Monday, April 27, 2015

Sometimes You Get Dumped by Your Middle School Boyfriend Over the Phone While Watching Desperately Seeking Susan the Day Your Youngest Sister is Born

July 8th, 1996

I smelled like Sun-In and finally started to fill out my training bra. I'd graduated from the 6th grade a month before and turned twelve a month before that. 6th grade was a welcome school year for me after the tumultuous 5th I had in a new school that was a mile walk from my new home in a new town run by losers who would steal our laundry (even my velvet gymnastics leotards). My parents had separated at the end of 4th grade (I log each moment of my life by what grade I was in), and it didn't make me sad. Not because I was mature enough to recognize that they were better off apart; I think it was more that I am just sometimes too chill? I don't really remember having much feeling about it at all. I could've shrugged at the news.

Dad kept the house and mom, little sister, and I moved to a worse neighborhood. The one we had lived in wasn't inherently bad, but bikes were stolen and I'd been flashed by pseudo-adults on two separate occasions (one was just an innocent teen mooning, but the other had the police involved and I remember describing the penis I'd been shown as looking like "a duckbill turned down," I literally could not stop describing it that way). But this new town was even worse than the neighboring neighborhoods I wasn't allowed to explore in my old town. Aside from the long walks to school and stolen leotards, the mutant children of the neighborhood trapped me inside of my mom's van, threw dirt and trash into our front door mail slot, and one girl even choked me in the laundromat for I'm not sure what reason. (I'd randomly have her as a classmate in German III years later, in my old town, and she'd act like we were old friends. (And I let her because I don't like confrontation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)) Eventually, our apartment was robbed while the whole neighborhood watched (mom was at work and little sister and I were with our cousins for the day). I was the first to notice something was wrong when I glanced at my first love (the tv) upon entering and saw it wasn't there. So we moved in with the man who would become my ex-stepdad, and my mom agreed to take me to my old house, where my dad still lived, each morning so I could catch the bus to my old school and my old friends, none of whom would ever choke me in a laundromat. And that's where I met Chris. (I think his name was Chris?)

We met through a note my classmate wrote to him. She and he were friends who exchanged notes (you know how we all exchanged notes) and I added a little "hello!" type of thing in the upper right corner of the page. I think I probably signed it "Love, Jasmine" because I was a tween and how else do you end notes to friends/strangers, but Chris (?) took this innocent sign-off as some kind of declaration and asked our mutual friend, through another note, if I'd like to be his girlfriend. My multi-year crush on Steve DePrince was continuing to go nowhere, so I agreed to have my first boyfriend, who I would come to meet only one (1) time. It was in the hallway, and his class was on its way into the gymnasium. I'm not sure why I was in the hallway, but we met, face to face, talked about who knows what, and never met again. We might've written each other some notes, and I don't know if I ever talked with him on the phone. I do remember talking regularly on the phone with a boy from one of those bad neighboring neighborhoods about The Fugees during this time. Why wasn't he my boyfriend?

That summer was a lot of something. Dad's new girlfriend was surprise pregnant with his third and her first child. She liked to tell anyone new about how doctors had told her, years before, that she wasn't able to conceive and now here she was, mid-30s, baby on the way. Karen was a lot of fun until she wasn't anymore. I was never the kind of child-of-divorce who immediately and without reason disliked her parents' new "friends." I welcomed them as new adults in my life because of my reliable chill factor, and was especially excited about them when they wound up joining in on our regular living room wrestling matches. I'm not sure when it started, or how or why, and maybe I was getting up in age to be wrestling with family, but dad and sister and I, and then Karen, would wrestle all over the living room on our every-other-weekend visits, getting trapped in locks and holds and getting bruised all over. Dad was large, sister was a tiny noodle, and I used my gymnastic ability to stretch and roll my way in and out of play. Karen would tie a bandana around her head and call herself Sonya. She would speak with an unplaceable accent, and she would growl and snarl and rescue sister and me from dad's grip. It was fascinating.

And then she got pregnant, and she was a big baby about it. She would wail and howl in agony during every contraction or whatever that happened, and enlisted the help of her bewigged, muumuu-wearing mother from Chicago to kick me out of my house during my summer vacation because my sitting around somehow made too much noise. Karen was no longer the Sonya I knew. It was because of her I'd be banished to the streets where I'd open an iced tea stand because there was nothing else to do and I didn't have lemonade. (I made no money.) This was also the year I got my period for the first time, on Memorial Day, so I was afraid to go swimming, for fear it would just show up again. My next period didn't come until Labor Day. I wound up being afraid to swim all summer for no reason.

But July 8th!

Karen had an inducement scheduled. With her mother and my father at her side, and her groaning taken all the way to the hospital with them, I was finally able to enjoy my summer vacation from the confines of my own home. I could stay inside all damn day and drink as much iced tea as I wanted as I watched Madonna dry her pits using a bathroom hand-dryer (plus other scenes) in Desperately Seeking Susan. The phone rang during the end credits and I ran to answer it, ready to hear the news that another little sister was born. But the voice on the other end was Chris (or whatever his name was)'s. He asked how my summer was going. I don't remember if we'd talked since school ended. I probably told him that I had a sister being born that day in the way that I always relay too much information to people who don't require it. With the smalltalk over, his voice turned into a mixture of nerves and sincerity. He mentioned that he still had one more year of middle school left, and that he was likely going to private school for junior high. He mentioned that we never saw each other or talked. He mentioned that we should break up, in whatever words he used. And even though we'd never gone on a date, and I'd only met him once, and we hadn't talked all summer, I could feel my face tingle with embarrassment, and I cried after we hung up.