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I had attended Catholic school for most of my life, except for kindergarten and first grade. Have you ever seen a kite that's broken loose from its string flying higher and higher in the breeze? That's what walking through doors of my high school felt like. Total freedom but no direction, no control, and no brakes. I loved it. It was one of three high schools in my town. There was one where the rich kids went, one where kids could take tech programs as well as academic ones, but mine was everyday middle and upper-middle-class. I traded in my plaid skirt for the public school uniform; bell-bottomed jeans worn over your shoes and empire waist shirts. You had to walk off the back of your pants naturally, without your mom's help, so you didn't trip. I transferred to this school for the music. My very first day, I had to audition. He asked me where my music was. I didn't have any. He told me to sing happy birthday. I croaked it through paralyzed vocal chords. My knees were hopping around my legs. Needless to say, I made it into the prestigious CHOIR, not one of the many auxiliary groups. Goal one was accomplished.
My next goal was the drama club, Skull and Bones. Everything at my school was based on a pirate theme because the football team was the Pirates. So the yearbook was the Treasure Chest, the newspaper was The Buccaneer, well you get it. Sophomores didn't get parts, but I was overjoyed to work on sets and props. At this time sophomores were the youngest students. Goal two, check.
The next plan of attack was finding friends. I hooked up with Joanne at drama. We were to become lifelong friends. On the second day of school, I saw a girl walking down the same road I traveled. She was a person of color and dressed more like city girls dressed. Her color was intimidating to me. There were exactly four people of color in my entire school, so I didn't know any. Maybe she wouldn't like my Rebecca-of-Sunnybrook-Farm whiteness. She was wearing a very short green paisley skirt, and fishnet stockings. Maybe she was tough. Maybe she'd think I was a total nerd for talking to her. Maybe, maybe everything! But I marched right up to her and said it was stupid that we walked the exact same road to school alone when we could walk it together, and she said she wanted to ask me but she had just moved here from the city and thought I wouldn't like her because she wasn't white. We laughed all the way to school. Stories about her city days, her Puerto Rican father, and Filipino mother, and how her grandfather in the Philippines could catch fish between his toes — how can you not love this? Her name was Melody but she couldn't carry a tune to save her life! Goal three, check.
Later that semester I met my first love, Stephen. The choir was going to the opera, and he sat next to me on the bus. It was Kismet. Late in my senior year, I lost my virginity to him. You know that very first time you hold hands with someone? That almost unbearable, exquisiteness of feeling that just climbs up your body until you feel like you could faint? Even after all these years, it can flood over me when I think of him. We planned our first foray into sex. No backseat, no awkward under-the-trees, no getting it anywhere we couldn't relax and enjoy it. We did cut school, and since both my parents worked, we went to my house, using my bed. We'd known each other nearly three years, and we were comfortable with each other. We made love the old-fashioned way. We didn't "screw," or hurry. It was slow and meaningful. I'll remember it always. Goal 4, check. The rest of this story is in "High School in the 20th Century Part 2."