I was twelve years old and turning thirteen in November, excited and walking to school with my four buddies. Because it was our first day of Junior high, each of us was babbling about our summer break. I geared up to cast out everyone’s story until Walter broke in, murdering the spirit. He’d start, “Did yawl know?”
No one despised those spirit-killing interrupting words more than me. Because I was proud for struggling in the fierce summer sun, planting grass in the affluent yards and paid for my school clothes, I craved to flip the story in their faces. No. But, Walter dominated the storytelling. He boomed, “At this school, kids get stabbed, beaten up and lunch money taken”.
We stared at the other with dropped jaws. Coming straight out of elementary school, no one understood such savagery. Maybe Walter did, with a brother three years our senior. Yes, it’s possible he did. Deliberately, he waited to tell us those horrifying happenings as we approached the school, and that frightened me more than my hate toward him.
He continued the bulletin with his chin held high, venting that awful laugh of his. He bellowed, “We are in the big league now, Homeboys.” I swear, I could have punched his face, but Walter could easily stump and squash me like the small stringy bug that I was. As we got closer to the steps of the school, I gawked at the new arrivals, avoiding eye contact as we moved up the stairs onto the large Red-brick porch.
The school bell rang. The crowd of kids jumbled through the large swinging doors in a semi-controlled manner. While caught up in the organized chaos, wriggling my way to an open spot inside, I looked up admiring the bright florescent light strips, running across the ceiling. Then I realized my buddies had disappeared. Right away, I checked myself for stab wounds. From what I’ve heard, made known to me by the neighborhood thugs, I wouldn’t realize it if someone knifed me until I saw blood on my clothes.
Nervously checking my identification letter for where to report, I felt like I didn’t fit in. Still, I asked no one for direction. The performing arts theater, lecture hall, handmade posters on the wall, advertising events were signs I was in the big league now. Eventually, I found my homeroom and quickly took a seat and did not perceive any threats to my person. Free from the hall filled with thirteen to fifteen-year-olds whose inclination to be a felon, troubled me, still.
As I assembled my school supplies, the largest kid I have ever seen, maybe seven feet tall, filled the doorway. He stood there a minute, deciding where to sit. The king-size teenager with big hair wore an extra- extra large yellow Los Angeles Lakers basketball jersey. His wrangler jeans sagged, crumpling on unlaced, shiny black combat boots. When he entered, slogging across the room, boots making a plopping sound, I felt him within reach of me. He stopped. Making sure I did not bring attention to me, my head remained lowered, pretending to search for something in my binder.
I now saw who beat those kids up and took their money. And why stab them, too? Was it to silence the victim? Man, that’s nasty. His massive size was enough to encourage any mortal to give up the goods quietly and not say a word if that was what he requested.
When he sat down directly next to me, my heart sped up to a level, I’m sure, heard by students in the area. I sat silently, trying not to look noticeable while quivering with fear. The huge guy looked around at me. The heat of his stare trained directly on me. I pretended to read something thought-provoking by assembling a stern look on my face. I skimmed the pages of my new notebook which had nothing but my name on it. I’d written it a hundred times or more.
The kingsize kid said, “Where did you go for elementary school?”
I waited but not too long. Surely, getting pummeled in front of the class would be a disaster on my first day. I faintly said, “Julia C. Frazier.”
He said, “Aha.”
While I studied his lumber legs tucked under the desk, I decided they were two enormous pieces of sculptures. The big guy added, “I hope the seventh grade isn’t hard.”
I said, “Me, too”.
Then unsuspectingly, he extended his hand in friendship, sheepishly saying, “I’m J. C. They call me, Big C”.
From that day, Big C and I have been friends.