was gone. Especially in the girls,
something changed in us. Because even after we repeatedly tried to break Lisa with
biting insults and isolation, we envied her. She was strong and brave—something
that we weren’t. She gave us hope that someday we too could be daring and free.
While we did our chores, babysat our brothers, and when to church, we guiltily
relished in the fantasy of moving to a big city far away and becoming who Lisa once
But we would never dare admit this to anyone, not even to ourselves.