I met Drew because she sat in front of me in social studies, Mottern, Packard, alphabetical order and all that. I knew her as the pretty girl with the fluffy blonde hair. She dressed like a catalogue and she had a perm. Every day before class, she’d mist her hair and pic it out all fluffy like.
One day, she turned around and told me her friend Jenny Jones wanted to kick my ass.
Since I was new, and barely knew anyone, I asked, “Who?”
“I don’t know who that is. Why would she want to kick my ass?”
“For me. Because you’re writing notes to my boyfriend.”
“Who is your boyfriend?”
“I don’t know who Daniel James is, either.”
“Well she’s going to kick your ass.”
This went on for some time. Months, I think.
Sometimes this had variations.
“You still don’t know who Jenny Jones is? How can you not know who Jenny Jones is? Everybody knows Jenny Jones. Her locker is right next to yours.”
“Some boy with a complicated handshake has the locker next to mine.”
“That’s Adam. On the other side.”
“Never seen her, I guess.”
“Daniel James! Brown hair, brown eyes? Hangs out with John Doe and Joe Schmoe?”
I had not a scooby.
Y’all, for all the awkward I am now, I guarantee you that in 7th grade, I was ten times as awkward. Over the previous summer, my life had been turned upside down by my custody situation. To make matters worse, I’d moved into a surreal land where girls of my own age dressed like my mother, did their hair with implements and products, and wore full faces of make up — whereas I had only recently stopped playin with Barbies and cut off my braids. In full-on puberty, my hair grew suddenly darker, thicker, and coarser. This was quite a shock against my paper white chubby cheeks and somehow, I still had knobby knees. I had two friends, the girl at the last bus stop, who was kind enough to sit with me, and the son of our neighborhood Avon Lady. I was unarguably nerdy and awkward as fuck.
Eventually, I got a description of Jenny Jones. She looked a lot like me, but she was of course, tanner, prettier, and cooler. I feared every short, pretty, tan brunette in the school. Do you know how many girls that was? Me neither. But I graduated in a class of 327. I’m sure I passed more than 50 a day.
On January 16, 1987, Drew turned around and smiled at me.
“Are you actually being nice, or is this the day Jenny Jones is gonna kick my ass?” I asked her.
She was just being nice. She’d broken up with Daniel James. (I wouldn’t know who that was for almost another year.)
Drew invited me to attend a bowling party with her church youth group.
My mother let me go.
It changed my life. My entire life.
Tomorrow marks 30 years. Thirty years and some days since Drew turned around to smile and be nice, thirty years since the bowling party, thirty years since I met my husband when I climbed into the backseat of a car and sat on his lap.
Eventually, I dated Adam, the boy with the handshake.
The girl at the last bus stop was one of my dearest friends for years.
Daniel James passed away some years ago.
Professionally, I talk to Jenny Jones now and again, and she never threatens to kick my ass.
But Drew has influenced every aspect of my life since 1987.
January 16th is one of my favorite days on the calendar.
This Just Jot it January post is brought to you by LindaGHill