Monday, February 16, 2015

Laughing Too Loud

I had forgotten middle school. Or maybe I wanted to forget. This afternoon, I was reminded. The energy, the unresolved tension, coming together, flying apart. They're like electrons at this age, swinging from proton to proton and never staying in one place. But whenever more than one of them is together, there is a lot of electricity.

I was the driver. Picture me at the wheel of my Suburban because I had four boys and possibly a little sister to bring to the pool and needed enough seats for them. The music was not quite loud enough. I could hear every word the boys were saying, even the stage whispers. I pretended I was stone deaf. That helps. They have come to believe that I am stone deaf. Then, after picking up the last boy and finding out that the little sister wasn't going to make it, the boys saw two of their friends, girls, not just little sisters, but real girls, walking on the sidewalk in the neighborhood.

Pandemonium broke out. It was hard to drive. So much cacophony. Rather than be that stodgy mom, I pulled off the road next to the girls and told the boys to roll down their windows and say hi to their friends. I even told Nick to offer for them to meet us at the pool.

Oh, that was too much! Boys, girls, bathing suits, all at the pool together?

Oh no. They were not ready to invite the girls to the pool. I turned on my turn signal since I was mostly, but not quite off the road. Cars zipped past. The kids were yelling to each other. It was a wonder anyone could hear a thing any of them were saying. They were all grinning. One of the girls had pink wires on her braces. The other girl had already had her braces taken off, I realized. Nice. I remember that kind of energy, vaguely. It was agonizing. Did I say the right thing? Did my miniskirt look right? Did I look cool?

I remember walking the circuit at the county fair. You'd think we'd get tired of going around and around in circles, stopping to talk, to flirt, or just looking to see who was looking. This was the very same. Did I squeal in those same decibels? I must have, forty years ago. I'm sure I wasn't nearly as demure as I wanted to appear in my purple miniskirt and white blouse tied at my waist. I must have laughed too loudly at dumb jokes, grinned in that over-exuberance trying to make sure that certain boy know it was him and not all the others that I liked.

I couldn't tell who liked whom today. I've been told that Nick likes her as a friend and has a crush on someone else. The other girl, possibly? I have no idea about the other boys either. I am not to know. It isn't any of my business except where their safety is at hand. Even with Nick, it is none of my business right now. Nothing is happening yet, not even anything simple.

They fluttered in each others presence. Even on the phone, after I had bid them goodbye and had driven off, their voices fluttered. Three phone calls in all. Boys calling out to the girls, the girls calling back responses.

And yes, I could hear some agony in their voices too. How could I not? I remember the pain of all that love, needing somewhere to go. It is like electricity and I remember how it burned me up when it could not escape. And none of it escaped except in occasional kisses, and usually with the wrong boy, nearly always the wrong boy, until many years later.

It's no wonder people don't want to remember middle school. It's no wonder they were all laughing so loudly.

Thank you for listening, jb

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