Melinda encounters Rachel in the bathroom, and scornfully describes how her former best friend has changed her name to “Rachelle” and is trying to fit in with the pretentious foreign exchange students. She notes Rachel’s new ability to swear in French, her “black stockings with runs,” and her new decisions not to shave under her arms (which Melinda claims makes her look like a young chimpanzee), and wonders how they were ever best friends. Although Melinda attempts to engage in conversation as Rachel smudges mascara under her eyes (in order to look “exhausted” and artsy), Rachel refuses to even speak with her. Melinda reminds herself to act like ice in order not to feel anything. Despite her attempts, however, she imagines shaking Rachel by her neck and screaming at her; she wonders why Rachel didn’t try to find out the truth, and decides that this makes her a bad friend. As Rachel leaves with an exchange student friend whom Melinda names Greta-Ingrid, Melinda notices that Rachel is ‘smoking’ a candy cigarette, and knows that it is because Rachel has asthma, and can’t smoke real cigarettes.
This passage represents one of the few instances in which Melinda actually attempts to converse with someone. Her effort is for nothing, however, as Rachel responds to her hostilely and nonverbally. This exchange reinforces Melinda’s idea that she will forever be an outcast, and that communication is useless and futile. It is important, here, to note the differences between Melinda’s external actions and her internal thoughts. Although Melinda attempts to act cool and nonchalant to Rachel, her interior thoughts make clear her deep frustration and feelings of helplessness. Her comment that Rachel is a bad friend for not finding out the truth, meanwhile, is a complex one: while Rachel is undoubtedly acting like a bad friend, Melinda has made no effort to communicate with her about the mysterious “truth.”
Melinda longs for a friend—not a real, close friend, she explains, but a “pseudo-friend” so that she doesn’t look so isolated all the time. In her English journal for the day, she claims, “‘Exchange students are ruining our country.’”
Melinda wishes for the appearance of a friend rather than an actual friend, which demonstrates the depth of her isolation and defensiveness. She doesn’t actually want to reveal her inner thoughts or vulnerabilities.