I stood next to my new teacher as I clasped my hands hoping to hide the beads of sweat as I tried to remember to breathe. My new classmates looked at me, the new girl. It was March, I just turned eleven and was three months away from finishing the 6th grade.
“Time to show you around,” said Mr. G. “Grab your books. I will show you your locker.”
“Okay, thanks.” I took the books from my desk.
I stacked social studies on science and topped off the pile in my arms with math. I walked behind my teacher through the doorway. As I passed through the door frame a moving shadow smashed into my chest. The books scattered across the floor. I stood and stared.
“I am so sorry,” mumbled the guilty party. “Here you go,” he said and handed me the books one at a time.
“Thank you.” I met his brown eyes without blinking.
“And this is Mr. Anderson,” said my teacher scrunching his eyebrows into a scowl. “What ARE you doing out of your classroom?”
“Uh, I forgot my social book?”
“Interesting. Did it have anything to do with the morning announcement of a new girl joining the two classrooms at this hour?”
Jon shrugged his shoulders and wandered to his desk. He looked more at me then at his hands rummaging through objects piled under the flap.
The teacher sighed. “This way to your locker.”
I found Social Studies class to be an opportunity to analyze this boy named Jon. His body wiggled in his chair. He took apart and put back together his pen, over and over again. He didn’t look at the teacher while she was instructing but buried his head into his folded arms on the desk so only his dark brown eyes peered from his black hair. I couldn’t help staring at him.
“ANDERSON!” jolted me from my note-taking. Mrs. M, a retired drill sergeant, was used to addressing humans by their last names. I looked over to see Jon sipping from the water fountain on the edge of the classroom. It was his second time of sipping during the teacher’s instruction. My gut twisted.
There was no reaction on his face. Jon kept slurping up water. Slurping and slurping. My shoulders tightened as I watched. Mrs. M yell at him silently through her glare. Jon meandered back to his desk one slow step at a time.
“Anderson! I don’t want to see your butt out of that chair one more time! Not one more time! Do YOU understand?” He nodded his head. I waited for her to continue teaching to meet his gaze. He had a small smirk. I would have cried.
I found myself drifting off while the teacher rattled off dates and names of people who were dead. My thoughts were more interested in the present, like what I was going to unpack when I got home to my new room. And then I saw Jon.
He grabbed the plastic chair he was sitting on and firmly pressed it to his butt. Then, leaning over like an old geezer, he walked his chair over to the drinking fountain. My jaw dropped. I scanned the room to see if anyone else noticed. The other students were still focused on the front of the room. I darted my eyes from Jon to the teacher and back. How could she not see this turtle waddling across the room? The metal chair legs were proudly raised in the air as if to say “Look at me!” And yet, Mrs. Drill Sergeant continued on.
Jon the turtle, took in the occasion and stood by the drinking fountain as if in protest. I sent him telepathic messages. Get back to your desk! Get back before she yells! I also found myself silently cheering him on. This boy had spunk. He didn’t follow all of the rules like I felt shackled to follow.
It was that moment I saw in those eyes his spirit for adventure.
“Hi, honey! How was your first day at school?” asked my mom.
“It went great! The kids are really nice here. They asked me to sit with them during lunch. I talked to a lot of the girls. There was also the cutest boy. He had black eyes and black hair. His name is Jon.”
To be continued…
(Photo by Sharon McCutcheon)