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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » He smelled like pennies (A Completed Landmark) (Page 1)

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Author Topic: He smelled like pennies (A Completed Landmark)
Olivet
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*Papa Janitor, please do not archive*

I’ve been here forever, it seems, and never done a landmark. Some of you who I have met in real life know that there are some things I simply prefer not to talk about online. I know that may sound odd, since I do seem like the sort who will say anything. It’s true – I WILL say anything. But I won’t share everything, and that’s the way it should be, I think.

So for my landmark, I’m going to tell you a story. I’ll be posting it in parts, this bit of memory that has been keeping me up nights. It’s not meant to be a literary thing, just a bit of my past that I wanted to share. It’ll be a longish, rambling sort of story, but I need to tell it. Thank you for allowing me that. Some things are cheapened by the telling, and I sincerely hope this isn’t one of them. Here goes.

In my junior year of High School, I transferred to a public school from a private Christian school. My transition was smoother than anyone expected, because in the larger school I could find people to hang out with that I liked, as opposed to being stuck with the same six or twelve faces.

At the beginning of the year, I shared two or three classes with a fellow named Ronnie Ellis. His legal name was actually Ronnie, not Ronald. His hair was a bright red that is closer to orange, and his skin was so pale and translucent that you could see the blood shift in his face when he smiled.

IB English was our first class of the day. It was like AP, except you could apply the credits internationally, if you wanted. He sat in front of me. Seems the junior class didn’t have many people whose last names fell between Ellis and Hall in the alphabet. He spoke to me once or twice. I was new, and several people spoke to me. Being an Army Brat meant being the new kid a lot, and I found that the ones who speak to the new kids first are usually the outcastes, the extremely relaxed and confident, or an interesting combination of the two.

Which suited me better than fine.

As fate would have it, we were also seated together in Speech and Drama, third period. This class had fewer ‘good students’ whom I will call ‘Hermiones’ since they tended to be girls. I was one of those. Speech and Drama had a few Interesting Characters: the star quarterback, the lead majorette (who competed in the Miss Teen USA pageant later that year), a recent transplant from New Jersey named Mary Jones (“call me ‘Jonesy’”), a thrasher named Chuck (Jonesy and the Hermiones quickly named him “Chunk” because he was a “hunk”. A hunk of what, we didn’t know. But the Hermiones had a tendency to sigh collectively when he tossed his hair out of his eyes.), and a lot of people who were genuinely interested in acting or wanted an easy elective.

This is where I got to know Ronnie and his friend Roman White. I also had American History with Roman (he was interesting, but this isn’t his story, alas). We all had to stand up and introduce ourselves (the teacher was new and didn’t know anyone) and tell why we chose to take the class, leading to much embarrassment all around. Hermiones don’t like that sort of thing.

I said some thing along the lines of, “I thought it would be a good way to come out of my shell a bit” leading one guy to forever after that call me “SHELL!” He always greeted everyone at top volume, using invented nicknames. I think they did and SNL sketch about him. At least he spoke to me. The quarterback spoke to me once, merely to ask if I needed glasses. When I told him I wore contacts, he asked me why I squinted all the time.

“I’m light-sensitive.” I don’t think he knew what that meant, but at least he never bothered me again.

Ronnie was a film geek, of sorts. He was already putting together his own movies in his spare time with friends (which was cool). They were spatter/gore fests (which was not – at least not to me).

The lead majorette wanted to win the national twirling championship, and was also excited about being in the upcoming Miss Teen USA pageant. The Hermiones and I just blinked at her. Same planet, different worlds. Jonesy came to class the day after the pageant aired and informed us that our classmate hadn’t even made the first cut, after having “verbally embarrassed the state of Tennessee, and this town, specifically, on national television.” Jonesy knew that not everyone who lived there had that thick Appalachian accent (known for its harsh R’s, twang and tendency to break glass), but the rest of the country did not. Her twirling earned her a scholarship; I think I heard she’s a real estate agent or something, now.

Our Dramateacher was married to the pastor of the local Church of the Nazarene. In short, a fundy. I liked her immediately. From the poofy bun of her hair to her sensible shoes, I sensed a kindred spirit.

Back to Ronnie. He loved Monty Python and Dr. Who. I had never seen Monty Python, but had been caught up by Thom Baker’s Dr. Who ever since a channel switching accident in 8th grade. Whenever anyone said anything profoundly stupid or unintentionally ironic, Ronnie would mutter, “Hmmm. Yes, well” in a marginally accurate British accent, and I would giggle, guiltily uncertain whether I laughed with him or at him.

My giggling days were over quickly. One morning I was called to the office with Roman just before first period. Ronnie’s father had died, and the two of us were asked to collect his homework assignments, since between the two of us, we were in all of his classes. Roman told me where the funeral would be, and said he planned to take the assignments and books to the receiving of friends. I got my mother to take me to the funeral home; she waited with the motor running. It was late fall, so it was pitch black by seven o’clock. The rain was pouring, and the parking lot was a maze of deepish puddles, like a set for one of Ronnie’s horror films. I was confident I’d survive, since the sweet young virgins always do. He’d never really mentioned the morality play essence of his favorite genre. I might have thought better of his life’s ambition if I had considered that.

Truth was, I couldn’t breathe. I was so nervous. It seemed like Ronnie was the only person in the whole building that I knew. I inched awkwardly through the receiving line, then lost my nerve and skipped straight to the end where Ronnie stood. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, looking so pale he was almost transparent. When he opened his mouth to greet me, his dry lips made a clicking sound like they had tried to grow together from clenching his jaw so hard.

I saw it all really quickly – the pain, the determination to just sort of get through the next hour. I told him I was sorry. He said that his father had been at work, and had just fallen over dead, right at his machine. I had no idea what sort of machine he was talking about, or where his father had worked. I thought maybe all fathers worked with machines; my own had worked with tanks, though he hadn’t fallen dead over one. It seemed better to fall dead over a tank than over some nebulous ‘machine’ though. At least he seemed fairly certain the machine hadn’t caused his father any harm.

He introduced me to his mother, briefly. I hugged them both quite naturally, wanting to give them comfort, but not knowing how. Ronnie took his work from me and I went to the back of the chapel, where I found Roman looking as uncomfortable as I felt.

“Are you staying?” I asked him.

“God, no.”

We waited a few minutes in silence, and slunk out when the organ began to play. The wet air tasted great to me, after the stillness of the chapel, with its box of fakey-plastic looking dead father and its dozens of streaming eyes.

I couldn’t imagine the pain of Ronnie’s loss – I recoiled from it horror, to be honest. Ronnie, though… I didn’t shrink from him at all. He’d seemed happy to see me, pleased that I had come. We didn’t know each other well, and I was only bringing his homework… but I could have sent it with Roman. Maybe coming to the funeral was meaningless, maybe it had done nothing to ease his pain, but I wanted him to know I cared, horrible awkwardness or not.

That night I prayed for Ronnie and his mother, and after that their names were in my prayers every day.

More tomorrow.

[ May 10, 2006, 01:03 PM: Message edited by: Olivet ]

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Narnia
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Mmmm. I'm hooked. [Smile] Thanks for writing.
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ketchupqueen
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Wow.

You tell much better stories when you're not drunk on one margarita. [Wink]

No, really, I'm intrigued.

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Belle
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I love you Liv. Please continue.
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blacwolve
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I want to hear the rest
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ludosti
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[Smile] More more!
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Icarus
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I'm reeled in, and I can't wait to read more, but I had to tell you about the many dobie possibilities that passed through my mind when I saw this title . . . besides the obvious vulgar one, of course. There's "He smelled like panties," for one . . . [Big Grin]
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advice for robots
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*Can't imagine how somebody could end up smelling like pennies.*

Guess I'll have to wait and find out. :D Great landmark so far. I almost forgot you had that username.

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Chreese Sroup
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Well, you've done it now, I have to post mine.

I can't wait to find out more!

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Olivet
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Thanks guys. [Smile] This is really a very selfish thing I'm doing, but I'm glad you like it. This bit is significantly less proofread. Forgive me, please. I have not slept well lately, an probably won't until it's all out.

#

When Ronnie came back to school afterwards, he was withdrawn. He slept openly in first period, in the front row. We were reading the Transcendentalists by then. I could understand sleeping through some of Thoreau, even though I loved it, but Hawthorn was great. I liked his short stories and thought te Scarlet Letter was wonderful (if you skipped the silly Custom House opening, which I did). By the time we’d worked our way through 'Am. Lit. lite' to The Grapes of Wrath, he’d transferred down two levels to Regular English, without even stopping in College Prep. After more Steinbeck, I envied him.

I asked him about the regular Junior English class once. He laughed and said it was crap. “I think we talked about what a verb is, once.”

I say he laughed, but Ronnie seldom laughed an all-out belly laugh. He was more of a giggler. Little, snorting giggles, like he had really fast hiccoughs. Maybe he was just always trying to hold it in. I don’t know. He could make me laugh, though. Until my sides hurt and doubled over, then I’d look up and see him shaking with laughter – completely silent – and his transparent face all mottled with the weird blood-flow changes cause by laughing so hard.

But that was later. Junior year he missed a LOT of school. When he showed up for class he tended to be in dirty clothes. He stank. Plus, he seemed consumed by a bleary-eyed lethargy that I would have recognized as the results of drug use if I hadn’t been so oblivious to such things. I tried to be nice to him, but he was mostly withdrawn until after the Christmas break.

Before the break, we started with dramatic readings, and story telling. These were almost universally fun. I picked a favorite Dave Barry story for my reading, and had great fun with it. My youth minister (whom we all called “Coach” or “coachypoo” since he’d been out PE teacher and coach at the Christian School) had told me once that laughter opens the heart to receive.

I loved doing funny skits with the youth group at church functions, and was practically begging him to let us stage Milne’s The Ugly Duckling as an out reach. He was up for it, but most of the youth group was just there to get dates, so it didn’t work out too well. Besides, they wanted to make me the pretty, dumb Princess, or the clever one who wasn’t really ugly, but I wanted to wear a fake beard and padding so I could play the King. It was really dumb, but when they always pick you to be Mary in the Christmas pageant, you get a little pissy about typecasting. Now, I suppose I can admit they were probably right, but I wanted to be funny, not pretty. Well, not JUST pretty. [Wink]

My reading went well, but I fretted over the storytelling. I finally decided on a story I’d heard Mike Warnke, a Christian comedian, tell in concert. I had a tape, and played it over and over. I didn’t copy him exactly, but I wanted to get the timing right. I suppose I did, because I had the class laughing. Hard.

Ronnie congratulated me as I took my seat. It was the first time in a while he’d spoken when he didn’t have to. A little beginning.

After me, the Quarterback got up to tell a story. He’d picked one about his summer trip to the beach. It involved picking up girls and getting a guy to buy him liquor. About halfway through, he seemed to realize that our teacher was a minister’s wife, so he skipped ahead to the part where he woke up and couldn’t find his pants.

The Hermiones and I just blinked at him in shock, mouths hanging open. The teacher’s face was as carefully neutral as I had ever seen it. Ronnie’s head was down on his desk, and his whole body seemed to be trembling. I guess laughing soundlessly really can be a blessing. It looked more like he was passed out and having DTs or something.

Some years later, Ronnie told me he ran into the fellow at a grocery store. He’d been a year ahead of us in school, but we were still in college at the time. The quarterback hadn’t gone to college. He was buying beer, and had been drunk enough to have greeted Ronnie Ellis as a long-lost friend. He was married with a kid and another on the way, working manual labor and going to seed. Beer belly, thinning hair, the whole shebang. When he told me the story, we both acted sad. I think we were really just feeling smug, and more than a little guilty in our smugness. He’d never really done me any harm, except for the time he stepped on me in the hall and went on without even an ‘excuse me.’

I think about it now with genuine horror. It’s the worst thing I can think of to have your life peak in High School, so that anyone who remembers your former glory is suddenly a buddy.

Ronnie perked up after that, a tiny bit. At least, he was talking to Roman and me sometimes. We got started on a play, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I got to be old church lady, and was exceedingly happy about it, even though I had horrible stage fright and made a fool of myself. It didn’t really discourage me, because Ronnie and Roman were way worse. We had a great laugh about it.

Even funnier was the dress rehearsal, which we had at our teacher’s Wednesday evening church service. Before the play, she had us all come up to lead the congregation in It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. What we didn’t know was that, in the Church of the Nazarene, they sing all 847 verses. We merbled our way, red-faced, through the last 846.

One of the Hermiones asked me, back stage, if she was getting ‘lip lines.’ I assumed she was asking about her makeup, which looked fine to me. She didn’t wear much make-up, which made her a rare bird, much like me. It WAS the 80’s, after all. My lipstuff had been gnashed off during the interminable hymn, and she suggested I put some more on, even helped me with it.

Looking back, I realize she was trying to get me to relax, get a read on me. She was also a transfer student, and a very natural actress. I think she was Dorothy in the Show Choir play our senior year, and she graduated second in our class. I was third [Wink] (two B’s, both of them in Driver’s Ed/Safety *snort* Bet that explains a LOT to you WenchConners). I admired her quite a bit. She was quiet, but her little kind acts meant a lot to me. If I hadn’t been so oblivious to such things, I would have realized that she was flirting, in that very careful way people do when so much more than their hearts are at stake. Many of my friends were queer; it was something I understood, but not something that could ever be spoken about. The risk of beatings was real. Maybe sometime I’ll tell you their stories, too. But not now.

Ronnie didn't do the dress rehearsal, but he gradually came back to us, back to his life. The spring term had the drama class getting ready for forensic competitions, which I’ll tell you about tomorrow.

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Narnia
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still reading...
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ketchupqueen
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Ooooh. Intriguing.
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CT
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Waiting for more.

(I know what the metal smell of pennies makes me think of, but that may be because I've been around it quite often.)

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Jaiden
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[Smile]
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Olivet
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Now that I read over this, I realize it sounds like I knew I was pretty. That's not even remotely true. I didn't think I was pretty at all, in fact. When peopleat church commented on me being pretty (I think I was more commonly called 'graceful' [Confused] ) I would shrug and go on about my business. I was uptight, determined to prove myself in ways that had nothing to do with how I looked.

Plus, I got braces just after school started that year. I had intermittant skin problems. I mostly tried to stay off my peers' radar, and was always mortified if anyone took notice of me when they didn't have to.

That changed my senior year, but junior year I fought and scratched an clawwed to be 'one of the guys.' Most of my girlfriends were sort of butch and most of my guy friends were... not. Not that my friends were all sexually ambiguous -I just wasn't comfortable with the ultra-feminine types or the big, hairy-knuckled manly men types.

It was partly a comfort zone thing, and partly an archetype-identity thing. I was the Smart Girl, or wanted to be, and somehow I thought Smart and Pretty were mutually exclusive.

I'd been teased horribly in Christian School as The Brain, because my academic average was always 97 or 98 out of a hundred (my christian school hadn't used the 4 point scale, for some reason). When one of my Christian school classmates wanted a boy to leave her alone, she'd actually said, "Get away, or I'll make her kiss you." Meaning me. The boy ran.

The teasing had been bad. So bad, in fact, that the principal (who also taught us history) noticed. He even gave the whole class a talking to, with me there.

He'd look at me like he was thinking really hard, then turn to the class. "What's wrong with you kids?" Look at me again, then everyone else. "She's beautiful." Kids muttered. He looked at me again. "Why can't you see that?"

I wanted to scream. The principal had been an Optometrist, and I thought he needed his eyes checked. I was not beautiful; everyone else was right. It never occurred to me that all the Christian school parents (who loved me) would go home at night night and ask my classmates in exasperation, "Why can't you be more like her?" (which DID happen, 'cause their parents would always tell my mother how lucky she was to have a kid like me, yadda yadda).

In any case, I mostly firmly believed I was fugly, and as a result always miss-read people's interest as friendliness (or hostility, depending on their approach). I was clueless and deluded.

This story so far makes me sound confident, and I wasn't usually. Only when it had to do with the two unshakebale truths I held about myself: I was very smart, and I was odd (meaning different and also unattractive).

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CT
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quote:
Originally posted by Olivet:
This story so far makes me sound confident, and I wasn't usually. Only when it had to do with the two unshakebale truths I held about myself: I was very smart, and I was odd (meaning different and also unattractive).

I can accept this intellectually, and I know for sure that you speak the truth about this matter [i.e., how you have felt and thought about yourself].

(My own opinion of you is different, but that's another issue entirely. And I know that your sense of self has evolved over time, just as has mine *smile)

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Olivet
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Well, I mean, I know I'm no great beauty, but I also know I'm cute now. And probably was, more or less, then. I just was so convinced that I'd never get anywhere on my 'looks' so I blocked out the possibility that anyone would find me attractive. It was really pathological: I was not the exotic, excruciating beauty my mother was, therefore I was a toad.

Almost everyone has an awkward stage, but mine hung onto me mentally (if not physically) much longer than most. Just, you know, one of those quirky things that make no real sense.

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Beanny
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You're a great story teller, Olivet. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us in such a beautiful style.
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twinky
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[Smile]
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whiskysunrise
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[Smile]
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Ela
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It makes me laugh to hear you say you are no great beauty. You are one of the most beautiful people I've met, and I mean both inside and out. [Smile]
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Wonder Dog
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Please, sir, may I have some more? [Smile]
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JaneX
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*agrees with Ela*
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Olivet
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Thank you guys. You are really too kind. [Smile]

Remember I said this would ramble? Heh. Here goes! [Wink]


Speech and Drama competitions were held every spring at a nearby college (Milligan College, I believe it has a religious affiliation… Methodist maybe). The categories included all sorts of acting and speechmaking types of things, debate, extemporaneous speaking, duet acting and so forth. Our sweet little mouse of a Drama teacher decided we should ‘field a team’. So we spent a week or so on each category. I proved competent at extemporaneous speaking, because when I had my mind engaged on hard facts, I didn’t have as much trouble with nerves.

When it came time for us to do duet acting as a class, Ronnie and I got stuck together. The vagaries of the alphabet were to blame. Sure, we had joked around a bit and got on well enough, but for some reason we were not pleased to be paired. At least our scene was from Barefoot in the Park – I’d have died a thousand deaths before I’d have been Blanche to his Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire. I was at least an inch taller than him. The quarterback and a girl voted Most Vacuous in class superlatives fit the parts much better.

Nope. I was relieved to have comedy. Ronnie was still shell-shocked from the turns his life had taken recently, I think. He tried to act ‘normal’ and I mostly bought it because I was clueless. He looked at the copies of our scene and asked me if I wanted to be Paul or Corrie. O_O

Being cheeky, I said, “Paul.” I thought he was joking and only realized he wasn’t when his shoulders drooped at my answer. Mustering my tact and compassion to handle the awkward situation, I slapped him with my rolled-up pages. “No, Idiot, I’ll be Corrie.”

We did pretty well, but he had trouble remembering his lines, and didn’t step on my lines quite enough. He needed to be more forceful, but he just couldn’t muster the energy. I admit I was not terribly understanding about it. I made the effort to be encouraging and not come down on him, but secretly I thought he was being a doofus. I was sixteen, what can I say?

We were entered to do the duet acting, but he didn’t show up for our coaching bits. I was also entered in extemporaneous speaking, but I sort of hoped he’d do the duet acting with me, anyway. He was beginning to wash more often and sleep less in class, but I was still a little concerned for him. I don’t even know exactly why I took such an interest in him. I mean, we had very similar interests, not exactly the same, but if you blurred your vision a bit they were pretty much the same.

He didn’t show, but we had a good time anyway. I came in fourth out of four in extemporaneous speaking. They had mistakenly given me less than half of the 15 minutes I was supposed to get for the last speech, and I was too shy or too unsure of myself to say anything about it.

We’d all met at the school, standing around waiting to drive to the competition. People liked my outfit – a full white skirt, quite long, with a pink sleeveless top and mans button-down shirt over it(sleeves rolled up and tied at the waist). Pink shoes that matched the top. I must have looked like a candy, wrapped loosely – the kind your mother made you throw away on Halloween. [Big Grin] But for 1986, it was cute and modest. As we waited, the others asked me if Ronnie was coming.

“He said he might.” I shrugged, but I knew he wasn’t coming. The boy could never lie to me. Well, he could try, but it never worked. I don’t know why he was so easy for me to read about stuff like that. I was way too sheltered to really understand a lot of the situations I encountered in the wide world, but I knew when Ronnie hedged. He had only said he ‘might’ because he wasn’t able to say ‘no’, for whatever reason. Maybe guilt, or maybe he didn’t want me to know he was scared.

For a while we all thought Chunk wasn’t going to show, either. He had a swim practice, but Jonesy went to check on him. “He’s wet but he’s coming,” she said. Jonesy was enough like one of the guys that nobody squawked when she peeked in the boy’s locker room. The Hermiones and I envied her that, if only where Chunk was concerned.

Anyway, it was a good day, despite my poor showing. I had fun and met lots of Drama Dawgs from neighboring High Schools. The boy who took third place extempo speaking was feeling really bad, sure he’d placed fourth, but I told him, no, my last speech was awful. “You’ll place, I promise.” I was glad for him when he did, because it meant something to him.

One of my judges tried to ask me out. It was weird, because he was just a college boy, maybe two or three years older than me. He gave me honest marks (I think he may have been the judge of my horrible last speech), except maybe a little high on poise. Anyway, it took this girl Cindy from Davey Crocked HS to tell me what was going on. She’d stood by while he asked me where I went to church, a definite Preliminary Dating Question in the Christian circles I moved in. Somehow, I didn’t get it. *facepalm* I think maybe it was because he had a beard.

“What was that about?” I asked when he finally left me alone. Cindy gave me a look.

CLUELESS, I said. I may be over emphasizing this, but it is important later.

One last little tidbit, to give you a bit about me that isn’t related to this story much, if at all. My first day of public High School, I was riding with a group of kids from down the street. See, I lived in the county, but we’d applied so I could go to the city school. It was better in a lot of ways, but I had to provide my own transportation. I didn’t have a car or my license, so my folks arranged for me to rideshare with a friend of theirs three children. The two boys were in High School, the daughter (who was to drive us) dropped us off on her way to work.

That first morning, she stopped back by her house to get her tennis shoes, leaving me in the car with her brothers. The older boy, whose name was Ralph (even though everyone called him “Duck” for reasons I never bothered to find out) turned around in the seat and made eye contact with his younger brother (named, get this, “Naaman”). They were both pretty much your typical scary hillbillies – their eyes didn’t quite look the same direction and so forth. He glanced at me and back at his brother and said (in such a thick accent it took me a minute to make it out), “Whadda yeh say we lay ‘er?”

They both laughed big, open-mouthed, snorting laughs while I parsed what he said enough to be offended. Not offended, really. More like scared sh*tless, though I wouldn’t have used that word at the time. The fear moved rather smoothly into in anger, still the hot kind, but I kept silent. Just before the sister came out, I had reached the point where fear and anger cease being uncomfortable and start to feel… neutral, I guess. It’s a very interesting place to be. Fear can make you panic, rage can make you irrational. But this… this was cool and detached. To be so angry that you feel nothing, so angry that your mind is crystal clear… God, it is a beautiful thing.

I’d already given the sister $5.00 for gas for the week. When Mom finally got it out of me why I didn’t want to ride with them anymore, that was the end of it. Papa disappeared for maybe 15 minutes, acting like he had to go to the store. The Cro-Magnon brothers never said another word to or about me again, as far as I know. Naaman ended up in some special school, and I only saw Duck once in passing after that. It was a big school.

I was oblivious to interest, as I said before, and tended to be paranoid about the nature of that interest. That’s probably why the boys I tended to go for were a little younger, or at least not much taller, than me. Maybe I was shy, but I think it was because needed to feel in control.

What the Cro-magnons taught me, without meaning to, was that I was in control. Because, in that perfect moment of clarity, I knew I would fight if it came to it, and I would fight dirty. I would fight to maim. I would sink my dainty, manicured nails into their eyesockets, and rip off their ears with my teeth if I could.

(Which I realize would have been total overkill, as I was never in any real danger. [Big Grin] )

On the outside I seemed weak, and shy, but on the inside I wasn’t either. Not by a long shot. I’m still like that. I don’t lose my temper or anything – I am essentially a calm person. But I have met my beast – that lovely, lizard hindbrain lurking in all of us – and I live happier knowing it is there should I need to protect myself, or my own.

That’s about as personal as this will get. It doesn’t have much to do with Ronnie’s story, but maybe a little to do with how I feel about it. That story of my first ride to public high school simply illustrates the first time I felt the alfa femme stir inside me. Just a tiny bit. She looked past her toothy muzzle at a couple of foolish boys and realized she was more than up to whatever life would throw her way.

Not that I ever oozed confidence, or anything. I just knew I'd have the guts when it mattered.

[ July 28, 2005, 05:16 AM: Message edited by: Olivet ]

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Mrs.M
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I'm absolutely riveted.

It's funny, I was always pretty confident about my looks, but very insecure about my intellect.

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Corwin
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I was going for the "may I have more" line but I see Wonder Dog beat me to it, so I'll just echo him. [Smile]
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KarlEd
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<--taps foot.

<taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap>


[Smile]

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Beanny
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I like your inner beast, Olivet.
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Bob_Scopatz
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I'm riveted.

(I'm also fascinated by this story and if I could just get these rivets out, I'd be a lot happier...)

More please!

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Tammy
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You're riveting us all. Please keep writing!
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Belle
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I gotta say ditto to this:

quote:
(My own opinion of you is different, but that's another issue entirely. And I know that your sense of self has evolved over time, just as has mine *smile)
I just think you're so cool. And you're an amazing storyteller.

*hugs*

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Rakeesh
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Thanks much for sharing-a very interesting story [Smile]

(Now more story, damnit!)

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CT
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quote:
He glanced at me and back at his brother and said (in such a thick accent it took me a minute to make it out), “Whadda yeh say we lay ‘er?”
... Just before the sister came out, I had reached the point where fear and anger cease being uncomfortable and start to feel… neutral, I guess. It’s a very interesting place to be. Fear can make you panic, rage can make you irrational. But this… this was cool and detached. To be so angry that you feel nothing, so angry that your mind is crystal clear… God, it is a beautiful thing.

Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes. For me, it is a blissfully cold, clear feeling, and that is when I feel I can speak with the utter truth and rightness of God himself. "This is wrong. This Will Not Be Done." And -- I know I am in charge. Very heady, almost intoxicating.
quote:
Papa disappeared for maybe 15 minutes, acting like he had to go to the store. The Cro-Magnon brothers never said another word to or about me again, as far as I know.
I can totally see this. I love your Papa for it, I do, even though I (and you, I recall) itch to fight our own battles.

quote:
What the Cro-magnons taught me, without meaning to, was that I was in control. Because, in that perfect moment of clarity, I knew I would fight if it came to it, and I would fight dirty. I would fight to maim. I would sink my dainty, manicured nails into their eyesockets, and rip off their ears with my teeth if I could.
...
I don’t lose my temper or anything – I am essentially a calm person. But I have met my beast – that lovely, lizard hindbrain lurking in all of us – and I live happier knowing it is there should I need to protect myself, or my own.

I. love. this. landmark.

Speak it, sister.

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kojabu
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More more!
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Cr1spy
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quote:
Originally posted by Olivet:


Speech and Drama competitions were held every spring at a nearby college (Milligan College, I believe it has a religious affiliation… Methodist maybe).

As a Proud Milligan College Buffalo, I am glad you have partaken of our beautiful home. (Plus, we are Christian Church/Church of Christ not Methodist)

I am enjoying your story!

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Olivet
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See, a great deal of my friends went to a Church of Christ in that area. I started a Prayer Club my senior year, and many of the people went to the same church as the kids in a prayer club out of another HS that was in that area. I loved the Church of Christ lock-ins. [Smile]

I might have to add a bit about that, too.

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Olivet
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My Junior year went well enough. I was in the Science League, where I did well, and Art, a class my best friend, Lisa, and I decided to take together when we got our of Driver’s Ed at Christmas. The old art teacher had retired during the break. I had actually signed up for art 6th period in the fall, but I only lasted a week. It was ‘an easy A’ and the teacher was about to retire. He didn’t stay in the class room much. One day there was a poster taped upside down on the chalk board and the words “Draw This” with an arrow pointing to it. I was at a table with a girl from the local group home. She was pretty and trying to act tough, cussed worse than my father had when he was in the army. Plus, she was hungry. I saved stuff out of my lunch to give to her.

Then I transferred in to Botany, taught by the same guy who taught Biology. I totally loved it, except for a couple of guys who teased me a lot. I was sure it was because I was on the homely side, but looking back I think I was mistaken. One guy hardly spoke to me until one day on a field trip (Botany had LOTS of ‘em) he came up to me and said, “I want to do low, vile, disgusting things to you.”

“Um… Thanks for the warning.” I felt persecuted. I knew I was no great beauty, but why make fun of me? I shared a table with a pretty girl named Missy and boy named Paul. Missy would help Paul tease me, by telling he wanted to ask me a question, so would I switch seats so he could whisper it in my ear? His question, the first time, related to a kink I couldn’t mention here, though it was reputedly shared by Hitler and James Joyce. The second time I fell for it (after much pleading from Missy, insisting on Paul’s sincerity and fear he would fail the class) turned out to merely be his tongue.

My buddy Lisa and I were in art class together, now taught by Mrs. Hoilman, whose husband was a student at a local seminary. Ah, another kindred spirit. She encouraged Lisa and me to apply to the Governor’s school in Art. She got in, while I made alternate. She wouldn’t go. Too shy to go without me, she said. I was very flustered with her, but now I sort of understand. We’d hang out together for hours, drawing in silence, occasionally asking the other’s opinion or to pass a particular pencil. I mean, we were best friends, and we hardly ever spoke to each other.

Funny, I still think of her as the closest female friend I ever had in school. She was a year behind me, though, so we didn’t have any classes together my Senior year. We still hung out, but she started dating and it became less and less. I didn’t date, though I did do the youth group thing a lot. I was homely, you see.

Somehow, and I still don’t quite remember how, I ended up with Ronnie Ellis and Roman White and Lisa after school on the last day of school. Ronnie had a huge car by then. He called it his Road Ship, because it was simply huge. We piled in and went a few blocks and ate spaghetti at a little restaurant. Lisa was coming home with me, and my ride was late. I think I had forgotten that school let out early that day.

It was an odd goodbye. Lisa was coming home with me because she was coming with my family on our vacation to the beach. I don’t think Roman came back to the city school the next year, at least I don’t think I ever saw him again. Ronnie did sometimes. I think Roman may have helped out with some of his filming shoots. I talked with Lisa about youth group stuff that summer (youth drama camp – I think she’d rather have been skinned and staked to an ant hill, but she was nice about it), and ended up inviting Ronnie, too.

I don’t think he showed, but we were definitely friends by then. He did some summer community theater, I think. I ran into one of the girls from the Drama class who had seen him “trying to do that horrible English accent of his” in some play or other. That comment made me angry, though I didn’t say anything. If my anger is any measure, I definitely thought of him as a friend of mine.

Lisa and I went to the beach together, and it was the best beach-with-a-friend trip ever. We didn’t lie on the beach like idiots, and I didn’t get dragged along after vapid boys. We played putt-putt and swam in the hotel pool, and drew. She even enjoyed hanging out with mom and papa (my saintly stepdad) as much as I did. We went to the amusement park because it was sort of expected of us, but I realized she was even less thrilled about roller coaster than I was. It was strangely liberating.

I suppose I should make another quick aside about my previous summer. My mother and I had gone to the beach with two other girls from Christian school and their mothers, all of us from the same church. My friends were Jeanette and Johnnie. Jeanette and I were both going to the same Public school the next year, though the only class I had with her that Junior year was American History (taught by a blind, but very vain, coach who never really knew if his roll call was accurate because he wouldn’t wear his glasses). Johnnie always kept in touch with all of us, and was nicer to me than most. She loved my mother, too, and was the other person I went to school with who came to her funeral (four kids and prettier than ever).

I liked Jeanette and Johnnie, but they never got that I liked books. They always tried to ‘include’ me in stuff, especially Johnnie. But, I wasn’t sulking when I read Ivanhoe in the hall when we had the Christian school Fall Festival. If the Duck Pond had come even close to being as much fun as Sir Walter Scott, I’d have been there like a shot. But they wanted me to quit being a dork and join in. They finally coaxed me out by saying that Chucky Loveless had shown up, after having been expelled the year before. He’d ridden his bike up the hill and was hanging out. He was sort of strange, which should have made us friendly, but didn’t, because he was the variety of strange that goes along with inhalants. He came up to me and said, “I’ve got a hot mouth” while waving his hand in front of said orifice by way of demonstration.

“The concession stand has orange drink.” I said. “It’s free.” He wandered off, and I didn’t realize how funny that was until MUCH later.

Anyway, the beach with Johnnie and Jeanette had been an entirely different animal. I’d done it before, but I was tired. Johnnie’s mom wouldn’t let us eat our take-out pizza on the balcony over the strip because of the long line of cruising boys sweeping past. Which was the only reason Johnnie and Jeanette wanted to sit there. I wasn’t interested, because interactions with the male of species were always painful and confusing to me. Why bother?

We went out the beach side of the hotel, where we had left our beach chairs. When we got there, the beach chairs were occupied. By two boys. One of them was really cute and the other was a minor deity.

Now, math was never my best subject, but I knew that two boys + three girls = One girl watching TV with the mothers tonight. At least the hotel had HBO.

Jeanette had light brown hair and huge green eyes, and Johnnie had black hair and steel blue eyes and a very, very outgoing nature. The boys stood up and moved closer. I tried to finish my pizza quickly, so I could fade away painlessly. Then I realized the little godling was talking to me. Crap. I mean, why? It’s getting dark, but we’re under a street lamp.

When the boys and girls had sorted themselves out, it was Jeanette who was stuck watching HBO. This was especially satisfying for me, because she was the girl who had threatened boys with having me kiss them. Nyah.

It wasn’t my first kiss. That had been two years before. A guy had asked to kiss me, and I was tired of being teased about not having a boyfriend (even though I hadn’t wanted one), so I’d gone along with it. Not really proud that I kissed a boy I didn’t like just so I wouldn’t be teased about never having been kissed. Not that it was unpleasant, because it wasn’t. Just not the manner I would have chosen. Getting your first grown-up kiss shouldn’t be like ripping off a band-aid. Yeah, I know. Me and Ron Weasley.

Anyway, I spent the next few days riding roller coasters with a boy, and sitting/walking on the beach with a boy. Sort of double-dating with Johnnie. We played a game to see which couple could kiss the longest without stopping, and my pretty, pretty boy and I won every time. He was adorable, and both boys also went to the same sort of Christian school as we did. My boy (his name escapes me for the moment) was already accepted at Tennessee Temple, and entering his senior year. I was convinced it was some sort of elaborate sting operation – this older, charming, ideal fellow, what the heck was doing with me?

I enjoyed it, but I didn’t believe it. I don’t think he did either. I puzzled over it, like it was some kind of test. If you’d have asked me, I’d have said that Jeanette was the prettiest of us. Johnnie was pretty and bubbly and fun. So why me? I still don’t get it. I mean, I wondered for a while if it was some sort of character-building assignment. It’s not like we hit it off, really. At least I didn’t. When we left, we exchanged addresses. Both the boys wrote us. I don’t remember if I answered or not. I believe I did. His letter had had the tone of obligation, and I’m sure my reply did, too.

Sometimes I STILL wonder what that was all about. Not that I’m complaining. It was almost worth the horrible sunburn (which only partially peeled, leaving me to go to church camp with a decidedly Holstein complexion).

When we got back, I had to perform some skits at a youth picnic, and afterward Sean Berbert held my hand. Sean was not really great looking, but I liked him much more (because he liked my stories, made-up fairytales I used to tell), so it was really much nicer. Never really saw Sean again, since the Christian School closed its HS that year, and he lived two towns over.

Anyway, the beach with Lisa was much more my speed. Never felt the need to wear the swimsuit that always got looks (it was a one-piece, but it sort of laced up the sides. I felt obscene in it, but the other girls always wanted me to wear it, so I did. Because, underneath it all, I wanted to fit in). I finally realized that I could fit in better in public school. Not because I was determined to be worldly, but because I could choose to be with like-minded people. Hard to do when you’ve been trapped in Christian school with the same twelve people for four years.

By the time my senior year had started, Ronnie Ellis had come to youth group with me once, maybe. I found that this year I had te same lunch period as him, and we ate together some. Very slowly, almost subliminally, we became important to each other, even though I don’t think we had any classes together at all. I did have Advanced Art, First Period, with another of his close friends, Chris Range. Strange Range, they called him. I think he liked it, or at least it didn’t bother him. Ronnie was the one I heard the nickname from, in any case.

More about Strange Range next time.

[ July 31, 2005, 11:28 PM: Message edited by: Olivet ]

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Liz B
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I plan to keep reading . . .
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CT
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(Did anyone else google Hitler and Joyce? *smile)

Enthralling, Olivet. I am fascinated.

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KarlEd
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Well, I googled them, but didn't get my question answered. [Grumble]
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Olivet
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Sorry. It involved coprophilia. *shudder*
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zgator
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I really wish I hadn't googled that.

It's been 12 hours. Get moving.

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Rakeesh
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Dude...Olivia...next time, let our curiosity remain unanswered!

*shudder*

(This is not, however, to say stop story-telling)

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Noemon
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I'm loving this landmark by the way, Olivet. I just realized that I'd been reading along, anxiously awaiting the next installment for the last week, and hadn't said anything.
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Olivet
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I should have said, "Do not Google" but I didn't. I thought dictionary.com or some such would be more likely to be used in the definition of a word, but I'm at work, so I was brief. [Frown] Sorry.

And thanks for reading, guys. I'm glad you like it even though this is entirely selfish writing, just something I need to do. Thanks again.

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Rakeesh
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Hehe, I'm just bustin' yer chops. It was worth a brief, " [Embarrassed] EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!" [Big Grin]
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Olivet
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Bad news, friends. I just found out that I should have been working on a narrative for work for at least the last two weeks.

*oops*

Today was the first day of school fo rthe kiddies, too. So my theraputic venting here may have to wait until I bang out narratives of 30-odd business processes. *gag*

*sniffle*

Unless I have another sleepless night on account of it. Then it will be work be danged, give me my mental health.

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Stray
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Aaagh! I've been looking for this thread all day, waiting for the next installment! *pouts* Hope you can get back to it soon!
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Olivet
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Finally. Sorry for the delay. I have to get this out. Here goes.

I couldn’t get my friend Lisa to take Advanced art with me. I was a Senior and she was a Junior, maybe she wanted to save it until her last year. I don’t know. She and I helped Mrs. Hoilman decorate the classroom before school started. We both totally loved her.

Advanced Art was a first period class. Art classes, for some reason, were always held in the Vocational Hall(D hall), on the opposite end of the school from the Academic courses (read: every other course I had ever had). Since my homeroom was Art, my locker was now in D hall. I had to run to make it second period Anatomy, then back to D hall for the Mandatory Senior class, Health. Forth period, after lunch, was Geometry, followed by Chemistry and Senior IB English. I also took Spanish as a purely voluntary 7th period class, so I got out of school an hour later than most everyone, except those in band.

Art was my Homeroom, so I was the obvious choice to be sent to the student council. I was the only remotely studious one, pretty square, so of course they saddled me with it. I had a 7th period class, for crying out loud. I remember most of the people in the class fondly.

Two girls who dressed like Madonna in her material girl days, and wore lots of make-up. They joined the Navy together after graduation. A Basque exchange student, who was also a great skateboarder. Rick Mathes, who wanted to be a fashion designer, or a set designer. He called Andy Warhol and spent almost an hour talking to him once. Even made an appointment to see him when he went on a NY trip that summer, But Warhol was dead by then. He started calling the set designers for his favorite soaps, after that. A guy named Larry who went into Commercial art, I think. And Chris Range.

The Health teacher was a little batty. Anatomy was taught by a woman who graduated from college with a degree in Biology when women just didn’t go to medical school. She was bitter, a total hardass, and I loved her. She gave us oral exams where we had to know the Latin names of muscles, their attachment points and functions. It’s hard to remember stuff while sitting one-on-one with a hardass teacher who is pointing at parts of a stinky dead cat and not saying anything. You just had to KNOW it. I loved it.

I mean, it was hard to cut open and start opening up a dead cat, (from Carolina Biological supply) at first, anyway. I love cats. Plus, that was the year ALF became popular, and all his jokes about eating cats were very much not funny to me, especially before lunch, with a dead cat lying in front of me. We worked on the same cats for MONTHS, too. The smell was not fun.

I was only in Geometry for about four weeks. I got mono from sharing a soda with Johnnie and Jeanette at Midnight Bowling with the youth group. Johnnie fought with it all year because she never rested up quite long enough. Me, I was practically taped to my bed for two weeks, and forced to drop one of my seven classes. I dropped Geometry, and I have never regretted it. I’d had it in Christian school already, and there was this guy named Bill who sat diagonally behind me who was always staring, and sort of sucking his retainer, making ‘clacky’ noises at me. He always wore a sort of Carribean straw hat and the same John Cougar Mellancamp t-shirt ( I know it was the same one, because it was torn in two or three places. He wore a shirt under it for decency, but he never wore any other shirt.) He was also in Anatomy with me, but on the other side of the class. He never spoke to me, as far as I recall.

Anyway, when I dropped Geometry, Dr. Bingham picked me up as a Science Room worker for fourth period. I had had him for Biology and Botany the year before, so I got to help some with the Biology labs and grade Botany homework. There were two other workers at different times. One of them was a girl named Kristy that fixed up with this guy who went to my church. They had been sweethearts in gradeschool, but they were too skittish to try to date. When they both (separately) confided their dilemma, I was more than happy to laugh at them and get them together. They had two kids the last time I saw them. 

I didn’t have any classes with Ronnie, but we almost always ended up at lunch together. Sometimes Range was there, too. They would quote British comedies back and forth at each other sometimes, but were usually entertaining.

It occurs to me that the most interesting stuff happened after I had surgery. I hadit scheduled for Christmas break, so I wouldn’t miss much school. My teeth were fairly straight. My jaws were not. I had braces, but the mismatching of my teeth was mostly jaw. This is probably the biggest reason I felt horribly ugly. I was a mutant in my own eyes. I felt like I couldn’t eat properly. I thought I was Quasimoto, because my jaws were, like, less than a millimeter off from each other.

I don’t know if it was because I was an artist, if somehow this minor variation (mostly only visible to dentists and orthodontists) of my features was an affront(in my mind) to symmetry itself. People tell me they can’t tell a difference in my old pictures, but I can see it. Only now have I come to question whether or not it is actually there, when it it irrelevant.

Anyway, the surgery was an orthodontic-related procedure, though mine was done by a maxillary surgeon. I believed I would be different afterward. Not gorgeous, but acceptably pretty. Before Christmas I cut my hair off, short enough that they shaved my neck, but still a very feminine style. I cut my fingernails short. I don’t think I told anyone, but I was thinking of the rituals that some tribes perform to show passage to adulthood, or mark some other important stage in a person’s life. I was going into a cocoon. I didn’t know what I’d emerge as, but it would be just fine with me.

Went in the hospital December 20th, for surgery on the 21st, and didn’t get released until the 26th or 27th. They broke both my jaws, and wired them shut. My teeth were fixed into a plastic mold, to keep my bite aligned, and my braces were wired together. I couldn’t even use a straw. I mostly ate from a syringe with a long rubber tube on it.

When I woke up in recovery, my butt and the backs of my heels hurt, but I didn’t have any other pain. I was cold, and they had to keep me sitting at a 45 degree angle so the blood wouldn’t pool in my chest. They had tubes in my nose, so that the swelling wouldn’t close off my breathing.

I must have looked horrible. Ronnie visited me in the hospital. He brought me a little keepsake box. It was the one time I’ve ever known him to keep anything from me with his face. If he was disturbed by how I looked, he didn’t show it.

One day they sent me down for an X-ray, and the X-ray tech made my mother stay outside, even though she was an RN. The tech laid me flat to take the X-rays. When I sat up, I started to cough, because some of the blood still oozing from my wounds had trickled into my bronchi. Well, my mouth was plugged, so when I coughed, the blood came out my nose. I had a little, damp hand towel with me, and the tech grabbed it and pinched my nose shut, smothering me. I remember seeing my mother come into the room just as I was passing out.

I didn’t actually stop breathing, but I thought I was going to die. I wasn’t strong enough to get her off me, and she didn’t know I was suffocating. I remember thinking death wasn’t so bad. But I didn’t die.

That was in the morning. I think I still had some blood on my face that afternoon, because Mom didn’t have the heart to scrub it all off with me looking so miserable about it. She was afraid she’d hurt me, but really my whole face was numb. They said the feeling would come back in my face and jaws, though maybe not in the gums around my upper front teeth.

The afternoon was when my pastor came to see me with his youngest daughter. I had been in school for several years with his older daughter. One of the perks of public school was that I no longer had to invite her to my birthday parties, and I wouldn’t see her much. She had always been popular in Christian school and was horribly mean to me. At one slumber party she’d jumped up and down on my back until I said a curse word. She didn’t like it that I wouldn’t curse. At my sixteenth birthday party, she gave me a little decorative plaque on friendship that I had seen on a shelf in her room at least four years before that. I probably shouldn’t have held it against her, since she really didn’t know about my weirdly detailed memory. Then again, she knew I was a freak; she’d called me one often enough.

But the younger daughter was always nice to me, at least to my face. They visited a while and prayed with me and left. I later found out that the girl had gotten hysterical in the elevator, crying and saying, “Daddy, is she going to die?”

I must’ve been a sight.

Other people from church visited, and one other guy I had playfully nicknamed “Pondscum”. He called me “Oreo” for some reason he could never adequately explain. He was a Freshman, and we’d met through they guy I fixed up with the other Science worker. They were best buds. Pondscum had asked me one day, what color his eyes were. He claimed they were green, but I said, “No, sort of a brownish green, like pond scum.” I called him pondscum because I thought he was the most beautiful boy in the school, and I’d have died a thousand deaths before letting him know it.

Pondscum and I had started a Prayer club, which met weekly after school. Mrs. Hoilman had been our sponsor, and we met in the Art Room. We even had activities with other high school prayer clubs. We’d just come together to talk about our faith and encourage one another. Part of the year, Pondscum dated one of my dearer friends, Beth. He didn’t treat her well, and it annoyed me. I mean, he wasn’t mean to her. He’d walk her home from school, leaning on her and never offering to carry her books. Beth was on the Science League Biology II team with me, and she had an eating disorder. When she confided in me that she hadn’t had a period in seven months, I freaked. She didn’t look overly thin, but she was hurting herself. I didn’t know what to do. Her parents already knew, but she’d lie to them about what she’d eaten. I just told her it was the stupidest thing I’d ever known a person as smart she was to do, and tried to make sure she ate veggies and took her vitamins.

I think she settled into something a bit less destructive. She really was too smart for that. When her parents remarried, it made a huge difference. They went to my church afterwards ad we all were in youth group. Ronnie, too. By Christmas of my Junior year, he had become reasonably active in the youth group, and came to church. By then Coachipoo had gotten married and let an established married couple take over the youth group. They were great fun. She was great at organizing everyone and easy to talk to, he was a former cocaine addict who had lost hi sense of smell. He had a great love of the Lord, and didn’t mind when we teased him about wearing a T-shirt with Spanish o it, when he didn’t know what it said. He’d lose his train of thought for no reason, and his wife would have to tell him what the last thing he’d said was.

It was actually one of the more effective arguments against drugs that I have ever encountered.

More Later, but not too much later.

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ketchupqueen
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