[Ed. Note: While going through a memorabilia box recently, I found this “Life Story” by my friend Peter Sears. (I wrote a tribute about Peter in Don’s great “The Way We Were” book for our 60th.) I’m adding this to our Class website, partly on its own merits, and partly because it has a similar theme to Dick Bentley’s ongoing series starting with “A White Dress,” to which I added my own similar story in a comment to Dick’s contribution. — Sandy]

By Peter Sears

I hang at the high school bike stands and lock my bike and then, pretending not to like my spot, unlock my bike and move it to another spot and lock it up again. I do this a couple of more times to come to homeroom with her already in her seat up front so that I can pretty much stare at her the whole homeroom period without anyone noticing. My friends, if they find out, will work me over. So I am careful sneaking good looks at her, like I’m putting a cape over her and drawing her to me, saying things to her that I can’t even hear.

After homeroom, I probably won’t see her again until after lunch. That’s okay. Lunch is dicey because I sit with my friends, who gawk around, crack dirty jokes, and guffaw. So that means I don’t see her until Latin, sixth period. She’s terrible at Latin. When she is asked to translate, I just die. She doesn’t know anything. I doubt she cracks a book. I love Latin. I love her. If only I could save her, swoop her up in my arms and carry her down the hall to, like, shop or study hall, or maybe right out to the ball fields, murmuring Latin love words. That way she wouldn’t understand a word and would have to ask me what I’m saying. I’d just smile. But maybe I can’t carry her that far, she is bigger than I am.

In Latin, when I am called on, I try not to speak too enthusiastically. I don’t want everyone thinking I am doing it for her. I am doing it for her. I do everything for her. Have you heard of the ablative absolute? Well, that’s what the Latin teacher asked her about. She sat there. I wanted to stand up and shout, Ask somebody who knows! Like me! Ask me! But I cowered there, for her, for me, for everyone crushed by an ablative absolute. We don’t even have the ablative case in English. The teacher is just mean.

I should be grateful, I guess, I am not in any of her other classes. English class could be worse because when they didn’t have enough copies of The Merchant of Venice, they switched to Romeo and Juliet. What if I had to read Romeo when she read Juliet? I’d commit suicide. Well, pretty close. What if someone else got to read Romeo when she read Juliet? I’d hate him, I’d challenge him to a duel and he would probably say, “You’re crazy,” and my friends would laugh their asses off. I’d like to ask Romeo about his baggy pants and what about dancing with Juliet, pressing her to him?

What I’d really like is to get taller. Coach is asking me about it. We have this play where I set a screen for the other guard, but I’m so short the guy guarding me can just reach over me and block the guy’s shot. So I don’t get to go in for that screen play anymore. I’m sent in now only to foul guys, to keep our starting players from fouling out. The ref likes to yank my jersey up to see my number and holler it out. He says he’ll call a technical foul on our team if I can’t keep it tucked in. I don’t believe him, he can’t be that mean, but coach believes him. Coach likes to say, “I ask you to take one foul, not two,” and look around as if he just made it up.

I would much rather keep my jersey tucked in anyway because, when it hangs down over my shorts, it looks like I only have a shirt on. That’s what my friends say, laughing their asses off as usual. The cheerleaders look away, embarrassed for me. I could die. But I can get up and down the court faster than anyone. They call me Butterfly. They call me Speeding Bullet. They call me Winger. I dribble too hard, the ball comes up too high. I outrun the ball, but one thing about playing, I don’t worry about what my crazy body is doing.

The problem is I don’t get into the game very often — maybe every third game — and just long enough to foul some guy, who looks at me as if I’m a jerk. So most of the time I am sitting on the bench. When coach calls your name to go in the game, he leans over and shouts it down the bench to paralyze you. It paralyzes me. I have to stand up. What I do if I have been thinking of her and getting a little crazy is to lean over and rush up along the bench to the coach and lean down on one knee to get instructions — you know, like which guy to foul — and then I slide over to the scorer’s table, check in, lean down on one knee and pray. I don’t look down.

If she were at the game, I wouldn’t care if I didn’t play a second. There are always the warm-up drills, she’d see me. I could wave. I wouldn’t do that, though. And if I did get to play, I’d play much better with her cheering. I could whisper to her later that she had inspired me. She probably wouldn’t believe me, but I could smell her breath and her hair and try to store it in my memory.

Cheerleading tryouts are coming up. I hope she tries out. I know she would make it, she’s so pretty. But maybe not. A friend of hers told me that she is not trying out because she thinks cheerleading is dumb — where is her school spirit? — and she doesn’t want to go to all those away games, and she can’t jump, and she doesn’t want to learn the dumb cheers. Heck, you learn them by hearing them all the time. She’d be a gorgeous cheerleader. I can see her on their bench, that skirt, that sweater, those little white sneakers. Makes me dizzy.

I dream of her waiting for me after practice and, sure, walking home together. I would probably be aching big time pretty much the whole way and trying not to show it, you know, just talking and walking slowly, carrying her books and not looking down.

Once I speak to her, that’s it. She will know I like her and tell her friends, and then everyone will know. I might as well carry a sign around, but I sure would be proud to be her boyfriend. I would hate people asking me questions about us, though. I’d want to say that I’d like to talk with her about it first. Then they might think I wasn’t much of a guy.

What I’d really like is to hang around and talk with her as if we were just hanging around, but I don’t know how to do that. I mean, what do you say when you don’t have anything to say? Some guys are good at that. They talk to girls a lot, the popular guys. My life isn’t like that. I go to class, I have my friends, I go to practice, I do my homework, and I take care of my bike. Sometimes, I’m called to the principal’s office and help with some sorting. The secretaries are nice to me. I don’t know much of anything else. I know what happens, though, when I think of her. It hurts.

Comment here