Sixth grade was an awful year for me. It is for a lot of people, I realize that now. However, the summer before, two of my best friends had moved away; one to Missouri with a troubling finality (or so it seemed to me at the time), and the other, suddenly and without a goodbye. So I felt, for the time at least, like I had been abandoned on the lonely planet that was Hayden Middle School.
I often refer to this time period as my "werewolf years". This was the same year that my voice began to change and I started growing facial hair. I was the only boy in my class who found himself in this awkward predicament. I remember avoiding laughter, because when I laughed my voice would alternate between the high pitched squeaks and deep growls. Time between schoolwork was passed by reading X-Men comics, adventure novels and occasionally writing bad poetry to a girl named Jamie.
We'll call her Jamie of course. For the sake of sensitivity.
Jamie had dark hair and was fair skinned. She was also awkwardly thin, now that I think on it, but she had a great smile and I thought she was pretty. She was also in seventh grade. Those of you familiar with the caste system of public school and the teenage years at large, will recognize the problem here. I had somehow gotten up the courage to write her a note that included the aforementioned bad poetry. A trustworthy contemporary of mine was tasked with delivery. The note was to go into the hands of Jamie herself. In front of her friends. In the seventh grade hallway.
I told my courier to make sure that this letter didn't fall into the wrong hands, because as you know there were enemies everywhere. The whole affair had the intrigue of The Three Musketeers, which I was reading at the time, and come to think of it, middle school has a great deal in common with 17th century France. Which is to say that there is a hierarchy, and everyone wants to either rebel or leave.
So it went. For at least two weeks, Jamie received poetry from me, and to this day, I think I was making genuine headway. She smiled when she saw me in the hallways and as the school dance approached, I thought I may have laid the extensive groundwork to ask Jamie out. I was looking forward to our first dance together and with each passing day, had become convinced that our romance would be more than just a tween fling. Our union would break down the social strata of middle school and sound the horns for equality for all. As my chance to ask Jamie out came closer, I knew nothing could go wrong.
I was leaving Mrs. McCammon's math class when everything went horribly wrong.
As I exited the room, walking to my locker, a line of seventh grade boys were going to computer class and they were all reciting my poetry directly to me.
My brain was on fire. How could this have happened? We had been so careful! I seethed with impotent rage and fear. My destiny had been set. My work had been discovered and not only would Jamie not go to the dance with me, I would be forever marked as the kid who wrote poetry to a girl outside of his circle. Doomed. This is how super villains are created.
Nothing more happened after that really. The seventh grade boys left me alone, mostly because I spent the next week in fear and all but willed myself invisible. Jamie also never talked to me again, despite Frank Puckett's designs to see us dance at the Middle school soirée we were both made to go to*. I spent the majority of the dance against the wall talking to my friends Robert, Mike and Matt about video games and comic books. It's also probable that All4One's "I Swear" boomed in the background.
A week later a seventh grade boy exposed himself to a teacher, and I was old news. Surely my brief foray into lovelorn celebrity would have dissipated after a week or so without the aid of someone else's poor decisions, but I was grateful anyway for the newfound anonymity. I also discovered that my note was snatched away by Jamie's English teacher during class, who saw fit to read it allowed to teach her a lesson. I'd say it worked.
There were many lessons about love before and after the "poetry heard round Hayden Middle School", but that event still serves as the most embarrassing. I do occasionally wonder what Jamie is up to these days, and what she thought of those notes. Maybe this is one of those stories I can tell my own children someday, when they're in the throws of some all important event that will disappear a week later but will somehow darken their memories forever after.
*Frank tried to get her to dance with me for some reason, but she declined. I still don't know if this was an attempt at irony on Frank's part or if he was genuinely trying to help a brother out. I've always leaned toward the latter.