I did not know most of the other girls I went to junior high school with; at least, not very well. I knew who most of them were, but the pretty ones intimidated me terribly, and the cute ones made me feel inadequate. The butch ones made me roll my eyes and the metal/hair band girls wore far too much spandex for my comfort level. I didn’t understand what made the popular girls popular, and so just figured that was one aspect of junior high school I would never experience.
Once, I was the treasurer of our Intramurals “house”. Our “Houses” were named after Greek things: Poseidon, Achilles, Concordia, and Icarus. Poseidon’s colour was red; Achilles’ was blue; Concordia’s was green; and Icarus had a slightly jaundiced yellow. I didn’t know what it meant to be the treasurer of my Intramurals “House” (I was in Concordia). In fact, I didn’t know what it meant to be a lowerclassman in the “House senate” at all. We had this meeting in which I was very excited to be included, until John (the junior vice president) glared at me and said: “we don’t *need* a treasurer. You should just leave.”
I did leave. Turns out he meant “we’d prefer someone else”. I figured I’d done something wrong, but never figured out what it was. Good God, 13 is awkward. It’d be really nice, I think, if we could just kind of erase the ages of 13 and 14. Blech.
Another thing that was very 1960s of my junior high school was that everything was gender-segregated (which I think is a good idea in junior high, except for this next bit). Even the lunchrooms. Boys ate in one lunchroom, and girls in another. The girls’ lunch room was on the second floor of the school, and it got bright midday sun, regardless of the season.
There was this one girl; she was cute as a button. Seriously. Until I met her, I never understood what the phrase “button nose” meant. “Cute as a button” meant someone like her. She had long, dark, curly hair, and big bright blue eyes. She was short, and thin, and had a delicate, soft voice.
Once, in the middle of lunch, she stood up and said, “oh dear,” only her voice was so quiet only a couple of people heard her – I was sitting at the desk right beside her, and I happened to glance over in time to see her eyes roll back in her head as she collapsed to the floor. She began flopping all over the place, spit and foam flying from her mouth. Some twit screamed. Some other twit started to cry. One of the cute girl’s pretty friends knelt down and just held the cute girl’s hand.
“Oh God, is she DYING!?” someone screamed.
“Gross!” someone else hollered.
“Sit down and shut up!” the pretty girl shouted back. “She’s EPILEPTIC, not *contagious*.”
“Put your wallet in her mouth!”
“Hold her head down!”
“She’s going to bite off her own tongue and swallow it and die!”
The pretty girl glared. She looked up at me. “Is there anything I can do?” I asked.
The pretty girl’s eyes softened, and she smiled. “She’s really tired when she wakes up, and she’ll have to sleep. I’ll sit with her if you can go tell the principal to call her parents.”
“Okay”, I said, crimpling up the sandwich bag into my lunch kit.
“Hey,” the pretty girl said. I looked over. “Thanks,” she said.
“Most of these people are idiots,” I answered. “But you can’t really blame them. They probably think books cause mono.”
I’d never seen someone have a seizure before. I ran to the staff room, knocked twice and opened the door. I understood about the sacred sanctum a staff room is in schools; I’d been in many as ‘teacher’s kid’. “Excuse me,” I said. “So-and-so is having an epileptic seizure and will need you to call her parents, please, Mr. Scary.”
“WHAT!!??” Three teachers exclaimed, jumping to their feet.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” I said. “Such-and-such is with her. She’ll be fine, but needs her parents.”
Mr. Scary looked a little shell shocked. I turned to Mr. L. “Mr. L, will you please call her parents?”
Panic is a funny, funny thing.