I immediately decided this morning in the car that it was a Garth Brooks kind of day. I gingerly removed my very elderly two-disc, double live set and slipped the first one into the CD player. Throughout the day, I listened to many other country classics. Every February, it happens–the reminiscing–and it stops sometime at the end of April. I switched out the first CD for the second on the ride home, and by the time arrived, I knew what to write about.
I transferred from my K-5 elementary to a Catholic school for the few years of middle school (the Catholic school was K-8). It was tiny–five boys in our graduating class compared to twelve girls. Good odds if you were them; bad odds if you were us.
Landon* was not on my radar until I sat with him at the beginning of 8th grade. He was the asshole kid who had this habit of shaking his foot, and on account of his weight (he was chubby, not fat) his whole desk shook…as did mine.
“Stop it,” I growled, multiple times a day. “Stop doing that.” He didn’t even realize that it was happening–constantly. Once he knew, it got worse.
“I’m not doing anything!” he’d exclaim gleefully, and then the desk shoving would begin and continue until we got yelled at or I tattled on him. This went on for days, but after a week of this hellish nightmare, somewhere through my fury and all out desk pushing, as he threw his head back and guffawed at my irritation, I noticed how lovely his blue eyes were.
Too bad they’re attached to such a jerk, I thought. We eventually worked out a truce, and then he moved desks shortly after, becoming someone else’s problem.
Before I knew it, my birthday rolled around. I threw a roller skating party and invited the entire class. The boy I liked didn’t show, but Landon did. One of the adults had cranked up the heat since it was freezing when we’d entered. While we were skating, the room got hot as hell. A special discount allowed us to reserve the whole rink. Most of the class didn’t show, so it was just four or five of us.
When we sat down for cake and ice cream, we were all burning up. The ice was for sodas, but we we swiped some to cool ourselves down. An ice war broke out. Landon got up to get more, walked behind me, and dropped about three pieces of ice down the back of my shirt. The laughter rolled until we were doubled over, red-faced and crying. Then my mom yelled at us to knock it off, because we were making a mess. By the time I got home, I had a crush on Landon.
Our school was infamous for homework assignments. The boy-girl ratio was nothing compared to the avalanche that was homework. Class carried on without any time set aside for projects. We were slain every day, night, week, and weekend with assignments. I took so many notes that I was constantly cracking, stretching, and wringing out my hands. None of the teachers slowed down their piles of homework from other classes when a big project was due either. “Oh come on” could have been our daily theme song upon hearing how many chapters we had to read or how many pages of math were were supposed to complete. I can’t remember a time since that I’ve had more homework–even in college!
Around the same time as my party, Landon and I were grouped together for a project. It was the kind of nerve-wracking assignment that was responsible for approximately half our grade that term. There were four of us, but the other two were slackers. Landon cried when he got B’s, and I eventually won the Language Arts award when we graduated from 8th grade, so the assignment was entirely on our shoulders.
I say that to explain that when he started calling, it wasn’t naive to assume that it was due to the project. I wasn’t allowed to date, but I was brave enough to place calls to my friend’s crushes and force them talk to each other. Just because I was monitored closely didn’t mean that I couldn’t be Yenta to someone else’s love life. So when he started calling me, I had only some hesitation about calling him back. As the project progressed, we’d get sidetracked and talk about other things. He exclusively listened to country music, and I mentioned that I’d loved a few songs, so he lent me CDs. When I started buying country CDs, he got to borrow those. So we’d talk and play music, quizzing each other. Soon we weren’t even making excuses for the calls. When the project ended, we kept talking every night.
One day after school in April, I couldn’t take it anymore. I confessed quickly and raced to the car before he could reject me. I had to know, and I still wasn’t sure. All my friends from class were just as clueless as I was, and telling girls who weren’t my friends was asking for gossip (a small class is like a small town). My mom wouldn’t allow me to date, so I couldn’t ask any family members. My public school friends were out too. I’d been Yenta in elementary school, but now they didn’t need me to call their crushes. They’d already started having sex, so I’d lied about my first kiss being ages ago. I couldn’t suffer the embarrassment of admitting that I’d fabricated it when they already thought I was basically Amish.
At home, I tried to distract myself with homework which again, wasn’t hard because there was a lot of it. He always called around dinnertime, sometimes before and afterwards. I wouldn’t call him. I couldn’t. I’d said my piece, and now I had to sit back and let the chips fall where they may.
He didn’t call early. I worked on homework until it was time for dinner and begrudgingly left my chair and walked into the kitchen.
To be continued in Part II…
*Name changed for privacy