Ninth grade was a tough year. Is it ever not? I believe I was the only freshman in the history of teenage girls, to have my father walk me to my class on the first day of school. It was a tradition. I was not going to break it. I think my father was more embarrassed than I was.
Other memories from that year: A boy, who I still remember the name of, being harassed for popping a pimple onto the mirror in the boys’ locker room. Our “real” school was still being built. We were all in trailers. There was no senior class. Let me take that back. There was no “class.” We could hear the construction crew working through our courses. It was a fantastic educational environment. Highly recommended. The boys’ and girls’ locker rooms were simple trailers with a lone mirror in each. It was the size of a small medicine cabinet. It was distorted and wavy. A huge splurge for the school.
I imagine poor Chris (that is what I shall call him) popping his pimple onto that lonely mirror. Someone seeing. An eruption. The finger pointing. Tough break. It followed him through the remainder of high school.
I had three body suits that year. Do you remember those? They were shirts that snapped at the crotch like baby clothes. Yep. And women wore these contraptions. Willingly. The opposite of a chastity belt. A fantastic trend. Girls will know what I mean here. Boys will be confused and wonder if I meant they really were the modern day chastity belt. Nope. I meant what I said. You figure it out.
I would alternate wearing them. I am a sadist.
Which brings me to my last memory: the girl who almost burned down the school.
Otherwise known, as me.
We lived thirty miles from school. My mother would drop me off in the front before making her way to work. Of course, being the true teenager that I was, I was neither grateful nor appreciative of this. In the classic teenage brain, this was her duty. What else was she going to do?
I remember I was wearing my favorite body suit. It was the color of pepto bismol and had a plaid pattern. It was the perfect outfit for mayhem.
My mother pulls up to the school in her white Ford Taurus. And just as I am about to get out of the car, smoke begins to pour from underneath the hood.
The car stalls.
My mother jumps out. Flames are starting to peek out from their hiding place in the engine.
“Get out!” My mother screamed at me. “Help me push this.”
In hindsight, I have no idea why she thought we needed to push it.
But it made no matter. I was not getting out of that flaming car. I mean, how embarrassing. So I sat there, in my bodysuit, with smoke billowing its way towards the windows.
It was a grand entrance.
My mother was determined. She was pushing that car.
I slowly crawled out of the car. Big exaggerated efforts. This was such an inconvenience.
“PUSH THE CAR!”
I grab my side of the car. My mom grabs her side. And we push the car.
Into a telephone pole.
Which immediately catches on fire.
Which is twenty feet away from a classroom trailer.
Which happens to be my first class.
So, we stand there and watch our masterpiece. Our beautiful creation. Our flaming symbol of panic. It was the poster child for what not to do if your car erupts into flames.
We were so proud.
My mother, being the pyromaniac that she was, urged me to go to class, as she stood and bathed in the embarrassing inferno.
I slunk into the classroom.
Nobody noticed. I was the only one sitting in a chair. The rest of the class, including the teacher, was positioned in front of the sad trailer window. The room was froth with excitement.
“Oh my gosh! That car is on fire.”
“Look at that pinto burning.” This one stung. I still remember it. My cheeks were red. And not just from the heat of almost committing a felony.
“It’s going to burn down the school!” This was met with cheers.
“Whose car is that?”
I kept wriggling in my seat. And not just from the bodysuit. I was one of three ninth graders in a geometry class full of tenth graders. This was way before this was a common practice in California. I had always been really proud to have my courses with the upperclassmen. But now, it was backfiring (ha, a pun) on me.
I looked at the chalkboard. I don’t know about you, but I was ready for some learning. Let’s get educated! I ignored the crowd in my peripheral vision.
Any day now. Come on, teacher! I sat up straighter. Let’s do some proofs!
The teacher finally noticed the freak. The one student staring blankly ahead. Sitting straight in her seat. Nose in the air. Chin proudly up. Pencil at the ready (better hide this from my mother. Good kindling). Her pepto bismol shirt covered in grey soot.
“Are you okay?”
Huh? Me. Am I okay? Um, I’m just trying to get an education here. Why would this be abnormal?
I blinked. My voice was shaky. I meant to say those words, but instead, “That’s my car,” creaked out of my mouth, unwillingly, like a teenager getting out of a car.
“THAT’S YOUR CAR?!”
The teacher shouted. I immediately wished a lifetime of bodysuits upon her.
The class turned around. One giant eye in a giant head on a pack of teenagers.
I tried to act nonchalant. Yea, so. What of it? I simply nodded.
“Well, what are you doing in this classroom?” Asked the first teacher ever.
I simply stared at her. It’s the teenage super power.
“Get out of here. Go help your mom.”
I stood up. Shoulders slumped. Excited whispering behind me.
“Who is that girl?” Ouch.
“Do you think the fire is going to spread to the school?”
“Why did they push it into the telephone pole?”
I left the classroom. The giant eye burning into my back, granted the power from the flames out the window.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. I remember standing there and watching the firemen put the fire out. My mother picking out a new car. A maroon Camry. So reliable it would last through my sister’s college years.
The next day, we went back to the scene of the crime. The telephone pole was black. This time my mother did not need to tell me to get out of the car. I jumped out.
I made my way to the classroom. I could see our creation out of the window.
I heard a whisper.
“Hey, that’s the girl who almost burned down the school.”
I gave them a look. My superpower turned full force. Quiet.
“That was so cool.”
I sat there stunned. An inappropriate smile creeped its way onto my face.
Upperclassmen started talking to me after that. I wasn’t popular. But I wasn’t not. I had gained a certain notoriety. I was a badass.
“The girl who almost burned down the school.”
Hey, I’ll take it. It could be worse.
* This story was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge on the Daily Post. It is sadly a true story. Told from the point of view of my not-nearly-as-nice-as-I-am-now teenage self.
And mom, I’m sorry. I love you!