Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tales from Middle School.


            He stood there at the Bottle Shop,  rubbing his dog’s ears when our bus came to a sudden stop. I had not seen him before. He handed the dog chain to his mother before he boarded. Four
boys sitting in the back seat rushed up front to greet him.
“Hey, Homey! When did you get back?  Bulldog, are you back for good?”  
The driver yelled for everyone to get back to their seats. Told Bulldog to stop at 128th instead, as this was not a regular stop.
The ride to school took forty minutes, on dusty roads full of tumbleweeds, coyote brush and Joshua trees stretched out for miles, from Edwards Air Force  to the San Gabriel Mountains,   a yawning patch of dirt farms and mobile homes with a couple of light stops. Old sofas, rusty bits of discarded  machines and mangy dogs showed up here and there, the only signs of possible human life around.

The bus picked me up at Pearblossom, a walled country club enclave on the way to Wrightwood, a place where fathers commuted to Edwards or further down into Los Angeles,  where  mothers  played housewives, golf clubs in the summer, skis in the winter, volunteering here and there or at their child’s school.  
Mother was on the school board  that year, and she insisted I had to act like a normal student in everything, including taking the school bus to school most days.

 Right in front of school, my friends usually waited for me to get off the bus on most days. On that day, someone pulled my hair as I was getting off the bus. When I turned to complain, Bulldog, looked straight at me, pursed his lips and threw a kiss my way.
 “Yuk!” I yelled back, disgusted and embarrassed that my friends might have seen this cholo and misconstrue our relationship. 
At noon, as we traded fruit and chips in the cafeteria, waiting for the rest of our group to join us before going to play basketball, the boy Bulldog saw me and  waved at me from the lunch line.  I pretended not to notice.
“Look, that cute boy is waving at us!” Izzy commented.
“Don’t look! “I growled back.
“Alli, he likes you! He’d be great for you.” Jen cooed.
“No.  Not him. Let’s go!” I said and started walking away.  I  didn’t want any trouble.
  Most days we ate very little from our lunch bags.  The cafeteria aide yelled at me for the trash left on the table and  I went back to clean up.
In baggy pants and plaid shirts worn loose and open, looking like their older brothers, standing all in a clump, Bulldog and his friends seemed to be everywhere. When we played basketball, they appeared to cheer us on. 
When we left, they followed us.
Jen thought it was funny.
Felicia  wanting to know more about this boy.  
The girls snickered.  I hated that.
All of a sudden, I was charged with befriending this creep and I hardly knew him. 
“Alli.  We decided this guy is your project. You know what to do.” Both Felicia and Jen agreed with Renna.
She had come up with the game we were supposed to play. The girls all had to choose a boy  to "pretend" to like. We started this game the first week of school, and since I was the one most shy, they had waited for me to get involved. The girls chose a boy for someone and then it was the girl's responsibility to activate the plan. We had to do three outrageous things we had never done before.
“Don’t I have a choice?  Jen had a choice.”
“NO.  It doesn’t work that way. You have to do what we say.  It’s your turn."
"What am I supposed to do, again?"
"Go and befriend him. Tell him you like him. Or one of us can tell him that you like him."
"But what then?"
"You pretend to like him for a while. Call him up. Have lunch with him. You have to invent things. And each of us cannot do the same thing the other did. So, you can't go to the movies and meet him there. We've already done that."
 After the lunch bell, Bulldog had positioned himself at the door of my math class when he saw me coming down the hall.
“What’s the word?  ” He said with a wink, moving to block the entrance.
“Let me in.” I gritted, looking around for the teacher.
“You insulted me, remember? You owe me an apology.” Bulldog was smiling with a wide mouth.
 I pushed him.
“Get out of my face!” I yelled, frustrated.
Then Miss De Silva raised her voice in my direction, “Alexandria,  stop fooling around. You're late again!”
I was  embarrassed. I went to my seat, avoiding everybody's eyes,  and copied the homework on the board.

At the end of the day, I walked to the office where my mother would be waiting. Jen  was standing outside the office. She rode home with us most days.
“That boy Bulldog?  He’s waiting with your mother!”
“What?” I said, incredulously.
When Mother saw me, she handed me the keys and Jen and I went to the car. 
When she finally joined us,  Bulldog  was with her.
“Bulldog tells me you’re on the same bus.” She said when she caught up with us.
“Yeah!” I said, in the back seat next to Jen.
  We sat quietly through the whole ride.
When everybody had been dropped off, Mother addressed me angrily.
I can’t believe you.  Why were you so rude?”
“I don’t know.” I said.
Mother kept talking about her job, the school, the opportunities,the usual stuff  I heard over and over again. The minute she parked, I rushed in the house.
 “Wait a minute,we need to talk!"
“I have a lot of homework.” I shouted back.   
“Don’t get on the phone and waste time.” She admonished.
 In my room, I called Jen.
“Well, did you get his number?” Jen said breathlessly.
“You’re kidding! He is a  jerk.”
“He told the office he missed the bus. ”
“He said you’d need a ride, too.”
“He’s got some nerves!”  I was about to tell her what happened in math class when I heard Mother at my door, and I quickly hung up. She wanted to know how my day went.  I was not sure what part to tell her when the phone rang and my sister picked it up in the kitchen.
 “Alli! It’s the boy from this afternoon.”
“I don’t want to talk to him.” I said and rushed to the restroom.
“Don’t be rude!" Mother yelled back at me, "I didn’t raise you to be rude, young lady."  Then I heard her  talking on the phone. 
 I went down to the kitchen, planning to take the dog out for a walk when I saw Liz biting into a peanut butter sandwich, and  I grabbed it from her, rushing out with the dog leash,  slamming the door behind me. 
I suddenly felt better than I had felt the whole day.

(to be continued..._) 


  1. A new interpretation of Romeo and Juliet?

  2. Normal, you are way ahead of me. I posted this in the middle of the night. I may have to review it in the light of day before I continue the tale.

  3. Oh, this beautifully captures the angst of middle school love. I love the part where she just sees him everywhere!

    I look forward to the the continuation...