Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Today's Prompt:
So think back to when you were 15. Let the year play itself back to you. Pick one memory — even if it’s just a mere moment that stands out — and write about it.

Deb and I had joined Thespians in sophomore year when we were 15. I liked being backstage, and she ended up running the box office. We had been best friends since we met in junior high, me a newly arrived kid from Chicago, a shy bookish girl with glasses and pimples, and she a smart math whiz, also with glasses.

We shared almost everything, but I think she was the leader and I the follower. I joined the band because she did - she was first chair flute, while I read music only well enough to play the glockenspiel and march.

So that morning when I got off the schoolbus, I looked around for her, as always. She rode in with her brother Harry, a senior, in his car.

C'mon," she said holding her stack of books clutched tightly to her chest. "I don't want to go to first period. Let's hide in the box office."

We went in, then started walking faster past the lockers, down the corridor to the auditorium. The school had been built in the 20's but the new classroom wing had been added, including a new auditorium with a big full stage.

Deb pulled a red-marked key out of her pocket, and opened the narrow door hidden in the lobby wall. We slipped into the tiny, darkened room. The window with the round hole in the glass was covered on the outside by a rolled shutter.

There were two tall stools, a tall wooden rack for holding tickets, and a quilted pad used for moving furniture. She flipped on the lights and then, startled at the brightness, flipped it off again. A pale greyish light came from under the door, and we looked at one another.

"I don't feel good," she said. "I just want to sleep." She put her books down and sat on the floor, and pulled the furniture pad around her shoulders.

Deb's older brother was a bright and funny guy, popular not for looks or athleticism, but for his brains and wit. He was going to State to major in Engineering - just like his Dad, who proudly told everyone. Her younger brother was still in elementary school, and she called him a pest. He bothered her, took her stuff, catcalled her friends.

Deb's mother was a quiet, kind woman I barely knew. She had some kind of illness, and when I went to Deb's house - which was rare - she was often in bed. Sometimes Deb had to go home after school, because her mom was sick and Deb had to do the cleaning and make dinner. Those afternoons, she rode my bus, because Harry had science lab, or golf-team practise, or All-State band practice at another school across town.

"So what are you going to major in at college?" I asked her once.

"I'm not going to college," she said. "Dad doesn't think girls need to."

That morning in the box office, we sat in the dark until we heard the bell ring to start First Period. After the halls had quieted, I turned on the light and unscrewed one of the light bulbs so there was just enough dim light to read by. And I pulled out a novel and read, while Deb turned her face into the furniture pad and fell asleep.

I don't know why Deb skipped school that day. I didn't ask her, and she never told me anything. She had the key - she may have hidden in the box office before. But she chose to take me with her that morning.

I was not a very sharing kid; I had moved too many times and was shy, not quick to make friends. I didn't have sisters, so I wasn't much for hugging and whispered giggles and intimacies. Frankly, I was a selfish and self-absorbed teenager. But that morning I knew without being told that Deb needed me there as she curled up to sleep in a tiny dark room, away from class, away from home.

We spent the entire day in the box office, hearing the bells ring each period. I snuck out once to the vending machines and brought us back cartons of milk and packets of cheese crackers. We crept into the dressing rooms backstage to pee. I turned off the light when the drama class met in the auditorium, as our classmates' footsteps and voices passed the tiny door. And I listened to Deb's soft breathing in the dark.


Liz Harrell said...

Wow. I wonder what happening in her life that she needed to do that? And that she needed you there? This is a fascinating post.

San Diego Momma said...

That was really, really good. I like how you told it and I am intrigued by Deb. I wonder where she is now. Wonderful story.