Ugh, the bike rack story. In honor of me accepting the fact that my short story titled Ceremony may never be worthy of sharing, I will instead share my story of the seventh grade bike rack incident. In doing so I face my current fiction craft defeat with a recanting of the defeat I endured that black, black day.
Middle school was extra cruel because of how close it was to my house, too close to ride the bus but too far to walk. So I rode my bike. And that just gave me this pseudo sense of freedom. I could ride my bike to and from school, but once I got there, it got locked up in the fenced in and gated bike rack until the last bell rang. So in order to go home early I either had to leave it behind, tragic, or get one of my brothers to haul it over the fence. I have to admit though the urge to leave institutional structures was not as great in middle school as it had been in elementary. I guess because I got into being social, which meant that riding my bike everyday required balancing style with practicality. Miniskirts before leggings were a challenge.
Anyway a whole bunch of elementary schools converged into my middle school, so in sixth grade I got the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. We were all new, and some were very interesting, and I happened to have every single class with this one particularly interesting chic who, unfortunately, I cannot describe. I can’t even use her initials because she would freak out if she ever caught wind of this. In fact, speaking of wind, she was so paranoid that she would not eat vegetables during the school year. And see, that is enough to give her away to anyone who went to my middle school. But the seventh grade bike rack incident did not involve that friend I made in sixth grade, at least not directly. She did not ride her bike. She lived too far away, in the more affluent subdivisions and took the bus. Through her, however, I had made friends with a few other girls who were pretty talented dancers. And while we did not have dance class at our middle school, we did have drama and musical theater. So these very talented girls signed up for seventh grade drama class, which was a precursor to eighth grade musical theater, and I did too. I was an ok dancer. I didn’t practice enough to be really good, but I was pretty natural with the acting. I was hands down the best actor in our seventh grade drama performance. I played Dube Duddly. (That’s right, gender switching.) I played my heart out in that role. And even the parents of one of these very talented girls said so. So since my debut was such a hit, I decided to try out for the end of the year play.
None of my very talented dancer friends were interested in trying out for it, but a girl I’d been friends with since third grade said she’d try out. BG was a great person. A real steady person. She actually was an amazing gymnast too. She lived down the street from me and we used to play together a lot, but as we got older I stopped hanging out with BG other than to just ride bikes to and from school because she was a year behind me, so no way. And on top of that we had that year of separation when I was in sixth and she was in fifth. But BG and I had history. One time when we were riding our bikes home from elementary school we passed by a dirty freak who asked us for directions and when we looked in his car we saw that he was jerking off with a rubber blow up penis. You know, I wouldn’t believe the story either if I hadn’t seen it first hand. But it happened, and I was like, come on BG, let’s get a way from this sicko. Another interesting thing about BG is that her dad was some kind of an FBI agent, something top secret like that, and her family had lived in some real neat places, like Peru, and they had Peruvian decorations in their house. By the time I met BG, though, her dad was stationed in the culturally deprived, bubble community where I grew up. The diversity of my hometown, located twenty miles west of Fort Lauderdale, consisted of White Catholics and White Jews. I was in high school before I met any other Christian denominations. Course he was probably there for the drug boom that was spreading north from Miami, but I didn’t know anything about that at the time.
Anyway, so me and BG each tried out for this play on the stage of our middle school auditorium which doubled as the cafeteria. I don’t’ remember what the play was, just that neither of us got a part, but I do remember being immediately aware of the fact that I did not do a good job. We weren’t given any material to practice ahead of time, at least none that I was aware of, and so all I had to go on was the script they handed me at the audition. And I think I just read it wrong. With no iPhone to Google it, the role didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t understand the context, see. So I probably made up my own context, which still today tends to be pretty far off from the norm, and so maybe that explains my poor performance. I don’t know. But, in the moments immediately following my audition, in a state of deep sinking disappointment, while walking toward BG who was waiting for me along with our books at one of the cafeteria tables, I happened to have caught the attention of a very tall and broad shouldered eighth grade girl. I know that I’d never seen her before, but as I walked by I thought I heard her say something pissy about me. I don’t even remember what it was exactly, and the truth is, she might not have said anything at all. But in that moment, fueled by my heightened anxiety of coming right off the stage as I grappled with the fact that there was no doing the audition over, I believed that she did say something pissy about me. Whatever she said or didn’t say, it, or my imagination of it, and my own dismantling failure, fused to a nuclear point and darting with the momentum of light speed pissed me to the core. And I somewhat absentmindedly responded by mouthing the words “fuck you.”
Now, I know mouthing the words “fuck you” was not a nice girl thing to do, but I was not myself. I was shocked at the permanence of how badly I performed. You know that dream where you realize you have a final exam for a class you didn’t even realize you’ve been signed up for all semester and now there’s nothing you can do but fail that life changing test? That’s the feeling. Utter failure for my own failure. And of course the unknown eighth grader followed me and BG out of the auditorium on our way to the fenced in and gated bike rack, and as she followed she taunted me the whole way, demanding an apology. I was like, who the hell is this chic and why did she have to show up now? To add to the shittiness of this situation, not only did I have this big eighth grade bitch following me and my younger friend, but with her, as like her sidekick, was this other eighth grade chic who I did know, MH1, my nemesis.
MH1 and I also had history, but we were never really friends. The reason we were never friends is that she was supposed to be some sort of mentor for me. She had been my fourth grade TOT. TOT stands for Teachers of Tomorrow. My fourth grade class had two of them, two girls of course, and they both had the same initials MH. They actually also looked very much alike, coincidentally, freshly pressed clothes and really long ponytails, one on each side of their heads, with bows! TOTs are fifth graders who come into your elementary school classroom and take the role of teacher’s pet to a whole new level. It’s very invasive. They grade your papers, they put up bulletin boards, which means they know who won the creative story writing contest before you and your classmates know. They sit right by the teacher’s desk and get to hear the inside jokes that I guess only middle-aged women get and the way-advanced minds of fifth grade girls. Yeah, like I’m so sure those snobby fifth grade bitches already knew that they wanted to be teachers when they grew up. They were only a year older than me, and at the time I still thought I wanted to be a scientist just so I could wear a lab coat. Anyway, the point here is that MH1 was my TOT from fourth grade and so I always held her on a certain pedestal. She was a model of how much extra attention a pretty girl can get by being a goody-goody. So what the fuck was she doing hanging out with this big bully bitch, who was obviously hell bent on making me pay for my momentary loss of self control.
Well I sure as shit didn’t feel like apologizing. My dream of being in the school play died as I exited that stage. I felt too many emotions to deal with at once. So I didn’t turn around and settle the score right then and there. Me and BG just kept walking to the bike rack and when we got there we unlocked our bikes from the fence, but we couldn’t leave. The reckoner held the bike rack gate shut, with MH1 standing by, and reamed me out for what must have been at least an hour. Good Christ, didn’t she have anywhere else to go? And it was just humiliating shit, like how I wasn’t such a tough girl now, and I needed to watch my mouth. I was extra embarrassed, not just because of MH1 but because of BG being there too. I was supposed to be older and able to protect her. The truth is, BG would never have gotten us into a mess like this because she was a steadier person than me and probably had less of an ego. Still, she stayed with me. She had to, really, since the gate wasn’t opening until I said I was sorry. And, gee, that’s tough, isn’t it? Having to say you’re sorry when you’re totally not just sucks. I look back at that day and I am still so angry. At least BG stood kind of behind me so she couldn’t see how humiliated and frustrated I was at that older girl holding me against my will all just because of a momentary lapse from my usual nice-girl self, and poor BG, too, an innocent. If only I could take those words back. Why couldn’t I have just had another minute to get my head on straight after that awful audition and remember that most people, if they’re paying attention, don’t take kindly to younger, gifted and popular types mouthing off to them? And what was up with MH1? She was supposed to have been some kind of tutor to me, but she just stood by with a look on her face like, yep, you really did it this time, Squires. I felt so betrayed.
I don’t know what made me finally give in. I was probably getting hungry. But I did finally apologize and the big bully girl let us out. When we got far enough away, I cried. BG didn’t say anything. She just rode behind me in a single file till we got passed the bike path and onto our subdivision street. I never told anybody about it, not my mom or my brothers, certainly not my talented dancer friends. And BG was good with stuff like that. She never mentioned it again either. Just me, BG, MH1, and no-name bully bitch knew the most painful defeat of my pre-pubescent years. Of course the shit got way worse once puberty hit. But that bike rack incident set me back, that’s for sure. I never mouthed off to a girl who was bigger than me ever again. Fortunately I never saw no-name big girl ever again either. That’s weird actually. Like I said I have no idea who she was. I didn’t know her at the time and I don’t recall ever seeing her again. I would have remembered seeing her again. But I did see MH1 again, and again and again. And boy did she get her own comeuppance in high school big time, poor thing, some crazy sex rumor. Of course by then I was taller than her, and the sex rumor actually made her seem more human, but still, we never really did become friends.
So what’s the moral to this story? I don’t know. Defeat sucks. How about that? Whether you earn it or not. And yeah the lesson you learn from the experience usually helps out, eventually, down the road, but while it’s happening, and even immediately after, it sure does suck. Like this damn short story, Ceremony. I started it in June and I have fifteen versions of it, and I really like it, parts of it anyway, but damn if I just can’t get the thing to work. And my struggle with it is keeping me from working on anything else. Uh oh – scary realization – seriously, you’ve witnessed it – recorded for posterity. That is the gist of the story: accepting defeat and moving on. Wow. My new nemesis is Ceremony…