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Someone tagged me in a photo from my 20th high school reunion.  My sister-in-law saw it and commented that I was one of the only people she knew who enjoyed high school reunions. She asked a peculiar question. “What was it like being the ‘It’ girl?”

That got me thinking. Who was the ‘It’ girl in our class? I don’t think we had one. There was (as in every high school across the country) the A-group—you know, cheerleaders, jocks, the “cool” crowd. However, as I remember, it was a very fluid group of people.  People joined and left, and then rejoined all the time.  It was a big school–I think about 2000 students.  I don’t remember being exclusive or not letting someone sit at certain tables in the cafeteria or lording over the hallways. Maybe it’s revisionist history.

I did not really stay within the confines of any particular group– the jocks, the drama geeks, the speech/debate brains or the ‘stoner/freaks.’ I remember being situational in my choice of friends. Whatever province I found myself in at that time, whatever class, game or event—that’s where I felt comfortable. I don’t think I hung exclusively with any one crowd.

There was only one constant companion in my high school days and that was my cousin and best friend, Nadine. We were inseparable.  We probably annoyed everyone with our constant giggling and whispering. I don’t recollect what we found so funny, but we laughed for four years straight. I’m not kidding.

I must say…the universe has a wonderful pay-back system because if I sit for any length of time in Starbucks trying desperately to write this blog, two giggly, annoying teenagers will take a seat at the table closest to me. EVERY SINGLE TIME. And…let me tell you, they are not as cute and funny as they think they are.

When I first joined Facebook, I received a friend request from a high school classmate.  He left me this message:

Is this the Kristine Lastname who fell off the stage into the orchestra pit while doing cartwheels in Mr. Mensch’s drama class?

Yes.

It was me.

Thanks for remembering.

I was doing cartwheels in class.  Across the stage.  *Eye roll*  Proof that teenagers do not use brains.

That’s how I know I wasn’t the ‘It’ girl. ‘It’ girls would NEVER tumble off the stage in front of a room full of classmates.

Our ancient, but gifted teacher, Mr. Mensch stood at the back of the Performing Arts Center behind the seating area.  Upon seeing my disappearing act, he yelled, “Krriiisstiiiinne!” at the top of his lungs.

Surrounded by darkness in the pit, I sat on my backside holding my ankle, dazed. I heard Mr. Mensch screaming “Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!”

His voice got louder and louder as he ran toward the stage.  The man had a BOOMING voice to begin with, so it reverberated across the theater. I distinctly remember the sounds of twenty students running across the stage or down the aisle, and up the side steps—lots of footfalls, shuffled movement, kids stomping around above me.

I looked up from the abyss of pain and humilation. Every kid in the class stood around the open pit door staring down at the idiot in the dark.

Mr. Mensch, our Shakespeare-quoting drama teacher, did everything with flair. He was known for his theatrical way of speaking and for his remarkable thespian-esque mannerisms. His white hair stuck out every which way as he peered down at me. “Are you all right? Are you hurt? Oh my god!”  He put his hands up to the sides of his face with mouth agape–kind of like the kid in Home Alone.

I looked from him to the amused faces of my oh-so-empathetic classmates (not!). “I’m fine,” I lied.

All I wanted was for everyone to go away.

Or at least let me crawl further under the stage to die.

Instead Mr. Mensch shouted, “Moooooove back! Boys and Girls!  Moooooove away from the pit!” His arms flailed around as he addressed me and the other kids in a whirlwind of near-hysteria. “Oh my god! Are you all right? Mooooove away, I said! Back up! Are you hurt?”

You would’ve thought I fell off the roof or the catwalk or something.

I didn’t know what hurt worse, my pride or my ankle. After I tried to stand, I decided it was my ankle. Two guys (was it you, Marty? Maybe Billy T.?) opened the bottom doors while Mr. Mensch continued to gesticulate with his arms while saying, “Clear the way! Clear the way!” He dramatized everything he did. Everything—even taking roll. “Krrrrrrrrrristine Saaaaaanchez!”

After the boys opened the barn-type doors at the base, I somehow crawled out. By then, everyone was laughing and making jokes at my expense—I mean really guffawing at my stunt. It was like one of those dreams where everyone’s face is distorted. You know, like you’re looking into a funhouse mirror, and they’re all laughing and pointing at you. Except for the distorted faces, it was pretty much exactly like that.

“Do it again!” someone shouted. (I believe it was you, Ron T.). Everyone laughed.

“Carry her to the office!” Mr. Mensch cleared a path through the rowdy students by flicking his wrists back and forth. “Everyone leave the stage! Go back to the classroom at once. My God! Staaaay awaaaay from the pit!”

“What pit?” Someone shouted.

“Didn’t you see the sign?” Anger tinged his voice now that he knew I wasn’t dead or horribly disfigured. His face flushed crimson. He followed the boys who carried me in one of those seats you make by locking arms with the other person. Since the orchestra pit was normally closed during drama, someone—probably Mr. Mensch, taped a sign to the door. “Orchestra Pit Open.” I saw the sign when they carried me out.

I don’t remember going to the nurse, or calling my parents or anything else that happened after that.

The next thing I remember was lying on our couch with my foot propped up with pillows after coming back from the Emergency Room. My ankle had swelled to the size of a baseball and a black and blue bruise spread across my entire foot. I got to stay home the next day, but then—

“Don’t make me go to school tomorrow! Pleeease, let me stay home one more day. Just one more daaaay. I’m dying! I’m in pain! I am crippled!” Mr. Mensch taught me how to be dramatic. Very dramatic.

They made me go.

I came into the classroom, hobbling on my crutches. Everyone clapped.  Some boy yelled, “Bravo!”

Sadly, it wasn’t even my drama class. It was homeroom—Coach Schiffer’s World Issues class. Not surprisingly, the word spread about my graceful fall into a pit.

The popular history teacher stood by the chalkboard. Much to my relief he said, “Quiet! All right. That’s enough. Miss Sanchez, take your seat.”

I couldn’t wait to start working so everyone would quit staring at me.

Just when the giggling and joking died down, Coach Schiffer smiled. “That was quite an entrance, but I hear your strengths lie in dramatic exits.”

Everyone hooted, howled and cracked up. In high school you cannot do anything stupid because news will spread quicker than wildfire–even through the staff, apparently.

I couldn’t wait until someone else did something equally stupid. They would forget all about my stunt. No one would ever remember.

Until the dawn of Facebook.

And you find the memory posted on your wall.

I had another embarrassing moment in Coach Schiffer’s class the year before.  Tony and Andy were identical twins. Well, truthfully, I don’t know if they were identical.  I could never tell one extremely tall, dark-haired twin from the other.

Even when we played in my grandmother’s front yard during elementary school, I used to address them, as “Hey, you!” Mostly, in terms of “Hey, you, let go of my braids! Hey, you! Give me back my doll! Hey, you! Don’t throw her in the tree. I’m telling on….one of you!” That tattling part always presented a problem.

Mrs. Smith’s typing class (where I learned my AWESOME keyboarding skills) was located across the hall from Coach Schiffer’s history class.

God Bless Mrs. Smith, she was a very sweet old lady, but the woman was almost stone deaf. Being horrible, obnoxious teens, we took full advantage of this fact. All those years of hearing the tap, tap, tap, RING, Zwwwert, tap, tap, tap, RING Zwwwert of twenty-five IBM Selectric typewriters took its toll on her poor, little eardrums.

Just as an aside here…The Grace Museum has one of those IBM Selectric typewriters in their “Communication Through the Ages” exhibit on the 3rd floor. That killed me. And confirmed I am old. The other day, I went to a photography exhibit. I happened to walk past the “Through the Ages” section. A school girl sat down to try-out the clunky thing. She asked her mother, “Where’s the screen?”

The curator answered, “There isn’t one. You type directly onto the paper.”

The concept of typing directly onto paper made her mouth pop open. I swear.

The kid pushed down on the keyboard and one or two letters came out.

“No, you have to push a little harder than that. Try it again.”

The little girl started again and POUNDED out a word or two.

“That’s too hard to do,” she said as she shook her head and stood up.

I tried it before I left. I bet all you 80’s-era grads out there do not remember how hard you had to punch those electric typewriters. We are so used to our soft-touch keyboards.  Kids today have it too easy.

Back to the story.

There I was in typing class. Even though I cannot remember what I did last week, I can tell you what I was wearing that day—that is how traumatized I was.  I donned chocolate brown corduroy overalls, a white baseball-style t-shirt with pink trim on the collar and sleeves. Due to some strange fad, I only fastened one of my overall straps.

I was looking all cool (or stupid, depending on the decade) with my overalls over one shoulder, ready to start typing. I must say, me sitting in my seat before the bell rang was an oddity. In fact, being in typing at all was a remarkable thing. I managed to accumulate 13 absences that year.

Yeah, kids…we had to pound on typewriters, but there were no automated phone calls to parents, no email absence alerts and no computerized record keeping for attendance. Nope. If you knew someone in the Attendance Office, you were golden. (Wasn’t that you, Adrienne?)

To make cutting class even easier, poor Mrs. Smith could only hear a tiny bit out of her left ear.  So, if one of your friends stood on that side and distracted her, you could get to the attendance sheet on her desk and erase the names. It was a group effort, but we pulled it off most days—well except for those thirteen times, of course. It’s a wonder I can type at all, really.

I haven’t been back to my high school since I graduated. Certain things about the buildings I can remember clearly–other things are fuzzy. Whoever designed and built MHS put doors on two sides of the classrooms. Not the front and the back…but the sides. One opened to C hall and the other opened to D hall or one opened to A hall and the other opened to B hall—you get the picture.

Why don’t I remember any windows in this place? Maybe that’s just my memory playing tricks on me–or maybe it really was built like a prison.

BUT…that day, I sat at my desk like a good student. I had just opened my brand new package of ‘erasable bond’ typing paper. We were responsible for bringing our own paper and if we forgot, Mrs. Smith gave us a zero for the day.  Erasable bond was a commodity.  My mother rarely sprang for the good stuff and usually saddled me and my sister with the standard typing paper that was half the price of the precious erasable bond.

Before I had a chance to insert a sheet into the typewriter for our warm-up exercise, Tony P. and his toady-friend burst into the room. Even though it was forbidden, they took the shortcut through Mrs. Smith’s classroom on their way to their classes in C hall.

His friend stood on the left side of my desk while Tony stood on my right.

“Looking like a fox today, Kristine,” his friend said. I turned toward him and smiled. His friend asked,”Don’t you think so, Tony?”  Just as I looked to my right, I saw Tony snatch my packet of erasable bond from my desk. The two basketball players rushed out the other door.

Fuming mad, I jumped up from my seat to follow the thief.  The bell rang just as I looked out into the hall and saw Tony disappear into Coach Schiffer’s classroom.  Mrs. Smith stood by the door. She put a hand up to stop me and repeated her mantra. “Class started. Sit down or I’ll count you absent.”

“But, Tony just took my paper! I need to get it. It was erasable bond!”

Mrs. Smith smiled. “Yes, you can use erasable bond. Sit down.”

“No! Tony just took my paper.” I pointed out the door.

“You need to find the stapler?” She wrinkled her brow.

I must admit–everyone was typing their warm-up exercise before the 15-minute Timed Test. It was very loud in there.

“No. Not stapler. Tony took my paper. I need to get it back.”

“You need to get a pack?”

I tried to talk loud and slow. “No. I’ll be right back. I need to get my paper. Tony took it to Coach Schiffer’s class.”

“You need to get a stapler from Coach Schiffer’s class? Not now. Wait until after this period.”

I held up one finger. (No, not that one!) I indicated that I’d be right back. The back of my neck burned red-hot because I’m knew I was missing my warm-up. I needed to get a good grade on my Timed Test. It seemed I’d somehow missed a few. (Ahem).

I marched across the hall and flung open Coach Schiffer’s door. He was at the board making the chart for Jeopardy—that’s how I know this happened on a Friday.  We always played Jeopardy on Fridays.

Coach Schiffer swung around to face me.

“Yes?”

I pointed at Tony. “He took my paper and he needs to give it back.”  I whined like a baby.

“No, I didn’t.” Tony held up both hands to show he had no paper.

Coach Schiffer said, “Give it back. Hurry up. We’re wasting time.”

“I don’t have it. I swear.” Tony stood up. “Search me!” He got a slow, suggestive grin on his face. “PLEASE! Search me.” The class thought he was hysterical–I wanted to smack the crud out of him.

“Give it back! What did you do with it?”  My voice got all shaky and loud as I held back a tantrum of monumental proportions.

I put my hands on my hips, toe to toe with Tony who stood a foot taller than me.

“Miss Sanchez, you’re interrupting my class. If he says he doesn’t have it, then you need to go back to your class.”

Tears of frustration burned my eyes as I raised my voice. “Coach Schiffer, I saw him take it. He took it right off my desk when I was in Typing.  He’s lying!”  I clenched my hands in fists.  “I swear!”  I stamped my Nike shod foot.

“Andy, give the lady her paper back so we can continue here.”

My heart stopped.   “Andy?” I squeaked out as all the blood left my face and pooled at my feet.  A sick feeling tightened my stomach muscles and made me want to hurl.  No one in the classroom moved a muscle.  It became so quiet I could hear the buzz of the flourescent lights.  Cold realization hit me like a first to the gut.  I could not move, but stood perfectly still, wide-eyed and shaking.

After a moment, Coach Schiffer understood.  “Oh, geez…” He rolled his eyes. “Wrong twin?”

Blushing, I said, “Yeah.” I hurried out to the hall as the whole class cracked up behind my back. When the door swooshed closed, Coach Schiffer must’ve said something hilarious because they burst out laughing again. I’m glad I don’t know what he said.

Mortified, I walked across the hall where I found Mrs. Smith standing beside her desk with her stupid, giant stopwatch. “BEGIN!” she said.

Noticing me, she shakes her head. “You cannot make up Timed Tests. You know that.”

The day just sucked. “B-b-but…Tony took my paper.”  I pouted.

“I don’t care if you got the stapler. You still get a zero”

I slumped down in my desk and crossed my arms. On the side of my typewriter lay the freakin’ pack of erasable bond. I trembled with fury.

I know he took it. I saw him.

When the typing test finished, I asked Patty K., “Where did this come from?”

“Tony brought it back when you were arguing with Mrs. Smith at the door. He came in the other door, dropped it off and left again.”

Yeah.

‘It’ girls would never totally lose their composure over a stack of erasable bond, become flustered and confused over which twin took it, argue with a teacher while sounding like a crazed lunatic and then miss her timed-test for no apparent reason.

I wasn’t quite an “it” girl.

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