this left the initials of approximately 15 boys eligible for scrawling with glitter pencil on the bus seat in front of you, or carved with your thumb nail into a church pew.
unfortunately, not all 15 of them were necessarily attractive. maybe:
eight of them had avoided a slick topographical zit map across their forehead;
six didn't pick their nose in second grade or fart during the christmas program in third;
maybe one was not related to you, but had the same last name and you'd grown up together in a very vicious and sibling-like way;
and one kept drawing unicorns and rainbows and even though he was funny, you only liked him as a friend. ...
then, take into consideration that i was being run through these same formulas by those same boys, and sometimes other candidates prevailed. my forehead sometimes read the rockey mountains.
by the time i was in eighth grade, i'd liked tom for six years and when i didn't like tom i liked brian and when the burden of the ginas and mollys and kellys weighed too heavily, i dabbled in liking adam. lather, rinse, repeat.
jeremy's dad was in charge of youth groups and after school religion classes for the public school kids. this bubble of sweaty man made a two-hour daily commute from the suburbs.
something had happened in rosemount: jeremy's sister had died unexpectedly and maybe he had been caught smoking his grief. whatever. for some reason, he was sentenced to a junior high as a st. pius chief. riding in to rochester with his dad every day. let me tell you: the ladies of st. pius x were ready to welcome him.
for at least two years, most of us had been shrieking our way into puberty. taking those first tentative swipes down our shin bones with a disposible razor, in an act that was more like peeling a potato than shaving; negotiating the limitations of an untrained ball and socket joint in all things bra-related; combating foreign smells with powder-scented secret deoderant and $2 sample sized designer imposters perfume.
all while surrounded by boys that, because of familiarity, had the sex appeal of the cabbage patch kids we had only just recently aborted from our teenaged lives. [mine was named kendrick fairfax. his birthday was oct. 1. ... he'd be legal drinking age by now. his older sister, fae clarissa, is probably married].
jeremy had everything that an eighth-grade girl could want: a fantastic swath of natural hockey hair -- no perm required -- a black nylon pouch pocket jacket with flourcent trim, and an exotic background. he practically came from a big city.
jeremy skulked around school for about two days saying very little, peering at us from a curtain of side-swiped bangs. after lunch on the playground, we surrounded him, questioned him, and all-but performed the school song in his honor. he smelled a little bit, i noticed. like his armpit had been trapped in that same nylon jacket for weeks without reprieve or even a bit of wind.
it smelled great.
eventually he told neva that he liked "cherry" and then eventually he said that i was cherry. i'm not sure why he called me that. i like to think he had just seen the movie "the outsiders" and thought i had beautiful hair like diane lane.
i'm pretty sure he just couldn't remember my name.
we held hands from the lunchroom to the playground and then right up until the second before one of the junior high teachers would ask us to disengage. our first kiss was behind a pine tree next to the church during the school carnival. we made out on fannie's boyfriend's couch after school. jeremy was wearing dirty grey tube socks, mangled by a suspect wash-to-wear ratio.
during the junior high class picnic, fannie, travis, jeremy and i hiked away from the kickball games, snagging pop cans wrapped in tin foil for the trip. across a creek i fell into, ruining my new vuarnet t'shirt and bloodying my ankle. we ended up next to a wooden welcome sign that said "farmers community park." during the awkward moments where we worked up to kissing, i traced the letters backward and we laughed at the name "farmers community krap."
on the last day of school, fannie and i stood outside of st. pius and thought of the boyfriends we were leaving behind. travis and jeremy still had another year of st. pius chiefdom. our seventh-grade homeroom teacher pulled up in an old brown sedan and asked us why we were sad:
"we're going to lourdes," we told him. "our boyfriends will be here!"
he snorted and drove away.
jeremy called me once that summer from travis's cabin. the backwoods connection was immediately lost. he eventually transfered back to rosemount. and then later i heard he died.