On my way home from a very frustrating class one cloudy afternoon in mid-October, I passed a just-emptied elementary school with one of the biggest playgrounds I’d ever seen. I turned my car around in the next driveway and pulled into the parking lot of the school. I grabbed my keys from the ignition and put them in my pocket after I turned off the car. Locking my doors out of sheer habit, I walked over to the large, painted concrete tubes lying in a half-circle on the edge of the playground.
After peering inside one to check for small children or animals, I crawled in and sat down, resting my head on the cool concrete. Someone had written “Jamie loves Joe” on the inside of the tube with a red marker, and next to that proclamation was another statement, “boys are dumb.” I smiled, remembering my own childhood opinions on the boys I once knew.
Some of the first friends I had made at school were boys. I remember how Paul, Derek, Jacob, Tom, and I had dug very elaborate tunnels in the sandbox during recess. We had contests to see who could stay on the merry-go-round the longest, or who could jump off the swing and land the furthest away from the swing set. I remember laughing as we raced down the sledding hill on our roll-up plastic sleds, landing in the middle of a pile of snow and other laughing children.
I can look with fondness on the earlier memories I have of boys, but as I got older I grew to be quite shy of the male populace in general. While my girlfriends all gradually became boy-crazy – or at least interested in boys – I became more and more intimidated by the very presence of boys, especially one in particular. I remember how it all started.
In the middle of second grade, around September, a boy named Steven Davis moved to the area and enrolled in the school I attended. From the very first day he arrived, he followed my best guy friends around and told them that he wouldn’t play with them if they kept playing with me.
A spider crawling near my foot on the inside of the tube caught my attention, bringing me back from my memories, drawing my attention to yet another bit of graffiti – “I wish they’d notice me.” I sighed, and let my thoughts drift back to those long-ago days when I had felt the very same way the author must have felt while writing those five short words.
© Amanda E. Johnson 2009