vomiting on tate shuttlesworth: an eighth grade memoir

Virginia gray ‘20

At approximately one in the afternoon on Sunday, December 7th, 2014, over one hundred sweaty Indian Springs Choir students were crammed onto the altar-steps of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. It was a rainy, freezing day. One third of the students were angry they weren’t sleeping soundly in their beds, another third were sick, and the last third were angry because they weren’t asleep and they were sick. I, at thirteen years old, fell into that final category.

It was my first choir concert, and I was not feeling well. My father and sister had the flu, and I could feel something coming on. All I’d eaten that day was two (stale, for the record) clementines. As our conductor signaled for the first song to begin, I remembered their initially delightful but ultimately sickly sweet, unnaturally tangy taste. It’s okay, I thought, it’s probably just nerves.

Flash forward to the third song of the concert. I’m wedged between a smelly ninth grade boy and two varsity volleyball players. In front of me stands the stunning, amazing, red-headed sophomore, Tate Shuttlesworth. She was an amazing singer. Choir was her passion. Of course it had to be Tate.

Suddenly my vision started to funnel. My ears filled with cotton. My stomach churned in directions I had never thought possible. As I began to think what is this notably uncomfortable sensation? I hurled my guts out all over the one and only Tate Shuttlesworth.

I remember fainting and a loud gasp from the audience. I remember my mom running up to drag me off those forsaken steps and into the scratchy carpeted side-hallway. The worst had happened. My first semester at Indian Springs, and I had puked on the friendliest, most beautiful girl in school. This is it, I thought, this is the end of your life.

The next day at choir rehearsal, I approached Tate with a heavy heart. I fumbled for an apology that would let her know just how awful I felt. Before I could say anything, she smiled at me and giggled, “It’s really quite ironic, I have a fear of vomit, you know.”

I swear my soul had fled my body. “I am so so sorry—”

“No, it’s really okay, Virginia. I didn’t mean that in a rude way at all. It happens. And hey, now we have a reason to get to know each other!”

We ended up sharing a room on Choir Tour the following spring. Two years later, I ugly cried at her graduation. Singing together everyday, she became a big sister to me. And instead of standing in front of me at choir concerts (for the best), she stood beside me at almost every single one.

My time at Saint Luke’s was a (literally) gut-wrenching experience. I thought throwing up on Tate Shuttlesworth was the worst thing that could have happened — but don’t the worst things make us grow? Aren’t we forced to mature when we’re crammed in places where we cannot help but look in the puke-covered face of discomfort and embarrassment?

These mortifying places are the same places we can either lean on our complacency or learn to act in courage. By being friends with Tate, I learned how to act in courage.

Thank goodness for vomit.