Collaborations of Abstraction

Posts Tagged ‘middle school

It’s Thursday afternoon and Amanda Fairchild is on the phone for me. This makes my palms sweaty. Not because I want to date Amanda. Or even have sex with her. I’m straight.

Nope. It’s because she is a popular girl and I am not.

I’d see her in the hallway with her long dark hair hanging in a perfectly straight curtain down her back. She’d run her fingers through it in a way I’d imitate as I walked from band down the hall past where all the “cool kids” would hang out.

Somehow in the four minutes between class they’d congregate there. I would’ve if I was asked, but I’d have worried how to get to debate class on time, as it was at the other end of school. I’d never had that problem though. Until today. Maybe. When Amanda dialed my number.

I sat with my phone to my ear for a minute, not fully listening as she invited me somewhere. Her house maybe. It all seemed so surreal. I accepted in a haze. Sure I’d be your friend. I saw us laughing as we walked down the hall, trading hair-styling tips. How did I get my hair so smooth and curly? she wondered.

But Amanda had another question for me. Now, in real life. The one where we are on the phone together. I try to pull myself together. Popular girls never talk to me. The guys did sometimes. There was even one who flirted with me in our advanced math class. But the girls? Nope. Not even a breath in my direction.

I would answer Amanda’s question. I would do everything in my power to be her, be one of hers.

“Do you have, like, any experience with guys?” she asks.

I am stunned. What did that matter? Then I think I catch the sounds of silent (well, almost silent) laughter. My whole body feels wrapped in flames.

I take a breath and reply, “You know, I just remembered, I think I’m grounded. I don’t think I can go to your party.”

The rest is a blur as I rush to get off the phone so my tears can have some privacy. But when I hang up they don’t come. And I push the shame and embarrassment away as I pick up my notebook and remember: Tomorrow is Friday. There’s a geometry test.

To be fair, and I do like things to be fair, let me tell you something I did a few weeks before (or was it after?) this unfortunate phone call.

It was just before school started and I was standing outside the cafeteria. Since this was Minnesota, there was no sunny veranda where kids spent their time, like in the California movies. No, we lingered in the darkness of a sub-basement, lit dimly on each end with the natural light that strained through the decades-old frosted, yellowing glass.

I stood this particular day in front of the old tunnel that connected the west building to the main school — a tunnel built because the winters really are that bad, but closed because no matter how terrible -35 C feels, asbestos cancer feels worse.

I was angry that day, about what has long since slipped my mind, but this I knew: Danielle would pay.

I stalked up to her and her friends as they stood chatting in front of their lockers. I was a year older than them, so I immediately garnered something like respect. There I was, an eigth grader drunk on her power.

“I’d watch yourself girl,” I spit with all the venom I could muster. “I can make your life here a living hell.”

She looked at me with a knowing. I wasn’t fear, just an understanding. I walked away thinking, A living hell? What kind of a cliche is that? I was a writer in edit mode, even then, wishing I could go back and delete those words and insert something more clever, less tired.

I have no idea now why I’d want to make her life hell though. And later I would approach her and apologize for that comment. We laughed at my ridiculousness, at my dramatic proclamation only a junior higher or a character from a bad movie could believe.

I’d like to believe that Amanda would’ve apologized for her phone call. We talked a few times as we got older and she was always pleasant.

I know that I might have an overly optimistic idea of folks, but I think most of them are just doing their best and trying to meet their needs. And, judging by my sweaty hands and pounding heart at the very prospect of talking to one of the popular crowd, at the idea I may be accepted, I can only imagine the intoxication of actually being in the middle of it.

And if I know anything about being drunk, it’s that you’ll often do anything to keep that buzz going, even if it might make someone else feel a bit bad. That’s the last thing you’re worried about when you’re chasing your next fix, whether it be booze, drugs or approval.


Collaborations of Abstraction

Two close (though, unfortunately, not in proximity) friends – a Welsh man living in Ireland and a Minnesotan woman living in Germany – come together to share musings, wit and random things of interest in this journey called life