Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Brass Holes and Jazz Shoes

My best friend from seventh grade through high school was Carmen. Carmen was nine inches shorter than me, skinny, smart, respectful, popular, state cross country champ, honor society member, teacher's pet, modest, kind, blah-blah-lots of good things blah. I was her tall, blond, funny, dumb, fashion advising side kick. We heard ourselves described as Mutt and Jeff more than once.

We spent most of our time laughing at each other, but mostly at me. Carmen had an amazing way of blending in with a crowd or becoming invisible and therefore avoided a lot of public humiliation for things that she was solely responsible for. She also had a laugh that sounded a bit like a new born puppy grunting, short inhalations through her nose barely audible to the human ear.

We lived about half a mile apart on the same rural route, so we spent an ungodly amount of time at each other's homes. When talking about our parents, we would refer to them by their first names, because we thought that was funny and our parents have uncommonly old people names so it was fun to say, "Harry and Martha were a bit peeved that I parked my car on their side of the garage." and "Gerald and Faye are going to Colorado this weekend." Carmen's dad was a dead ringer for Sonny Bono and my dad had a striking resemblance to The Fonz. You can imagine the amount of fun we had with that.

My grandmother was house-sitting for us once and Carmen's dad stopped by to drop off some papers for my dad. When my parents returned, my slightly stunned and star-stuck grandma said, "Sonny Bono stopped by to say hi!"

Carmen had an older brother, Camron. He was a senior when we were freshmen in high school. This boded well for Carmen because her brother was a champ in wrestling and fairly popular so his buddies knew better than to mess with his little sister. However, her best friend was fair game. One of Camron's best buds was Bryce Cole or, as I appropriatley named him, Brass Hole.

From day one of my freshman year Brass Hole and his gang of Levi's 501-Stetson Cologne wearing gang had fixed their sights on me as target practice for their amusement. I never stood a chance to even introduce myself by name for I was quickly tagged as, "Albee", that would be short for albino. So, as Carmen and I would stroll to our lockers, Brass Hole and the Levi's 501-Stetson gang would walk down the hall and say, "Hey Carm, howya doin? How's Albee today?" Carmen would sneer and I would turn various shades of crimson only giving more credence to my freaky white locks and encouraging them to further point out how red my white skin could become.

Carmen turned 15 early in the school year and was able to drive us to school in her little blue Jeep. This was the kind of Jeep that guys use to go hunting, it sat up high on big tires, had little removable doors, no real windows, and a snap-on vinyl top. I hated that Jeep. It was nearly impossible for me to get my six foot body stuffed into the seat. There was nothing solid to grasp onto for assisting me in my launch into the Jeep. I never knew if I should try to hike my butt up into the seat and then fold my legs one by one into the side or kick my left leg in and then flop my body towards the driver's side and hope for a good landing. Carmen spent a lot of time waiting for me to, "GET IN!".

Being tall was a curse when I was young. I towered over all the girls and a large majority of the guys, including Brass Hole. I carefully chose the flattest shoes made. My favorite, were a pair of navy blue, leather, lace up jazz shoes. They had slick leather soles and were very cool and very flat. Unfortunately, the slick part gave me a lot of trouble. Our school janitor made sure that the floors in our hallways were shined to a mirror finish so while wearing my jazz shoes, I would precariously slide around corners, skate into lockers, skid to a stop or just fall down. I was constantly flailing around for something to hold onto to keep me from slipping: the stair railing, an open locker door, or an unsuspecting person were all frequently used to aid me to a stop. I usually had my books in one arm because this was in the day before backpacks were cool, therefore; I only had one arm to use to stable myself.

One winter day as school had let out, Carmen and I walked through the slushy parking lot to head home in her Jeep. Carmen did her usual "hippity-hoppity like a little sprite freakin' bunny" into the driver's side of the Jeep and then settled down in a comfortable position to wait for me to decide which launching method would be necessary for me to, "Get in!". I carefully secured all my books in my left arm and placed my pencil bag in my mouth. I used my right hand to open the little, but useless door to the Jeep and then kicked my left leg up into the passenger side. As I kicked my left foot, my right foot, donning none other than my slick jazz shoes, slid on the ice. I grabbed for the tiny metal door handle with my right hand just in time to keep me from falling in the slush and mud. It all happened so quickly that Carmen didn't realize I had suspended myself under the door. There I was, one leg hooked in the Jeep and the other sprawled under the open door unable to pull myself back up. I was mumbling through the pencil bag, "Arnen, I huck, I huck! Hef me! Hef!"

Carmen, laughing hysterically, jumped out and helped right me to my feet. I got up and embarrassingly looked around to see if anyone saw me. There they were, Brass Hole and the Levi's 501-Stetson gang getting a hardy laugh at my predicament from just across the parking lot.

I've blocked out what they must have said to me for weeks after that little stunt. But, since I was freely giving them such usable material, I can only imagine that I relived that humiliation over and over and over.

Ten years later, at my sister's wedding I saw Brass Hole. He and his wife entered the reception hall while I was standing by the door, his wife turned to me and said, "Bryce was really worried about coming because he knew you would be here and he feels so terrible about how he treated you in high school." I was standing there holding my sweet little baby girl and as sweetly as I could manage I replied, "Oh, goodness, that was a million years ago. I'm so glad you both came! By the way, did you know I used to call you Brass Hole?" They both looked at me and started laughing and then Brass Hole said, "I deserved worse than that!"

Yes, he did. Yes, he certainly did.


Mark said...

April, this material is too good to give away for free.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Ok. Now I'm a little depressed. I'm also 6 feet tall (and 36!), so I feel your pain :) Although I wasn't hassled to the extent you were.

But, I can commiserate on the wearing of flats around a bunch of semi-pubescent, short, teenage males.