Monday, September 11, 2006

Childhood memories - Alex

I met Alex Merle on the first school day after the summer holidays, entering possibly 5th or 6th grade. He was the new kid in school, and when I entered our class room, all the girls were whispering to each other, something along the lines of “Have you seen the fittie in class 5b?”
(I can’t for the life of me remember what the word of the year was for ‘fittie’ in what was it? 1988?)

I can’t deny that I was curious immediately... I like pretty things, and I am just a girl, after all. But I wouldn’t have been caught dead admitting it. So I glanced, demonstratively indifferent, into the room of our parallel class. The new lad I saw sitting there looked painfully aware of being ogled by the entire female population of his age group. And yes, he was quite cute. Dark hair made this here old cow swoon in her baby fat days.

Of course, I refused to join in the giggly girl shit. They would have never let me.
(- what are you giggling about? Like he’d ever look at you! - )
I wasn’t in the position to join the girl stuff. They would chase me back into my place, into the corner for freaks and weirdos. So I was defiant about it, too. Fuck you cows, who wants to be like you anyway.

I left the school building on my own in the afternoon, kicking my p.e. bag as I strolled home.
When I looked up, I saw Alex Merle walking a few yards in front of me, and no sooner did I register the giggles behind me, too. The girls who had been gaga over Alex the whole day were flocking together into a mighty stalking pack. They were the Legion of female prepubescent hormones gone bananas. Birds of prey, so to speak. And they had caught the scent and tracked him down.
Half the way home, Alex seemed to sense that something was up. He turned around. And found himself face to face with a drooling, giggling crowd of pre-teenage girls, ready to pounce. And somewhere around there, caught in the middle, was me, semi-invisible, looking sheepish and feigning oblivion to the looming battle as I trudged homewards. This was a thing between boys and girls. No dorks allowed.

I reached my apartment house and unlocked the front door. It was then that I realised Alex was running for his life towards me. Me? ME??? Well, let’s not get our hopes up. What he was running for was the door, really, a dust cloud mixed with uncontrolled oestrogen in hot pursuit.
I held the door open and he jumped in, and I slammed the door shut, saving his life and betraying the sisterhood. Well, sisterhood my arse, really.
Alex gave me a crooked and somewhat embarrassed smile, and I said, in a stressed non-committed way as to hide any hint of attraction, the most harmless flirtatious thing I could come up with.
“If you don’t watch it, they’ll eat you alive.”
I know. Nearly 20 years later, I still cringe. He didn’t say much except thanks and went into his apartment on the first floor (I lived on the second).

Alex and I became friends pretty soon, sharing a love for X-Men comic books and other geeky things, and for their cocker spaniel Cassie and his (single) mom, who I thought was well cool. But the best thing was that this left the popular girl crowd baffled: how it was possible that the most dorky and unpopular girl in school managed to hang out with the school’s latest hottie acquirement, while they were positively ignored. That’s the beauty of childhood. That’s when guys still like you for who you are, and not for whether you got a nice pair of tits. Another four years, and he would have never run, man. But this was also a defining moment for me in my relationship with men... in order to be friends with them, I had to deny my girlhood. Girls like me, that’s all we got. That, or nothing.

But back then, needless to say, it made me feel smug as hell – just the joy of rubbing it in their faces, even though any form of attraction to Alex faded in the shortest amount of time to a good old mateship, which only disintegrated when we grew into teenagers and lost interest in what we used to share. I could never really figure out whether I would have wanted it any different.

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