11th grade. Junior year. Where was I? Well, I lost some weight by reading fiction while using all the machines at the local YMCA and practicing fierce self-hatred. I ran for class president and lost. I discovered the comics of Lynda Barry and Robert Crumb. I discovered the plays of Sam Friel and Harold Pinter.
I did not discover masturbation. I missed that boat. While everyone else was probably frantically flicking the kidney bean to pleasure town, I was wondering if maybe SOMEHOW I was the lost Princess Anastasia. Time travel, maybe?
This is also the year I fell in love with two different teachers and a girl.
It’s strange how, looking back, some things are as clear as what I ate for breakfast this morning. They run together, alongside each other as facts, as emotional constants: A bowl of maple sugar oatmeal with blueberries. The time my family still lived on Jefferson Road in Princeton in a big yellow house and I found a bluejay sleeping in our front yard and poked it with a stick to wake it up, accidentally popping off the dead creature's head in the process.
Other things, other memories, even of times more recent are harder to pin down. I know that last night for dinner I had a baked chicken thing from Trader Joe’s, but sitting down to write about my high school years I find myself struggling to remember the timeline. When did it happen?
I know how I felt. I can remember what pictures were glued (yes, glued) to my walls at the time. But it becomes a difficult muddle, chronologically speaking. The only key I have to isolating moments from this period is to close my eyes and picture my old bedroom and the bedroom after that. Is this a sign that I was turning inwards? That the silly little world I was creating provided greater solace and amusement than the world outside? Maybe.
But also maybe I just really liked listening to my parents’ old records and reading the newspaper aloud in a tape recorder and pretending I was a news anchor.
I didn’t know what cool was. So it goes to follow that I was probably the coolest back then that I’ll ever be. For example: like I’ve said before, when I was in high school I was all about Sting. That’s right, not just The Police as a band, but Sting as an artist. Sting as a person. I thought he was dreamy and mean. He could walk through my fields of gold any day, plus tantric sex seemed pretty erotic.
Mind you, I had no idea what erotic was, exactly. If given a particularly well-made peanut butter and fluff sandwich I might have cooed, “Ohhh, this is erotic.”
The love of old men that Sting instilled in me led me to fall for our most-likely-perpetually-hungover music appreciation teacher. He was French and balding and taught class with the lights off. He’d be all, “Listen to this piece,” and play something on the stereo in the dark while sitting behind his desk rubbing his temples. I was pretty sure he only had one set of clothes and he stank like cigarettes, a natural aphrodisiac. That, his pallor and total unattainability made him ideal crush material.
My problem the year before with Ian was that he was too real, too present, too much a person. Ian was still around, still a friend, someone I had to interact with in a real way. French Dude was not. I don’t think he even knew my name and I was in a class of roughly five people. I found out later that there was a rumor he’d briefly dated another student a couple years my senior and weirdly this made him even more compelling.
I stood at the bus stop and waited for his car to fly out of the lot in the hopes that, to paraphrase The Police, he would offer me a ride. That did not happen. But that didn’t stop me from scrawling his name in a heart on the ceiling of my bedroom. My mom squinted up at the letters. “Who is that?” she asked. I dramatically cast my gaze to a photo of Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts from "Conspiracy Theory" where I had pasted a photo of my own face over JRob’s. “Nobody,” I said.
Once that quarter (and that class) was over, I had no choice but to redirect my romantic attentions, and now they were torn between two people. One, a male teacher I did not have any classes with, and two, an older girl in a science class I was taking.
The dude teacher was nothing remarkable. He had a slight paunch and a full head of brownish hair. He dressed relatively well and if I closed my eyes I could picture him chopping up logs in a forest or helping a horse in distress deliver a foal. I wanted to sit on his face. It was pure, ardent, sexual attraction. It was intense and hilarious. I’d walk by his classroom 80 times a day. I’d clocked his car and his license plate. We can only be thankful that we were not living in an age where I knew that Internet-stalking him was a thing. This was not a song by The Police. This was a soft-core B movie, the kind that flourished in the days post "Poison Ivy." And I was the villain.
My lady crush was different. Mainly, because, I do not think I knew that’s what was happening, or at least, that's what my confused journal from the time indicates. She was a senior and so, so intensely cool. She was sinewy and boyish and incredibly beautiful in an androgynous way. She was an out and proud lesbian and a serial heartbreaker.
While I knew I wanted to mash my genitals upon the brow, nose, and mouth of the dude teacher, with this girl it was confusing. I wanted her to think I was brilliant. She laughed at a joke I told and I recounted my success in my journal. I didn’t want to paint her name on my ceiling, but when I wore a long white wig to school for Halloween and she said it looked crazy-awesome and I should really do that to my hair, I blushed like a total idiot with the squirmy gush of nether-warmth I would have had if Sting had shown up and been all, “Becca, let me do Tantra to you.”
It was a crush. It was absolutely a crush. I hung on her words, on the drama of her personal life. I remember her showing up to class late one day, and she had clearly been crying. I couldn’t look away, and I just wanted her to know that whatever she was feeling, I got it. I understood. I wouldn’t ever try to make her feel better, but if she wanted to come over to my house and listen to the original French recording of the musical "Godspell" and not talk, that would be cool too. I was looking for someone to invite into my world. I just didn't know how to say it.