Sunday, November 26, 2006

Past Tense

At home for Thanksgiving weekend, my husband thought it would be amusing to drive past my old high school. It is at the bottom of a deep hill, where the urge was always to speed, much like the desire to race through those four years. A Staples used to share the lot, where we would buy snapple iced teas from the vending machine. The woods surrounding the school were filled with skeletal trees this weekend, but is dense and thick in the warmer months. Once, someone found a dead body in those woods and we all rushed to the windows to look. Later there was an assembly where the principal, a rabbi, chastised us for being so disrespectful of the dead.

High school was an anxious time for me. I entered as a nerd, with patent leather shoes, slouch socks and irritatingly new contact lenses. I was hyper aware of the social strata, and desperately wanted to be accepted. I soon found my niche, with girls that were smart and funny despite the fact that they were not a part of the crew that most of the boys desired. It was my first exposure to the heady, addictive nature of intense female friendships -- the ones that can keep you up at night, or make you cry like a heartache.

As the years progressed, my curls smoothed, lips were glossed and learned that my bony clavicle was actually attractive. Friendships deepened, and not only with girls, but with boys who I called late at night and watched Headbanger's Ball with but never even thought of kissing. I am sure I was an accidental tease, but an Orthodox Jewish day school breeds an innocence that rarely exists anywhere else in a teenage wasteland.

While highschool as a whole was an exhausting and tumultous venture, there are moments that I sometimes miss, and when I do, I miss them hard. I miss the whole notion of sneaking out past your parents, of driving around with loose cigarettes rolling around on the dashboard, only to be smoked at a diner that was filled with transvestites at 4:00 in the morning. I miss my friend Elizabeth's closet, where we would scrawl our secrets in marker on the inside of the door. Her parents were older and calmer than mine, and they would never care that she defiled her closet. I miss mixed tapes, particularly the ones with St. Elmos Fire tunes. I would use a quote from a song on the mix to title the tape depending on the recipient. Tapes were named things like "Walk forver by my side, all my days are yours" and "Hold on to 16, as long as you can". I miss notes penned in class, with loopy handwriting and doodles and dreams of better things. I miss laughing until we could not breathe, which happened once a day at least and often got me into heaps of trouble.

I only have one friend from high school left. And it makes alot of what I miss feel smaller than it really was, much like the school itself, the lockers, the workload, the worries -- the good and the bad -- shrinking with time.

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