I was sitting there in my seventh grade English class and Miss Earles was being ruthless as usual. She had me terrified from day one, she knew that everyone hated her and she capitalized on that--an iron fist sort of teacher. For example, at the beginning of the year she passed out these huge packets. Pages and pages of grammar rules. There would be the name of the rule and then at least a paragraph about that rule, correct ways to use it and examples of its appropriate usage. Nice, right? No. Every time that we wrote an essay, she would correct it in red pen--like teachers do, and then she would write in the margin the name of the grammatical rule you just obliterated. That's normal, that's fine, that's whatever. The homework assignment would, then, be to go home and hand write the rule, copied word for word, ten frickin' times for every single one that was desecrated in your pitiful piece of crap essay. Hours and hours of tedious homework. On her kindest days she would allow us to use actual class time to work on this bastard assignment. Even still, I don't really know what a comma splice is but I do know that I way overused it back in Jr. High and I guarantee that I probably still make those errors now. That assignment didn't train me to learn grammar rules, that assignment trained me to copy word for word without absorbing any information. I'm genius at it. It also united everyone in our hatred for Miss Earles. This was the one thing that boys and girls all the way from the seventh grade up to the senior class could bond over. Man, I hope she's not on Facebook. I wonder if my memory is embellishing her a little bit.
So one day in early October while we're all hunched over our desks, copying feverishly with cramped hands, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Quietly, I turned around and a classmate handed me a note. Let me just take a minute to interject and tell you what kind of a student/ kid I was in those days. In a word: scared. I never wanted to get into trouble. I never wanted anyone to look at me. I never wanted to go to the bathroom in the middle of class for fear that someone would see me in the hallway and ask what I was up to. I wanted to live my life unnoticed and uncalled upon. I didn't talk during class and I most certainly didn't pass notes. I was a mediocre student living a mediocre life and I was very, very okay with that. My last moment of individuality was in the third grade when I got third place in the county-wide spelling bee. On my way out to the bus to take us home, I slipped on the ice in front of everyone. To add injury to insult, my knee started swelling so much that my tapered jeans were prohibited from being pushed up to get a look at it. I had to pull my pants down so that my principal could inspect my knee and make sure that it wasn't broken. That's what being an individual gets you--standing in your unicorn underpants in a cramped bathroom with your principal and a teacher's aid trying to fend off a lawsuit. No thank you.
So like I said, a note got passed to me and I panicked. I saw that my name was written on it. A note to me? Me? Who could possibly have anything to say to me? On one hand I was relieved that I wouldn't be expected to pass that note along any further. On the other hand I didn't like knowing that I would have some hard evidence of rule breakage on my person. Oh, the nausea. I shoved it into my notebook and kept copying until the bell rang. On the way out of class, everyone kept patting me on the back and saying phrases of congratulations. I was confused and forgot about the note until a few hours later when I opened my notebook to do my homework during homeroom. That was a much more lax environment, even for an ultra tense kid like me. My homeroom teacher was named Miss Frank and she had a tattoo on her ankle--it was her first year teaching and everyone liked her a lot. I swear to you, there's not a single boy that went to SHS who won't remember Miss Frank. I guess she was pretty hot. But, then again, when your competition is Miss Earles it doesn't take much to be the hot teacher.
I digress. So there I am in homeroom at this table surrounded by upperclassmen, on whom I had varying degrees of secret crushes, and I open up my note. It read (in horrendous scrawl and numerous eraser marks--shockingly, this note had been heavily edited):
LIBBY WILL GO YOU OUT ME
Let's not kid ourselves. His name was obviously not Tevin. But while this guy is not currently one of my Facebook friends he is, undoubtedly friends of friends and how rude would it be to read the following things about yourself a dozen or so years after the fact? I'm not going to pretend that we haven't all grown up. So, world, this guy's name is Tevin. Anyway, the thing about Tevin was that he was kind of an icky guy. He was kind of an icky guy who hung around the jerks who would pick on the gay kid and say things like, "Yeah, what he said!" Tevins are not clever or smart or kind. They do not shower regularly and they do not have a shot with the pretty, classy girls. In retrospect they probably have a kind of sad home life. Tevins (for whatever reason) hope that they have a shot with the chubby, quiet, shy girl who sits in the middle row and is working on an ulcer. I balled up the note and threw it away and spent the rest of my homeroom period pretending that I wasn't crying. Little did I know that in ignoring Tevin, I had accepted his proposal.
A few weeks later, we were celebrating fall-break with a class trailer ride. Everyone was piled up on hay bales and we were riding out to Mrs. Turner's farm where we would roast marshmallows and then our parents would come pick us up after dark. I had one or two friends that I sat with and we were having enough fun snickering and daring one another to go sit next to Mr. Buck, our class sponsor. Mr. Buck was the male equivalent of Miss Frank (homina homina homina). Did the hottest teacher's name really have to rhyme with... that? It really wasn't fair to him, poor guy. The limericks were endless.
There came, from the back, a rumbling. The boys were laughing and pushing each other. We heard a low chanting, "do it! do it!" Everyone turned to see Tevin walking on the wobbly trailer, tripping over people's feet. I knew he was coming at me and I considered bailing out but I knew that would just cause a bigger scene. Tevin sat down next to me and didn't say a word. Mr. Buck stared at him and warned him not to get up again. Great--keep him here, thanks a lot! My face was hot and I refused to look at him. I kept my head turned to my friend Heather and let her go on and on about her boyfriend, a much older 9th grader.
Without warning there was a hand on my leg and a tongue in my ear and the cheers from the boys at the back of the trailer was enormous. I don't remember what Mr. Buck said to Tevin but I do remember that he used the word "hell" and then pulled me over to sit next to him. Tevin shouted that I was his girlfriend (as if that would suddenly make it appropriate). I rode the rest of the way with Mr. Buck's arm around me. He patted my shoulder and kept saying, "I'm so sorry." Tevin's parents came to pick him up as soon as we got to Mrs. Turner's farm and he wasn't allowed to eat a s'more. He was also forced to apologize to me and in doing so he also broke up with me. I guess it just wasn't working out. I ate burned marshmallows and all the pretty, popular girls surrounded me, gushing about how lucky I was to get to sit next to Mr. [B]uck.