Okay, so here's the deal. My best friend's Adam. Adam Bryant. No, this isn't one of those disgustingly sweet stories about how best friends figure out by senior prom that they're deeply in love and can't live without each other.
Yuck. Has that ever happened in real life? Uh, no. Anyway, Adam likes Tim, so it would never work. I'm a girl, he's a boy, we both like boys, you get the idea.
And no, we're not those two small-town teens who move to the big city to find ourselves at the bottom of a beer can, with an MTV sound track and tons of making out with strangers. We don't fit here, but honestly, can we fit anywhere? I don't know yet. I'll keep you posted.
The point is, I like Tim's twin brother, Lucas. Lucas is in third-period English with me. He's a junior, but I'm a Brain sophomore, so it evens out. We don't really know each other. And he's tight with the in crowd, which means the people he talks to are not the same people I talk to. I mean, if I'm honest, Tim and I have many more conversations than me and Lucas. I say hi in the halls and, if Lucas isn't busy with someone else, he sometimes says hi back. But I'm optimistic. It's only a matter of time before he figures out we're perfect for each other.
English isn't the most romantic place to have a crush. It's not drama, where you can hide in dark costume closets, or bio, where you can snuggle around the Bunsen burner.
You know what I'm talking about.
All you need to know about Mr. Slater's English class is summed up with one visual. He stands at the board, back to the class, and twitches his butt muscles.
One cheek. The other cheek.
Back and forth.
Left and right.
Right and left.
The entire lecture, the entire fifty-eight minutes, is him talking and twitching and all of us trying not to watch the grotesque display. It's a bit like the cobra and the mongoose, although not really, because he doesn't ever turn around to see if we're hypnotized or not.
And, as far as I know, he's never bitten a student. Though if he turned up on Dateline, I wouldn't be one of the people saying, "Oh, we had no idea. He was always so nice and quiet."
The other thing is, we're working on our term paper. (Quarter paper to be accurate, but Mr. Slater doesn't care about accurate.) We're supposed to compare and contrast Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway.
I title my paper "The Crackhead and the Suicidal Alkie." Mr. Slater looks over my shoulder, wheezes through his chin-length nose hair and tells me, "That won't do."
No other explanation.
How's that for crappy teaching? Isn't he supposed to be supportive and foster my young mind?
Hello? Show of hands--how many of us in the world are forced to compare old dead guys who obviously tried to work their issues out on the page, and later killed themselves, or overdosed, instead of actually getting therapy? The answer is simple: all high school students. Everywhere.
I mean, if the dead guys couldn't understand what they wrote, why the heck do the rest of us have to try to make sense of it? Have you ever had a conversation with a stoner that was deep and intellectual?
The script goes like this:
Normal nondrugging Brain: 'Scuse me.
(Continue to stand there, and wait for Zoner to move out of the way to the locker room door. Make obvious signals about ticking off seconds until the tardy bell rings.)
(With a glazed slow-mo stare, Zoner notices you standing there. He holds out a self-rolled cig like it's manna. Exaggerated facial expression of devotion.)
Zoner: You want some?
Brain (speaking softly and slowly, as if being stalked by a wild animal): Could you just move? Away from the door?
Zoner (Looks around. Surprise evident on face.): This door?
Brain (Smile, nod. Repeat. Careful to move at the pace of Elmer's glue.): That's the one.
Zoner (said with excitement): Hey, Billy, did you know there's a door there?
Billy: No! (After shouting, Billy dissolves into a pool of unshowered hilarity.)
Zoner (breaking into gales of laughter, barely can be understood): Yeah, man.
Now, why in a hundred years, or even fifty, would I ask future generations to decipher the greatness of the door? I mean, really--let's look at Poe here. Doors, windows, floorboards. Ticking clocks, for heaven's sake.
Hemingway just tried to get gored at every turn. Not hard to do when falling down drunk. But he also fished, so drowning was a theme for him, too.
I really am on the right track. Mr. Slater, being a white man of dubious character, wouldn't understand that. Breathe, Gert. Breathe.
Lucas sits one row, one desk up.
He has the most adorable curl of dark chocolate on the back of his neck. Sometimes it hides under his shirt collar, or disappears for a few weeks when his mother insists he get his hair cut, but it's like Punxsutawney Phil and always reappears.
It's a cold autumn, so right now he basically wears jeans, dark denim or slightly worn, hiking boots, hoodies in black or gray and a T-shirt from one of the million soccer camps he's been to. He usually has a soccer ball between his feet that he rolls back and forth, in the butt-clenching tempo set by Mr. Slater.
(I'm fairly certain this is a subconscious coincidence and he's not into Mr. Slater's butt or anything. Like I said, mongoose-cobra. It's all hypnotic.)
Lucas occasionally smiles at me. Like yesterday when we did this ridiculous alliteration with our names. I'm Gert. Gertrude Doyle Garibaldi, to be all official.
Yeah, nice to meet you, too.
My parents were shocked by my arrival, not like they didn't have nine months to get used to the idea. They don't appreciate when I point this out. It's not as if the stork dropped me off. But they missed the memo on gestation. See, my mom was forty-five when she found out she was pregnant, and my dad sixty.
My brother, Mike, graduated from college that spring. I guess I can see why they were surprised.
In momentary astonishment that's lasted sixteen years and counting, they had a complete loss of sense when they named me. Either that, or they'd forgotten what it was like to be a kid, and picked the ugliest name on the planet just to see what kinds of hell a name can conjure.
They were too far removed from kidland, even from thirtiesville, to realize that Heather or Jessica or Amanda would have been much better choices.
But hello? Gertrude? The shock excuse only goes so far to get them off the hook. The worst part is, it's not even a family name. There's no reason at all they had to name me Gertrude.
I'm breathing. In. Out.
Tangent: sorry.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Gert Garibaldi's Rants and Raves: One Butt Cheek at a Time by Amber Kizer. Copyright © 2007 by Amber Kizer. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.