Fifth period, study hall. I’m not sure who came up with the idea for a study hall, but I have a couple of thoughts. The first is some well-meaning educator intent on not overburdening kids with inordinate amounts of homework. Can’t we give these kids just a little time each day to get their heads down and do some work? she probably said.
My other guess? Study hall is the invention of the Guys In Black Tee Shirts Who Jam.
In my six academic years of study hall the only people I ever saw study were guys frantically cramming for an exam, and by “study” I mean “writing crib notes all over themselves.” My go-to move was the inner sides of my shoes. Nobody bothers to check shoes, and by simply crossing your legs you have a cheat sheet in your lap. That little study tip is free, kids, though I don’t know how practical it is in an era when white leather Nikes aren’t the predominant shoe.
Also girls. Girls like to study. Yeah, I said it. Before you call me out for that sexist comment I’ll go ahead and cop to it. I think women are smarter, better organized, and more focused than men. Except when it comes to finding nip slip photos.
Six years of study halls, six years of watching guys practice kissing their desks and waiting for the sleeping kid’s drool to drip from his desk. Six years of rumors about the juvenile delinquent beating off in the back row. I wasn’t having any of it this year, so every day I requested a hall pass with the pretense of going to the art room. Most days I made it, and I’d spend the hour hiding and doodling in my supply room cave. Once I took the opportunity to hide in the trunk of my friend Jarod’s Camaro and ditch early on his doctor’s note.
Sometimes I wandered the hallways and enjoyed the silence. An empty high school is a wonderful thing, with its waxed linoleum floors and orderly rows of lockers. Ours were painted in bright, cheery covers like orange and yellow that triggered Paisley Underground earworms from The Rain Parade and The Three O’Clock. I liked the empty hallways, with their lack of taunts and cruel laughter.
The cheerleaders were selling daisies that week. Valentines Day tomorrow, and me without a girlfriend. But that didn’t mean that I was without a flower — someone dropped a daisy near the bright yellow lockers.
What happened? Maybe unrequited love, the kind that inspires a tittering “oh my God” when the poor, red-face bastard is gone, all of his screwed up energy spent delivering the little daisy. Maybe the flower was collateral damage in a lovers’ quarrel, a blossoming but unwelcome olive branch. Maybe some misguided girlfriend bought it for her letter-jacketed man, unaware that he didn’t go for that pussy shit.
I picked up the sad little daisy and straightened its petals. I liked it. It mattered, but I wasn’t sure why. When I got to the art room I’d draw it and —
“Heyyy, Jiiiim.” I wasn’t alone in the halls, after all. A little coven of bad girls — the ones who smoked and fucked and yelled “Hell yeah, motherfucker!” from their drunk boyfriends’ Camaro windows — this little murder or redneck crows stepped out from behind the rows of lockers like Pinky Tuscadero and the Pinkettes. “Aw, you got a flower. Did Lee G. give you that for Valentine’s Day?” Pinky sang.
“Honey, Lee would give me more than this,” I said, never breaking stride or turning my head. The Pinkettes burst into laughter but it was directed at Pinky, laughter of the “you got burned” variety.
“I bet he would you fucking faggot!” Pinky yelled. “Yeah, you better go on to your faggot boyfriend, motherfucker!”
That young lady grew up and is now known as Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Honestly I don’t know what happened to her, or most anyone for that matter.
Anyway, the following day was Valentine’s Day. What a horrible time to be a recently dumped, depressed teenager with abandonment issues. I missed Sherri, but I’d blown my shot with that mix tape. She thought I was an asshole; besides, rumor was that she was dating one of her brother’s friends, the same guy who paid me for a Billy Idol portrait. Oh, Sherri/Our love holds on/Hold on! Hold on!*
During lunch I found a cheerleader and bought another daisy. I found Sherri sitting at our table with her best friend, the table that had been my lunchtime home for three years but now was off-limits. She looked so cute. (Sherri, not the table.)
I stood in front of Sherri, extended the daisy. She smiled, and then I ate the flower. To this day I have no idea why I did it: spite, anger, lack of impulse control. All I know for certain is that I felt like goddamned Doc Holliday as I moseyed out of the cafeteria.
*Did you guess that this line was from Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie”? If yes you are either: A) Kind of old; B) In need of some better music on your iPod; C) Both; or D) Steve Perry.