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  • Writer's picturePhillip Gerson

Middle School Yearbook: Reviews and Rebuttals, pt. 2 ...

As decided in part one of this series, I was in fact cool in 6th grade. And, as advised by my peers, I stayed cool.

And delightful as it was to have that coolness permeating, I found myself wanting someone to share my coolness with.

And I could feel it.

I did have the adventurous summer morning phone calls with other single 12 year olds, with all the parents at work, that perhaps seem more romantic now than they did at the time.

It would always end with…

“Will I see you in September?”

To which they would always respond…

“I’m sure I’ll pass you in the hall.”

Which led to a larger question that I did not say out loud…

Will we say hi?

Anyway, what cannot be disputed is the magnitude of the key word added to your vocabulary when someone asks you the question: How old are you?

Blank — “Teen”

Thirteen, then , fourteen, then… you get the idea. All the way into the second year of college- Teen. Teen. Teen.

And for my people. My “let my people go" people, you can add another layer to the transformative maturity that comes with the 7th grade. Let’s say a spiritual awakening with good catering and a DJ who knows what to play when you get lifted up in the chair. Lots of L’Chaims. L’Chaims all around.

And my metamorphous was the talk of the town for sure.

And not only did this childlike manhood emerge because I stepped up to the Torah, and read ancient passages to half-asleep uncles and aunts, it also connected me to others of a more seasoned persuasion. Something, dare I say, beyond cool.

Fine. I’m just going to say it. I’m referring to the act of falling in love. Something we live our life to experience just once.

And for me, that first go round happened in 7th grade. And much like the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton duo, this courtship was built upon the beauty and power of American Theatre.

Even with a few bumpy, uneasy moments here and there.

Perfect example, a certain evening rehearsal I remember vividly, a crucial dress rehearsal, in fact, for my key role of Harold Ickes in our middle school production of Annie.

My line was essential to making sense of the riveting plot of this masterpiece and I was provided with magnificent blocking bringing me to center of the stage under the most penetrating light on the grid. And I had that character and that one and only line down to perfection. Stanislavsky himself would have given me a high five for my inimitable portrayal.

However, what I did not have, was a functioning braided leather belt for my light wash jeans, and as gravity took its toll on my trousers, right as I heard my queue, and my 1996 Olympic boxers were on full display, followed by roaring laughter among the crew, the designers, the stage manager, and my fellow stars, there was one person in the audience that didn’t laugh.

She was smiling, but not laughing. A warm grin and eye contact.

Then began the bus rides home.

Cold legs stuck to oak themed vinyl. Inside jokes, emerging as my new stage theatre companion lean on one another, unaware of what lies beyond friendship. Sometimes a silent embrace, with limbs tucked into T-shirts, unaccepting of the winter approaching. When the frost sets in to teenage life.

It is important to recognize that this mini Here to Eternity was not immune to the realities of middle school. It was just a spec of light on an otherwise dim war zone of teenage angst. Cruelty for the sake of it. Taking it out on classmates, bathroom cleaning staff, and, of course, teachers.

Teachers quite a bit.

So basically, everyone was angry all of the time.

But she was not.

We would sit in the corner during rehearsal. Waiting for our scene on thin, itchy carpet in need of a wash.

There were no cell phones but there were disc mans. disc men? disc people? and certain songs off certain CDs, immaculately maintained in my black, leather case logic binder, and yes it was important to remain organized and I will tell you why. Between the hours of 4pm and 6pm, because of our theatrical commitments, she and I had exactly 23 minutes to share with one another. 23. You take one ear bud, I’ll take the other.

We would rush onto the stage to stand in the back and move our lips to the slightly out-of-tune, upright piano and think about… Each other? One can hope. I know I thought about her. Afterwards she always grabbed my arm to step down the dark stairwell, pointless props in hand.

And classmates did begin to take notice.

Not only did she introduce me to the timeless tale of young love, she also boosted my cool points throughout the student body. People that barely know me are suddenly acknowledging the trend setting sensibilities I hold dear. I was basically a campus celebrity, with her beside me, Timberlands in stride, our long-awaited opening night approaching, and I hoped it would never end.

But it did.

The last night we performed Annie, to a packed house, toddlers crying when I delivered my one line, it started to rain heavy outside, just as we reached the finale.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow…

Suddenly the meaning changed and not in a good way.

I love ya tomorrow

I could already see the crew cleaning up backstage, audience members thinking about the walk to the car, and I didn’t want to say “tomorrow.”

Without the play, without school, and without the bus, when would I see her? Are all 23 minutes gone?

But alas it did, abruptly in the middle of the month of May, they told us to go home, watch sitcoms, and forget you ever sat next to your soul mate on a bus twice a day.

That bus has left the station.

She was off to high school and I was not.

During the summer months, I called, frequently, and kept leaving messages with her mom.

I wrote her an actual letter with a stamp and everything, but it was no use. She clearly wanted nothing to do with me and I had no idea why.

I thought it best to wait until next year. I assumed the moment we pass in the high school hall, the romance will reignite and be too much for us to bear. I was quite sure.

But then she moved to New Jersey and I never saw her again.

** Stay tuned for the grand finale (8th grade)

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