Unwritten Rules Chapter 3: "Rise Again"

When I was a sophomore, I took Samantha to her school’s Homecoming dance. Since I did not have a car or a license at that time we tried to make it as hassle-free as we could by having everyone meet at her friend’s house. The dance was after a football game and she played the saxophone in the Medical Lake High School pep band, so I came to the game wearing slacks, buffed shoes and a dress shirt under a sweater and a light jacket. I really didn’t want to be fully dressed at the game because I looked a bit out of place…but, I had no other options as we lived too far away to just go home and then come back later.

We arrived early in order for Samantha to set up her instrument and music folder. I had played in the Pep Band at my school so I knew the feeling of having to arrive early enough to prep. Especially when the temperature dropped into what felt like sub-freezing temperatures and that your lips and tongue could freeze to your instruments’ mouthpiece (speaking to brass players) or your fingers would turn bright red and then white and arthritic (to all you flute and clarinet players out there). Our drummers never seemed to have an issue with wearing only jeans and light jackets.

Fortunately, the weather was only going to be a balmy forty-eight degrees for that night so who needed anything extra like gloves or a wool hat? My only hope was that the weatherman was wrong or that we could leave the game early in order to get ready for Homecoming.
“Did you want to sit with the crowd?”
“No. I’m just fine here with you. Do you want me to hold your music for you?”
“Can you hold it steady?”
“I can try.”

We used music stands at my school EXCEPT at times when the wind was too strong, when we were at away games or if we were too lazy to lug one up from the band room and trudge up an incline with instrument and stand in hand. It was easier to bring your instrument case (with pep band music folder enclosed within, if the size allowed) and then just leave after the game was over, returning with the instrument on the following Monday morning. Now, of course, there were people who memorized their parts and had no need to even bring their sheet music and as much as I had the utmost respect for those, I hated them with a passion as well.

The stands eventually filled with students, parents and other spectators. The section that was roped out for the band soon swelled up. Medical Lake High School was twice in size as Reardan (An “A” league division school in the Washington Interscholastic Sports Association compared to Reardan’s “B” division) so it was obvious that the band would have scores more members, as they weren't needed on the field.
I do recall thinking that it wasn’t the size of the band that mattered but the quality of the sound and I had hoped I could come back to a home game the following Friday and think we were still better. However, I refrained from saying anything negative about the band or the team as I sat there, holding Sam’s music as she played the school fight song. I only made one comment.
“Bigger crowd than what he have at Reardan.”
“You go to Reardan?” a voice behind me snapped. I turned to acknowledge her (I wasn’t about to be touted as some snob or something or other). She held a flute in her hand and was now no longer playing with the rest of the band.
“Do you know Lisa Spiner?”
“Yes, I do.” I did know Lisa…I didn’t talk to her as much as I should have during high school, but I did know her...and this girl looked just like her. Same height, hair, face, thereabouts…so I had to think if this was Lisa trying to put me on the spot or something.
“When you see her, tell she stole my boyfriend.”

I looked at her for a few seconds before answering with an affirmative “Sure.” Would I really do it? Yes, but on my own time and under the right pretext…as I was sure there would be an interesting story on Lisa’s end.
I looked back to Sam, who, even though she had been playing the entire time, had heard everything and merely rolled her eyes.

III. Rise Again

The next morning, I pleaded with my parents to allow me to drive one of their cars to school Not that I didn’t want Jason to take me, it was for if I needed to stay after school I could do so without an audience or someone waiting for me when I had no idea how long I’d be. Truth be told, I had no idea if anything would even occur. Maybe, absolutely nothing would occur because I was taking in all the wrong signals. What was supposed to be a “hey, just seeing if you’re okay” thing had grown a bit out of control in my mind and maybe she wasn’t interested in anything else I had to say. (Later on, I would learn that this was called “co-dependence”—something that chokes relationships faster than a Taco Time burrito.)
But, how would one explain her meeting me in the copy room the day after? Coincidence? Dumb luck? My best option was to simply ask her. It would be nerve-wracking and incredibly demanding to try, but it was the best option.

I was able to drive into school that morning in a 1991 Dodge Dakota with the only stipulation being to take it only to school and then back home. Not a problem, I thought, as it would remain parked and I would go off on my search on foot if I had to.
I arrived at the high school with no further plan of action except to find her and wing it. However, duty still called as this was yet another day in Spirit Week and Nick was waiting for me near the door.
“We have a meeting with Mr. Richards at noon.”
“Concerning Friday?”
We walked into the building and I hoisted my backpack up before I asked another question.
“Nick, what is the big deal about the dress code? I don’t suppose you’re picked out something in satin with matching stilettos?”
“You don’t get it, do you?”
“No, that’s why I’m asking the question.”
“I have been asked to get this done by a lot of people.”
“I guess you have a petition with signatures?”
“No, because that is not quorum.” There he went, throwing parli-pro in my face once again.
“When's the meeting?”
“Eleven-thirty. Meeting room in the office.”
“I’ll be there, but I’m letting you lead.”
“Thank you.”

He then broke away and walked into a classroom. I still have no idea how he knew what door I would walk into as I parked in the north lot, compared to Jason, who always parked in the east lot.

The continuation of our reading of Dante concentrated on the third ring of Hell. I had gone through Limbo on Monday, Lust--or something to that effect—on Tuesday and the next ring focused on gluttony. How could this be bad? Too much pizza for lunch? No, I only brought one slice with me. Hungry for power? Not likely, since I could care less about the up-coming meeting? Or was it the cold, selfish, and emptiness of my life that I wanted to pass it on to others? If ever there was a time to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy, this would be it…either that or I had a great theme for a term paper.

Mrs. Jantz, once again, gave me a large order: three workbooks; consisting of twenty-four pages, double-sided. I could only hope the duplexer option was working or it was going to be a long third period and I would not have the time to look for Rebekah and get my work done…for as much as I would have wanted to blow off the work, Mrs. Jantz was expecting at least some workbooks to be completed and I couldn’t lie to her.
I walked into the grade school with my heart beating in my ears and my face probably burning with fearful anticipation. I opened the door and looked down the hallway, devoid of any students or teachers. It would be for the best if I didn’t see her at that time as I think I would have had a heart attack and all of the papers I had to copy would have created an outline around my dead body.

The door slammed behind me and each step I took sounded louder than it really was. It was twenty-seven steps from the door to the copy room. Twenty-seven loud, plodding and emotionally draining steps later I made it to the door. I had not even placed my hand on the door handle when I heard a voice yell out.
I turned to see one of the girls who almost became a hood ornament on Jason’s car. She looked young, seventh grader, eighth…I don’t know, as I had learned to never ask a girl how old she was…not sure if it was out of respect or out of fear that she’d hit me if I asked.
“Are you going out with Rebekah?”
As much as I wanted to answer “yes” as fast as I could, the question took the wind out of me. I suppose she talked with the students in the class…maybe she was like a tutor or a teacher’s aid? Yeah, but, that didn’t go with Mrs. J’s style of teaching as she was quite capable of handling a class of unruly students and an invading horde of zombies chewing gum if she had to.
“Eric, Right?”
“How old are you?”
“Are you going out with Rebekah or what?”
“I don’t really know her…”
“But you like her, right?”
If Jason was with me, he would have been flashing danger signals and making hand motions short of punching me in the stomach.
“Yeah, I do,” which was the truth and after saying that, if he was there, Jason would have stabbed me, multiple times, in the head with a rusty spoon.
“Would you go out with her? She wants you to.”
“Well, yeah-“
“I’ll tell her for you, okay?’ She then ran back down the hall and turned the corner. I opened the door and stepped into the room, to see that the duplexer was out of commission and I would be manually feeding copy paper back into the other copiers. That was fine, I mean, I had kind of succeeded, right?

It was possibly a test. Perhaps she sent a student as a test to see how I would respond. But, why? That would be like asking a three year-old to write your term paper for you or to tell your worst enemy that you wet the bed and your honestly believe s/he will keep it a secret. Maybe we all did things like that when we were younger though. The “cootie years”…the “if I punch you in the face and your nose bleeds then you are the girl for me” kind of thing. Or maybe she was her sister…adopted or a friend’s sister. It didn’t really matter at the time, the damage was done or the seed was sown. I wanted to think of it in a positive light…but, I still had the feeling that something bad was going to happen.

I left Mrs. Jantz’s room after the end of third period and met right up with Jeannie. She handed over a stack of note cards.
“Nick asked me to give these to you.”
“More note cards?” I asked as she handed them off to me.
“Yes, there are a few grammatical errors. He does make a compelling argument, but-”
“You don’t agree with them?”
“Why’s that?”
“You’ll need to read through the proposal yourself.”
“Can you give me quick synopsis?”
“I don’t think we’re ready. The school, society…everyone.”
“It’s just for one day. Not like we’re going to make a sweeping change. It’s a spirit week thing.”
“You really need to read through them.”

I spent fourth period half listening to a lecture and the other half attempting to read through the note cards. Nick’s attention to detail, and very small handwriting--as it looked like he was trying to transcribe the US Constitution onto seven note cards—was a bit bewildering. I wanted to ask Mrs. Carpenter to stop for a moment so I could comprehend a sentence without having to read it twice.
Nick’s note card manifesto stated that the use of opposite sex day would help broaden the minds of all of the students and faculty and that it should not be devoted to just a single day and as a subtle joke. He went on to cite several articles and situations that had occurred around the school, mostly to himself and how the issues could be resolved. I was, once again, on the outside of the argument.
I met with Nick outside of the principal’s office and said nothing. He looked at me for a moment and sensed a feeling of “I read it over…didn’t like it” from me. I handed the cards to him as we walked into the meeting room.

Mr. Richards welcomed us and Nick began. He started off lightly, making a point about how opposite sex day was treated as a harmless bit of fun, trivial even, and that it should not be a case of discrimination. Mr. Richards agreed with him. I didn’t say a word…because I knew where this was going and the last thing I wanted to do was get on a political or religious bandwagon…even though, technically, I was a politician. I admit, I did say a few things…and, like telling your perspective significant other they’re not fat, just big-boned, I should have kept them to myself at the time.
“I can’t believe you did that.”
“You really did your homework, I’ll give you that.”
“You’ll give me that? You struck down my entire argument.”
“Asking for a day where everyone can wear a dress and wigs and look like Madonna or Cher is one thing--”
“Do you go to church?
“That’s where you get it from.”
“That’s where I get what from?”
“You’re homophobic.”
If the “record scratching” sound effect could occur in real life when an awkward moment occurred and time needed to stop so we could break the fourth wall, that was the perfect moment.
“Do you really want to have this discussion here?” I asked.
“We tried to have it in the office, but--.”
“I think it’s great that you have this feeling for what you believe in, I really do. But your argument ad hominem is not the best way to go about it.”
He stared at me for a moment…I’d like to think he was amazed because I was able to use the phrase “argument ad hominem” in the correct context; but more than likely it was because he was furious and was trying to keep his cool as other students passed by.
“I’m going to bring up these proposals in the next student council meeting.”
“I know how you feel-“
“You have no idea how I feel like right now!”
He turned away and walked down the hall. It was obvious at this point that we would have one less judge for the relay race.

The relay race was held on the front lawn of the high school. It required twelve players from each class to perform various stunts, or shall I say, shenanigans of some sort until the final member crossed the finish line. One part required the team to maneuver a balloon, over their arms and under their legs. Then, they were to walk, centipede style with interlocking hands and then speed around a trapezoid shape pattern. Finally, each one was supposed to run, spin their heads around five times on a baseball bat and then run back to their team....and to think someone thought it was a good day to do this after lunch--bean burritos were on the menu.

Once again, I called out the rules and stood next to Jeannie as Jamie and Molly proctored the game.
"How was the meeting?"
"It depends on what side of the debate you’re on."
"Mr. Richards has agreed that to ban opposite day would be pointless as it’s like a drama play."
"And since you were in Drama Club..."
"I had to agree with him on that."
"But, Mr. Richards was unsure about the rest and I was too, but I’m willing to go over it with Nick.”
Jeannie nodded and said nothing more Jon the topic. We stood and watched as several freshman and one sophomore threw up, prematurely ending the game on account that other players became too grossed out to continue.
"We should be recording these."

I walked only to stop a few feet away...the smell of sickness was in the air, even though there was a bit of breeze...even then, the stench clogged my nostrils...either that, or I was feeling sick myself...lovesick? Didn't know then. I had a few hours before school was over though, so, one had to "suck it up" and carry on.

Fifth period was, in a word, unnerving. This was one of the only classes that I had Nick in the same class with me, history. He wouldn't look directly at me, but I was certain he was thinking up something dark, foreboding and probably very hurtful to say or do to me...even though I hadn't, up until that point, given him any reason...well, besides not knowing parli-pro, to hate me.
Throughout the class, he was constantly writing on note cards. Card after card...again, one would assume he was attempting to re-create the Library of Congress, three by five inches at a time.
“What do you have against gay people?”
“Nothing,” I replied as I attempted to close my locker, but Nick held onto the door.
“I think you have a deep-rooted hatred for them.”
“No, I can’t say I actually know any.”
“I am.”
“Okay, so I know one now. I don’t hate you.”
“You do.”
“No, I’m hating where this discussion may be going to.”
Nick moved closer to me and whispered: “Every day, I hear something from one person or another. Fag, gayboy…"
"I won’t disagree with you. Words do hurt.”
"Yeah, they do," he replied as he closed the door and walked away.

When I ascended to the role of President I thought, 'hey, maybe we can get our ten minute break between second and third period back.'...I didn't want to have to actually deal with policy or get involved with social issues.

By the time seventh period rolled by I was mentally exhausted as I went over hundreds of scenarios of how the issue with Rebekah would go. I didn't find her earlier and if I ran around the bus lines and the parking lots after school I would be a bit, although, honestly, I was probably more than just 'a bit', insane about her. It had happened before, with Sam, and it would probably happen again: the free-flowing thoughts of how it will all go. Maybe we'd last more than a few blinks and a yawn. Perhaps we'd be together for the rest of the year and beyond, like. Could I re-write my life to be with her? Forego school at this university or that college, because, in the end, she was the one. Most likely, it would all end with the door being slammed in my face but, at least I gave it a go.

The final bell rang and I raced outside but had no direction, nowhere to look for her. I slowly walked to the area where I first saw her, near the trees on the lower field. I almost said a short prayer, wanting to her have her appear before me, smiling and acknowledging my presence. I saw a lot of students get on their buses, and I knew a lot of them, but she was not among any of them.

I turned to the sound of the voice, even though, nine times out of ten, voices that shouted 'hey' were not talking to me. This was the one-tenth time, as it was the same girl from earlier in the day.
"Eric, right?"
"She didn't come to school today."
“Do you know where she lives?”
“Yeah, but, she's sick. You may not want to go see her.”
She could have had malaria or impetigo and I probably still would have wanted to at least go and say ‘hi’, but…if she was sick she would not want to be seen by anyone, least alone me, and it would be strange to talk with her if she was coughing up her lungs or falling over due to fever.
“Can you show me? Maybe I can surprise her one day.”
We walked down the road a bit in silence before she spoke up.
“I’m Renee.”
“She talks about you a lot.”
“Well, not really talking, but she writes about you.”
“Writes about me?”
“I have one…I’d give it to you, but I have to give it back to her.”
“I’ll give it to her.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. She’ll kill me if-“
“Well, I could write one for her, and give them to you to give to her. We both win.”
“Looks like her sister’s home.”
I looked towards the house to see someone I definitely knew: “Jeannie?”

Rise Again

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