08 September 2011

Early Lessons, #3

(not the real jane, but like this)

Let's see... how did this unfold?  I was a freshman, 14 years old. I was anti-sports. I avoided any thought of sports. I trained myself so that if someone threw a ball at me, I just stood there and let it hit me. It hardly mattered--it's what would have happened anyway. If forced into a spectator role, I read a book. Actually, I still do. When Asa drags me to a Sea Dogs game, I read in the stands. Finally, he's stopped inviting me.

Okay, I hated sports, but I rode a motorcycle. (Is that a sport?) Sometime early in the school year, I took that bike into a long skid on a gravel road. I was riding with no hands at the time, wasn't that smart of me?

I broke a wrist, and my face and arms were covered in road rash. The next time I showed up at school I begged my way out of gym class. You'd think it would be easy given my obviously injured condition, but I had begged my way out of so much gym that Mrs. Cowgill didn't even look at me. Finally, though, she let me off. She was sick of me and my persuasive ways.

(not the real tapu, but like this)

So I sat out gym class that day,
on the bleachers, reading.

Now, in my high school, there was this senior girl named Jane. Jane was the star athlete. Jane could beat the boys at anything they dared challenge her to. Her body was like an adult man's. Her face was "chiseled." Jane could've killed me as soon as looked at me, but that day she looked at me.

She came over. She stood in front of me a bleacher or two down, chewing gum, and said, "What happened to you?" I said, "Nothing." She said, "What road do you live on?" I was like, huh?? But I said, "Buffalo Mine Road." That night, she called.

I can't remember how our conversations started out, but I know they got intense fast. Jane and I talked on the phone for over a year, nearly every day, sometimes for hours. She did most of the talking. She told me everything inside her, I think.

Everyone in our small town "knew" that Jane was a dyke.  Where'd they get that knowledge? Who's to say? No one. Not directly. But somehow or other, if you lived in Guernsey County, you "knew" that about two or three women there. I think, vaguely, it had something to do with sports.

Once or twice my dad caught on that I was connecting with Jane, or whatever I was doing. He "heard it in town." He asked, "She's a lot older than you, isn't she?" I said I was talking to her, that was all. He didn't say more because he didn't know how to talk about it. I slipped away from him each time and went and called Jane.

It was strange to see Jane at school. We didn't hang out. We barely acknowledged each other, although sometimes she'd flash me a smile as we passed in the hallway. When we did come across each other in person, she was rough in the way she talked with me, and she didn't look me directly in the face.

And now this story goes nowhere. I can't remember much of what we talked about in all that time. I can't remember how or why we stopped talking, but Jane graduated that year so maybe that was the break. I know that in all that time we never talked directly about being gay. Not about Jane being gay, or me, or anyone. We talked around it and I remember those moments as terrifically charged, with awkward pauses while we figured out where to go next, how to say things without saying them.

When I grew up and came out, I was obsessed with how Jane could have intuited more about me than I understood about myself. I guess Jane just "knew." And it had nothing to do with sports.

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