When I tell people I was a painfully shy little kid, they look at me with this weird anticipation… like they’re waiting for the punch line. But I really was. I wouldn’t raise my hand in class if the paste-eating kid who sat beside me was free-basing it under his desk. This could stem from an incident on my first day of kindergarten but that’s another story which will eventually become clearer after I complete my regression therapy.
But I digress.
There is something I share with Sarah Palin [besides genitalia]. Just as she can see Russia from her house, I could see my grade school from my house. So I walked every day. And I had shoes, thank God, so this isn’t one of those “I walked ten miles to school in waist-deep snow with no shoes” bullshit. The bane of my existence was not shoeless-ness but rather an obstacle called The Crossing Guard. And back in the day? The kid who bore the heavy burden of keeping us younger kids from being hit by one of the four cars that went down our street every day was a bona fide authority figure. And I feared him. He was a sixth-grade boy which put an extra slice of Holy Shit on this third-grader’s fear sandwich.
And then….the Incident.
It was a bright, crisp Spring day. I was wearing a light blue, wool jumper with cross-cross suspenders in the back probably worn by my two older sisters before me which, given the age span, made me a fashion disaster. Not to mention my horrifying plaid lunchbox…PLAID! Oh, the humanity, the injustice!!
And this next part is difficult to write….
On the day of the Incident, I was late for school. Late. For. School. That’s like saying My Mom Got A Job or My Parents Are Divorced which no one in my neighborhood said in 1968.
And so it went. My mother shoved me out the door and told me to run. I did, but it was endless like one of those crazy dreams where you’re running as fast as you can but never getting anywhere…and that wool jumper was heavy and hot and I knew what was waiting for me when I finally got to school….late. I was Dead Girl Walking.
And then there he was. The Crossing Guard at the bottom of the hill. With his back to me! He doesn’t see me! He’s gazing up into the trees, picking his underwear out of the crack of his ass! How will I get his attention? How will I cross the street? Should I make some noise? I may have to speak to him!
No! I can’t!
And I ran home and collapsed on the kitchen floor.
My mom shoved me out the door again after reviving me with a strong sniff from a Mr. Clean bottle cap.
I had no choice now. I had to run balls out down the hill and across the street…alone….with no help from That Bastard, ADD Crossing Guard who was long gone. Happy now, Crossing Guard? I could have been killed by one of those four cars! Or impaled by the hood ornament from Mr. Sawyer’s ’66 Plymouth Fury but hey, at least you dug your BVDs out of your ass you selfish prick!
I looked both ways fourteen times, closed my eyes and ran.
I raced up the hill to my school only to be faced with obstacle numero dos.
Being that it was Springtime in Illinois, our school black top was covered in dark, murky rainwater…Our Own Private Lake Michigan.
And it had to be navigated.
My choices were: A) go around which would mean being even later because Lake Michigan was pretty fucking wide that time of year….or B) run through the middle and hope I didn’t hit a deep patch.
I chose foolishly and my hideous velveteen oxfords found the deep patch. I went full frontal into the murky void.
The next thing I remember is showing up at the door of my third grade class. My teacher looked me up and down, pointed me to my seat. I slinked to my desk without a word and sat quietly mildewing the rest of the day.
In case you’re wondering, the approximate weight of a soaking wet, wool jumper is forty-six pounds.