Valentine’s Day. Well, what can you say? I woke up this morning to find my stalker, yes, I think of her as mine, had enlisted her husband to harass me. Block, block, block. The shredder-guy is coming to release me of my deluge of papers and I’ve yet to gather the papers together (but not the transcripts of her texts and screenshots of her threatening to hurt me). Not an auspicious start to the holiday – maybe I should just sit this one out.
Gathering my stuff for the shredder, I realized that I was a magpie in another life – surely the monstrous number of books, photos, and papers is a sign. One box contained a yearbook from middle school – 8th grade. An infamous year of that awkward stage, the year after I had settled in Alabama when I knew enough not to carry my monogrammed shoe bag from Scottish boarding school but not much else. Academically, I was bored out of my mind being a year or three ahead in most subjects. And completely flummoxed by the teacher for English, Spanish, and French. She had a kind heart and taught conversational French by the book.
After two years of French taught by a Frenchwoman, I was way, way ahead of other students. In this class, we sat around memorizing little dialogues before reciting them with another student at the front of the class.
Remember 8th grade. The hormones. The preoccupation with skin imperfections. Always before the yearbook picture. The tight jeans and bowl cut hairstyles. Who was responsible for those atrocities? Those damn polyester shirts that gapped you know where. Always. Or the button popped off after giving a book review. Yes. A bad time.
French class was my respite. I could daydream and fret depending on the day, state of my hair, cooperation of my shirt, or clarity of my skin. I do remember the time I had to recite my little French ditty with the cutest guy in school, Serge. Not ever forgetting his name, his full name, but only giving you the first name so I can bypass the humiliation of someone contacting him.
Serge stood at the front of the class in his bell-bottom jeans. With the knife-like pleat. Wearing a chest hugging shirt. His blonde hair cut in a mullet. Green eyes half-shut. Skin like freshly churned butter. With his lazy lion looks, I thought wow. Wow. Frigid air conditioning lifted his hair, and I thought WOW. He’s so cute. Maybe I said it aloud. My mouth was open when I heard my name called and called again. I shook my head. Eek. I stood up knocking over my chair, tripped over my neighbor’s chair, and stumbled to the front of the class. I could do this. I knew I could. Do this.
At the front of the classroom, all eyes turned to us, the teacher said, “Begin.”
I looked at Serge and thought no bloody way. But it is school, and I’m a good student. He smiled at me without looking at me. In my general area. Hormones, adrenalin mostly, raced through my body.
“Ou … “ I looked at the teacher. A red spot formed on my flat chest.
“Go on,” she said. I clenched my fists. Somebody in the back of the classroom giggled.
“Ou guardez-vous …”
I felt more red spots creep up my neck. Serge smirked at me. He knew he was the coolest, cutest guy in school and I was just a dork.
“Ou guardez-vous … “
I bit my lip. So hard that I remember tasting blood. Burning splotches broke out on my chest, neck, and face. People in the front row of desks would not meet my eyes; facial muscles straining, not cracking a smile. The middle to the back of the class was out and out laughing.
Serge must have thought he was going to play with me. “What do you want to ask me?” he said arranging things in his pant pockets. By now, I could see the red splotches combining; instead of a collection of measles-like red bumps, I had Scarlet fever.
There was only one way out of it.
“I’ll take the F,” I said to the teacher.
“Ou guardez-vous vos saucisses?” The vignette would have me asking the cutest guy in my grade where do you keep your sausages? Sometimes in life, you just have to sit one out.
Oh, good, here’s the shredder guy. He needs to obliterate this yearbook then I can have a laugh and get on with Valentine’s Day.