Freshly scrubbed, in navy blazer and slouchy khakis, I am at the eighth grade graduation formal. Oh, the irony.
No, I am there not as a dinner server like my less fortunate classmates; those would be the children farting at me from the door to the home economics room, but as date of one Keli Ren, eighth grade graduate and mysterious older woman. With the oh, so cool spelling of both her first and last names.
She is fourteen. I, a mere thirteen. Quite the thespian for her fourteen years, Keli won the district drama guild award this year for her harrowing and incoherent portrayal of Helen Keller. A slight inch too tall to be considered prime total babe status, she is still assuredly hot. Envy of every other girl, she is that specific sub set of hot known as “interesting pretty”.
Hopelessly fashionable, Keli is ahead of her time. While her giggly counterparts wear three layered pastel A lines with feathered, parted down the centre hair, Keli’s dark auburn hair is cut blunt, just below the chin. It is of course, the best hair for that mildly disinterested vibe; a requisite absent minded stroke at the crown, followed by a dramatic left sided head toss. The perfect intro for spewing forth something wicked and profound.
Then of course, there is the dress. In her black, ultra short, ultra tight mini, leg accessories subtly intoning “I am artistic in patterned dance tights and desert boots”, Kelli gives the staple slut skirt new, snobby girl appeal.
During one of the frequent conversation lulls in the group of nervous eighth graders (and me), Keli dead pans, “I’m so bored. OMG, look at Megan Tierny. She like, dances like her drunk brother did at my sisters wedding!”
Profound? Not really. But oh, so accurate.
I laugh, as oblivious Megan dances like a drunk, straight boy at a wedding. But instantly I am conscious of how much and how long I laugh, always aware social suicide is around every corner. I am after all, a grade below. My specific place on the arm of Miss Ren, is a result of one thing and one thing only. Being a far better 50 metre sprinter, and star of the track team, than most of the seventh and eighth grade boys combined. But never forget, I’m a seventh grader. With a curious and oddly platonic fascination for Miss Ren.
As the slow, melodic buildup to one of that springs biggest hits begins, Keli whispers wide mouthed, “OMG, I love Split Ends so much.”
From somewhere to my right I can see the putrid carcass of Donald Darcy, eighth grade bully, but popular by his default jock status. Fuck, he sees me. This should be fun.
With sweat stains the size of dinner plates he lumbers up to us, ”Hey Rae, bet you never heard of Split Ends, huh? Where they from little boy”. I give you a hint MATE, SKIPPY”. Laughing convulsively he punches his tag alongs.
Gritting my teeth until they hurt, I wonder if he knows the meaning of subtle. I pause, attempting a perplexed, furrowed brow, praying he catches the bait. When he speaks, I am again reminded just how unnecessary prayer really is.
“HA, HA…Australia you idiot! “SKIPPY, “MATE”, HA HA”.
Grabbing Keli’s hand, I pause, and like it’s an after thought, I say, “Actually, they’re from New Zealand. Christchurch. Skippy”!
Keli looks down her nose at poor Donald, snorts, and leads the way to the dance floor. With the new star of the eight grade formal and witty one liner smack downs following closely behind.