Names in this story have been changed. Except mine.
In 6th grade, I had my first girlfriend. She was VERY mature. Her name was Alice. She seemed very sexually intimidating. She was very physically flirtacious. I loved that. It’s worth noting that all of this flirtation occurred prior to us becoming a couple. For months, leading up to our “getting together” every time she touched me, at all, in any way, a hug, a little tap on the shoulder, or whatever, I felt a rush of excitement and pleasure. In fact, our flirty moments got me through the day. It got me through the day because school definitely sucked.
My career as a subpar student started in 6th grade. I did not enjoy school. I was not a model student at all. In fact, most of my teacher’s disliked me intensely. I was what you’d call a “smart alec”, and for the most part, I was. My teacher’s probably got the impression that I thought I was better than they were and there’s a reason for that, I did think that I was better than they were. Some teachers I worshipped, like my art teacher, but most I found were extremely authoritarian and gave favors to students who kissed ass. Year’s later, I would realize that those students weren’t kissing ass. At least not most of them. They were just good students. Now that I’m a (sometimes) teacher myself I can see how much of a pain in the neck I must have been. Teacher’s love students who participate and support their classmates and do their work and seem interested in the material. I was none of those things. If I was interested I’d apply myself, otherwise, my attitude, generally, was “fuck it.” To boot, most of my teachers had also taught my sister. She was five years older than me and was a straight A student, top of her class, superstar legend. Now, I want to say, because I know she’s reading this, I am, and always was, extremely, extremely proud of this fact. My sister is super smart. But for me, in school, it sucked because all my teacher’s would brag about what a great student she was. For most of them she was one of their favorite students that they’d ever had in their entire teaching careers. They expected me to be a similar type of student. Not the case. In a sense, I think they hated me more for not being as good as she was. They would tell me about the amazing and memorable papers she had written and things she had done. It wasn’t a burden as much as it was an unfortunate coincidence. There’s that saying, “Suffer by comparison.”
Now, I have to explain something. Princeton is divided into four public elementary schools, at least it was when I was a kid, and each school has its own flavor. I went to Littlebrook. To be fair, Littlebrook was the blandest of the four. Most of the Littlebrook kids were nice, kinda preppy, lots of the Jewish and Asian kids from Princeton went to Littlebrook. Why this is I don’t know but it’s true. Very near to Littlebrook was Riverside. Riverside was kind of the crunchy children of the 60’s school. All of the kids parents’ had ferns and spice racks and National Geographic subscriptions. Littlebrook kids wore khakis. Riverside kids wore cordoroys. Then there was Community Park. Everyone called it “CP” Community Park was the elementary school where all the tough kids went.
Okay, let me explain something else: Princeton is divided into two parts – The Borough and The Township. Littlebrook and Riverside were in the Township, CP was in the Borough. The Borough, while home to Princeton University, is also home to some of Princeton’s grittier parts of town. Believe it or not, Princeton does have some grit. So, CP had a rough edge around it. Lots of CP kids had a street cred that we Littlebrooker’s and Riversider’s didnt. You always heard about big fights in the playground over there. Outbreaks of arson. Pen knives stored in back packs. That kind of thing. My best friend went to CP. He and I had become pals in nursery school and had remained close. When I hung out with my Littlebrook friends we’d play whiffleball or Atari. When I hung out with my CP friends we’d climb on roofs and break windows. My parents greatly preferred that I hang out with my Littlebrook friends. From my perspective whiffleball was fun and all but breaking windows was the best rush I’d ever had in my life.
Then there was Johnson Park. Johnson Park was on the outskirts of town. Hidden in the woods. It was where all of the really big houses in Princeton were. Johnson Park kids were extremely rich, extremely Preppy, and extremely cool. They were “sosh’s” straight out of an S.E. Hinton novel. I didn’t even know Johnson Park existed until I got to middle school. I recognized some of them from community league soccer on Saturday afternoons. There were always these Aryan Youth their in soccer cleats but I had no idea where they came from – Johnson Park it turns out. Once we all got to JW they instantly became the ruling class. All roads went through Johnson Park kids. Alice had gone to Johnson Park. This gave her extra cache. It was like a peasant dating someone in the royal court. I was a Duke in waiting. Or so I thought.
It’s sixth grade. Iniated by Johnson Park kids, there was a boy/girl party every weekend. We’d get kinda dressed up, slather ourselves in Polo cologne, gather in a basement, listen to The Go-Go’s, The Police, B’52’s, and Squeeze. We’d dance. We’d sneak around. We’d bask in the glow of being on the verge of young adulthood. Those parties were the best. I had my eyes on Alice. Everyone was pairing off. I’d meant to ask her out at several parties and not had the gut. I couldn’t take the waiting any longer. It was all I thought about – asking her out. Asking Alice to be my girlfriend.
So this one weekend, my friend Noel was having a party. This was going to be the night. And the party was good. There was a buzz in the air. Twitchy little pre-teens circling around each other. The lights were off. The music was on. We were in the stairwell. She was hanging on my leg. I can’t for the life of me remember why but she was hanging on my leg. This seemed like the right time to pop the question. I leaned in and I whispered in her ear, “Will you go out with me?” The words barely came out. I was so terrified. She said, “What?” Fuck! Hadn’t prepared for this. I had to do again. This time a little louder. “Will you go out with me?” Immediately she said, “Yes.” We smiled. Maybe hugged. Probably an awkard peck on the cheek. We went our separate ways. We didn’t speak again the rest of the night. She completely avoided me. We did not interact at all. Not one bit. I was bummed but sort of assumed that she’d grow to love me in time.
Monday, at school, I don’t think I saw her. I think she’d called in sick from school. It was okay though. I was nervous too. I had this girlfriend now and I wasn’t sure how that would work. Were we to spend great amounts of time together? On Tuesday, I saw her. We said hello, cordial. It didn’t seem like it was going that great. I sensed unease. All of the flirtaciousness was gone. She was cold, distant, not the girl I’d fallen for. We were strangers now.
Later that day my friend Richard came up to me and asked if he and I could talk. I could tell it was serious. I got butterflies in my stomach. He informed me that she had informed him that she wanted to break up and had requested that he broker the deal. A sharp knife cuts quick. He gave me a sympathetic pat on the shoulder and returned to his chair with a desk attached to it. So that was it. My first relationship. It lasted for three days.
Alice became a major pothead. She wore Grateful Dead t-shirts. She wore beads in her hair. She smelled like clay and turnips. She disappeared at some point. I think her parents sent her to boarding school because she was such a fuck up. She also stopped growing in 6th grade.