“Shameika” – Fiona Apple
From the artist:
“Shameika is real. When I first wrote the song, I was not entirely convinced she existed. Because I have this one memory and it’s a very big memory for me. But maybe I created this person. My third-grade teacher, Linda Kunhardt, was my favorite teacher. I’ve kept in touch with her over the years. She read the New Yorker article, and the next day, she sent me an email saying, “I heard you wrote about Shameika. I can see her …” She sent me a picture of her.
I don’t remember what grade she was in. I was probably 11 or so. I don’t remember why she was talking to me. I just remember being in the cafeteria, a bunch of girls at one end of the table. I came over to sit with them, and they started laughing at me. So I sat one seat away but still tried to be close to them. Shameika came up, and she was like, “Why are you trying to sit with those girls? You have potential.” That was all she said to me. But I had remembered that maybe she was a bully or something. Then I got sent this picture of her, and she’s so cute — she doesn’t look like a bully at all. She’s just got this big smile on her face. But on the piece of paper that Miss Kunhardt sent me, there’s this short essay Shameika had written on the top. And, man, it is amazing. It’s all about how she got put up to do this thing in church, in the service. And everybody was laughing because she was so cute and she messed up words or something. And she was so pissed. She was like, “They used me to bring the people in there, to think it was cute. They used me.” I was like, This little kid realized what the fuck was going on.
I’m terrified to think — what if she’s not a nice person nowadays? Or maybe she hates me or something. I’d be afraid for her to hear it. But I think about that little picture of her. She’s so sweet. My middle-school experience is still so important to me. Mainly because that’s where my relationship to women started getting fucked up. It’s awful how many memories I have with having a friend be with me and then having a more popular girl say to that friend, “Okay, you can be friends with Fiona or you can be friends with me. Choose.” And I never got chosen.”