I both feared and was looking forward to 7th grade. Grammar school had become too small a world for me, and the group of people I knew well enough to hang out with simply felt inadequate, good people most of them, just very isolated from the larger world. 7th grade came with a new, much larger school from greater western Petaluma as compared to our much smaller neighborhood. This meant many more people to meet and maybe expand my list of friends.
A grammar school crush never got off the ground because, mostly I was scared to death of telling the object of my affections anything about it, but here in Junior High, I was older, much more mature and ready for a great romance.
Now, where is the perfect girl . . . ? It took several weeks for one rise above the crowd. We shared only one class, but sat half a room apart. Fortunately, Petaluma Junior High was not so big that I couldn’t figure out where to find her, and watch — and verify her character – and you can drop those thoughts of how I was “stalking” her, because there was no Facebook in those days to study her from afar. So there, I HAD to watch her.
To analyze how she measured up to my hopes, I could have asked others, but I too was new to the school and knew only those who came from Grant Elementary with me, so I was left to something closer to deliberate but casual observation. Also, I looked it up and it didn’t qualify as stalking unless I started drooling.
So I analyzed; Wow – she sure is cute. She never stops smiling and what a smile! She has a great sense of humor, silly but adorable. No other boyfriend in sight (always a plus) and apparently plenty of friends of her own, so she’s popular but not snotty about it. Always nicely dressed without being a style queen. She clearly merits more careful study.
I watched for months. I knew her class patterns, where she liked to sit for lunch and I knew how to be close enough to hear her voice without being detected (actually pretty easy if you think it through. Your eyes on someone is obvious, but your ears – with a book in hand, no one could tell what or who you are actually listening to) and I had no problem simply sitting alone kinda-reading a book.
Yes, I really want to meet this gal.
No, I have no clue how to do that.
Maybe, more study. . .
What? Summer break and school is done for the year! How did that happen? I’m not ready yet.
Her image haunted that summer and when I came back for the new academic year as an even more mature 8th grader ready to step up and meet this girl, she was gone. Arrgh! Nowhere to be found. This is so unfair! And where did she go? How much longer do I have to wait for FaceBook to be invented. . . ?
I moped about my failure for months, but the God of young boys was not through with us yet.
I fell really hard for a girl while at Petaluma Jr. High. She arrived like an angel into one of my 7th grade classes where she effortlessly distracted me from Mr. Ashberry’s math lessons. This was well before I had completed the “Communications with Alien Species” course, and thus managed not to actually talk to her that whole school year. I spent much of my 8th grade time hating myself for this because she moved away and with her went my big chance at an amazing junior high romance. Now, she was gone forever (heavy sigh.…).
But, it turned out that the God of young boys is concerned about more than just keeping us alive through high speed box sliding and close encounters with homicidal buckeyes and decided to stir things up again about halfway through 9th grade by (YES!) bringing her back.
However, after a relationship I really wanted to work with another gal went south, I suffered for a month before being shocked one day when I was sure that some girl from 7th grade materialized. She was coming out of Mrs. Smart’s English class and sure looked a lot like my secret love from 2 years ago.
So, with my anxiety gauge registering something just over 110% and my big-boy courage turned up as high as it would go, I determined to find out for sure if it was really her. I quickly walked past the apparition and some friends who surrounded her – then spun like I’d forgotten something to get a full frontal view of her– and there was no mistaking that face. It — was — it — really — was her– a much more mature her – oh man! Now; I knew I had to reconstruct my wasted 8th grade courage to somehow not repeat my 7th grade mistake. I had to meet her.
I completely de-focused on my next class and began to assemble a great master plan with each step carefully thought through. I don’t recall how long it took to decide on and finalize the plan, but living in the twilight zone of knowing she was here again – after a full year of me with wimping-out, it could not have been very long. Now decided, I was dying to get going. Reviewing all my how-to-project-a-fun-personality notes, I steeled myself for the great gamble with my emotional well-being and took the seriously courageous step of – asking a girl-friend to arrange an introduction. . .
Hey – I was only in 9th grade and never actually took that class in alien communications.
Laugh if you like, but we were introduced and started a great romance. She was fun, cute, quite the smart-aleck, and was the daughter of a local pastor – so, yes, I learned how to treat a lady by going steady with one. Learning about her was so much easier, now that I could actually talk to her.
Despite her best efforts at turning me into a civilized young man – I managed to make plenty of mistakes but one day, I think I got it right. Here’s how it unfolded.
After school the two of us were always together and went wherever the gang was going. The best place was downtown Petaluma at the corner of Washington and Kentucky was Kings Diner who made the best milkshakes in town. I know this was true because I was in the 9th grade now and knew such things.
Some days she had to go straight home but she lived close enough to the campus for me to walk her home. We enjoyed each other’s company and got on fine, we were surrounded by good friends, but one particular day – – I had to deal with an idiot.
While walking her home, a young shmuck decided to come up behind us and taunt her with crude, insulting and even threatening comments. I shouldn’t really call him a bully, because he clearly wasn’t even that smart. I was right there with her. I was over a foot taller and easily out weighed his puny 90 some-odd pounds. Looking back, I think the twerp was actually trying to commit suicide by boyfriend.
We tried to ignore him at first, but he was having none of that and only increased the tempo – yelling things I won’t repeat here. I took her by the hand and walked us faster, all the while sensing her fear and tension building. I’ve never been a fighter, but my male damsel-in-distress gene was lit up like a road flare.
He wanted to scare her, but this only give me time to figure out how this might play out. I laid down what I thought was a decent plan but worried that he might get violent. If I waited long enough, would he finally go away or try to strike her? If he hit me, it couldn’t be too big a deal, but there was no way I was going to give him the chance to touch her. But, could I actually hit and disable him? How could I best stay between her and him at all times? He was such a small jerk, I worried how to defend her and cream this moron without upsetting her or overly wounding him.
Suddenly, he accidentally gave me an unexpected chance to settle things quickly. His afternoon shadow appeared at our feet so I could see almost exactly where he was even though he was behind us. On the other hand, he was now too close and I knew I it was time to put a stop to his threats.
With the loud-mouth owner of that shadow within reach. I dropped her hand, spun and grabbed him by the shirt front and lifted him off his feet and swung him over to where a car was parked beside the sidewalk and drug him over the hood, windshield, roof and trunk – trying to drag him across anything that looked like it would carve out a chunk of skin. He howled or screamed every time he bumped over some piece of trim and yelling something about how his older brother was going to find and beat me to a pulp.
When I ran out of car, I dangled him above the curb and pointed out to him that his brother was not here and I was. His eyes were huge and his expression changed, perhaps he finally realized what a stupid idea this had been.
Then, considering it to be the lesser of two options, I threw him into a large batch of juniper bushes that were right there in someone’s front yard. He yelped miserably as he landed – I think with good cause because, well, if you’ve ever had too close an encounter with a juniper patch – you know how much pain he was suddenly in. I maintain that it was a better idea than the alternative of throwing him out into traffic, which I had considered and rejected, because my girlfriend was still right there hoping this would all pass quickly with no more exposed bloody tissue.
We continued to her home, quietly, with both her arms wrapped lovingly around my victorious, strong left arm (because my mom taught me about staying between the girl and traffic when walking down the street together – thanks Mom) and I found this stage of the encounter — not at all unpleasant.
I never saw this purse-pet bully again (and I was on the alert for any sighting for the rest of the school year) nor did I encounter anyone who claimed to be his brother (but think about this, would you claim blood relationship with such a head case. . .?) so I’m at peace with the thought that by now, natural selection has most likely taken him out of the gene pool by some other means.
The whole event did give me something to think about for many weeks. I had never treated anyone like that before (wait – do sisters count?) and can only think of two other times that I had to raise my hands in defense of myself or someone else.
I had no real desire to hurt him but there was never a question that this punk was going to stand down or I would forcefully stop him. The only real question was whether I could bulls-eye him into the center of that juniper patch. Okay, there arguably might be one more question – whether he ever got out of that juniper patch. Surely he did and went home to lick his wounds, but (ick!) what if he’s still in there…?
Anyway, this gal and I remained close until, ugh, she moved again.
Nuts! Producer, please queue the happily ever after shot and music anyway.