I always loved art class. In junior high, it was Jeff Riley and I sitting together all semester exchanging jokes and talking about life while executing each project. We were the best in the class and we knew it, and so took our time, living in our own alternate universe of Garbage Pail Kids and Monty Python skits. We never dated, though he did ask me one time and I—thinking he had finally succumbed to all the other boys' taunts and was just making a joke—refused. Our art relationship was ruined after that. And then, in a nice twist of evil fate, Mom sent my sister and I to a high school in the next town my Freshman year. It was the year I like to refer to as "Hell".
I had no friends, couldn't speak—had no reason to speak—I was too tender for the shift. Huge upperclass boys rammed me into my locker, "F-ing Freshman!" I was growing. My jeans were too tight, and all of a sudden, I felt strange. I hadn't gotten a visit from Aunt Flo yet, but weird things were happening to me, and it wouldn't be long. With no one to talk to, and nothing to hold on to, I drifted miserably to the freak crowd; the gay boy, the fat girl, the mute in thick glasses, the angst-filled young man who stared at me with angry eyes every day at lunch. And then me, lonely silent me.
Every morning Cathy had me start up her huge Pontiac. By the time were headed off down the country roads, the whole neighborhood was filled with a thick layer of smoke from the exhaust. We'd ramble off, praying for the car not to die on the railroad tracks again as it had a few times before. Antifreeze dripped down onto my right foot, leaving a little red mark for the whole year.
Art class was my first foray in the school every morning. Plop down my things. Grab my drawing. Hunch. Then The Doors would start to play—our teacher's favorite band. He was a left-over hippie and I hated how he just left us to work with no direction. But then something happened to me, the music seeped in, the alienation caused something to click in my brain and bred an artist's independence necessary for viewpoint. I began to blossom right there in hell, despite all the shoves and taunts and the freak crowd's strange pull. I had something to carry me through.
Aunt Flo came. Cathy's car died. The next year we went back to our old school where Jeff Riley had already made his way through half the stock of female students. I never did find a place to fit in again, like a ghost wandering in someone else's world. But I had art. And The Doors.