a young girl in Paris

January 21, 2007 – 5:26 pm

It was the first day of the seventh grade. Everyone was shuffled into the gym for orientation, laughing, looking around, adapting to the smell of the halls that would become the dull interior expected to inspire and invigorate the minds of an already lost generation. I remember looking at the trophies of past high school herons that are probably pumping gas or dealing with the mouths of angry children, scared but excited. All the schools in the surrounding area, Franklin Elementary, Hazard Elementary, Tomensing and Delaware Elementary were now combined for our first year at Palmerton Area Junior High.

Students were organized based on standardized tests that determined with blind impotency what level of education the system would bother to dispense. Smart kids went to 7A. Dumb kids would start in 7E and kids that couldn’t even tie their shoes would end up in 7H. I started in 7A. By eighth grade I would find myself in 8D.

First day, kids huddled with their friends from previous years of elementary school. It was loud. Everyone talking, summer this, fuck that, Zimmerman’s tea and wearing the best of this years school clothes laid out the night before since for some reason it always seemed necessary to wake up an hour early for that first day. The streaks of new shoes as they walked across the gymnasium floor singled out could almost sound like some kind of subatomic communication protocol only understood by the new shoes themselves.

There was always talk about people from the other schools, those with a reputation strong enough to escape the bounds of elementary confinement.

Mary Sargo was from Delaware Elementary. I had talked to her before during the summer, hanging out in Park University skateboarding with my friends. Someone said, “Hey, Mary Sargo is wearing and skirt. Check it out.” I looked of course and did my best, hoping there would be some pretty pink panties under that skirt. I don’t believe we could ever actually see anything but the anticipation was enough for all of us. She was what you would call a popular girl and for all the right reasons. She was pretty, came from a good family, had older sisters and brothers and was nice to most people.

Her father was a long time member of the administration, at that time working as a driver’s education teacher but previously had taught from math to science and in-between. My mother would tell stories of Mr. Sargo from her high school days. Years later I would get my kicks from writing ridiculous answers on my driver’s education tests and with a calm, almost reassuring tone that would make me laugh in ways he didn’t understand, or in ways that he most likely thought I didn’t understand. Mr. Sargo would say “Another fine job Mr. Hansen. You are a shining example of a model student.” The sarcasms would give me a lot more satisfaction then giving a shit about some stupid driver’s ed test.

Mary had no idea that most of the boys, budding with puberty, were having thoughts about what was under that skirt. It’s an interesting time, too young to fuck and too young to care. It takes time before innocence is disrupted by the realities of responsibility and the realization that it’s moments in time we hold on to and not the breath of another day.
Innocence is ignorance and she would glow as if surrounded by the piercing strength atop a spotlight of bliss. Later she would be my girlfriend. I don’t remember that quite like I remember the first time we all sat in that gym. So many like her would face the unbearable predetermination of the rest of their lives. Following in the footsteps of bitter men unrest with their lives and disgusted by their own fear and thirst for praise.

Last I heard she has a bunch of kids and married her high school boyfriend who hits her when it rains. I wonder, after she holds her bruises and looks in the mirror, was that the best time of her life, back in the seventh grade, desired by boys who didn’t even know what to do with their dicks. I wonder if she goes back to that time when she’s held down and forced into penetration, staring blankly at the wall, violated by a drunken husband and three little legacies that each ask, “Why are you crying mommy?” and all she can say is “Go back to bed!” and swallows the pill that has become her only Paris.

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