It is 1994 and he is quietly singing the lyrics to “Better Man” by Pearl Jam to me over the phone. My homework is more or less finished and I have said Night to my 40-year-old parents who are massaging feet in front of the eleven o’clock news upstairs. He is singing “Better Man” to me but I am not listening to the words. I am not sure what is going on. He is twelve. He needs permission to go places, signatures on math tests, new underpants.
Waitin’, watchin’ the clock, it’s four o’clock, it’s got to stop
In French class, he writes me notes from across the room. Out of the corner of one eye only, I watch it move through sweaty hands. It is a little spitball of a note. A little sucker. I pretend to not know what is going on. What is going on? I am learning French here. I sit up straight. I am quenching my thirst for all things French but I am dying for this note to reach me. Please reach me. He is slouched in his chair made of wood and nails and his hands are folded atop his desk like he has done nothing wrong. Nothing wrong whatsoever. Folded like a good boy who will go to the store because his mother needs an onion for dinner. It is tricky because our French teacher likes to face us and not the board. Class is about speaking French, not passing notes. We will make it about passing notes though. This teacher is kind of old.
Tell him, take no more, she practices her speech
We are going with each other. That means we are open-mouth kissing. French kissing. We are doing it publicly in front a line of yellow school buses at three o’clock in the afternoon. Walk-men heads are hanging out bus windows and everybody is chewing gum. It is snapping like claps. Standing ovations because we are going with each other. I am unaware of what is going on. His mouth is huge, our eyes are open. It is disgusting. I want to go home and watch Saved by the Bell or something.
As he opens the door, she rolls over
The movie theater is cold. Two girls that I know sit between us like parents and I am not sure why they have been invited. We are there to see Little Women. I feel bad for him. I don’t think about my age. We are on a date, we think. Embarrassed, none of us move a muscle. It is only buttery popcorn that is missing mouths.
Pretends to sleep as he looks her over
High School acceptance letters are distributed in Homeroom. Envelopes tear open. Two seconds, not even, and he is crying. He is not the only one but he is crying. There is a girl wearing heavy gold hoops and a padded bra close by. She hugs him close, continuing her conversation with someone else. None of it seems appropriate. Official letters like these should be mailed to your house.