In 1978, a too-short lifetime ago, I sat in a creative writing class with a new friend, Melanie. We were seventh graders, serious yet not above looking up “scrotum” and “fuck” in the dictionary. I was rendering pounds of fat from my still-growing frame, fitting into my new Sasson jeans via spinach and vinegar encased in Tupperware. Melanie, exotic for pre-Persian Great Neck, came from Eastern Europe via Venezuela via Golders Green. The most adorable British accent on the planet. Smart, lightly freckled, sweet, circumspect. A poised, Jewish Brooke Shields. Her siblings were older, she’d seen the world. Neither poppet nor dope.
In our Trapper Keepers, on blue-lined paper, we wrote fierce prose poems for a pair of 12-year-olds. Others wrote about camp, the kids they babysat for. My subject matter: plane crashes and evil estranged biological relatives. Melanie banged out dramatic monologues with darkness and precision, a touch of violence. The teacher, a small articulate lady named Lynne Slasor, resembled Esme Marshall, a popular Seventeen model. Esme’s older sister, anyway. She praised our work, quizzed Melanie privately on problems at home. (Her poems were that dark.)
When we weren’t writing or looking up “vagina” in the dictionary, we talked. Right after Winter Break, I told her a secret.
Something happened. It was so bizarre. Twice, actually. I was confused.
Did this mean he was my boyfriend?
Melanie, concentrating, furrowed her prominent auburn brow. “No. I don’t think so.”
Could a twelfth grader even be my boyfriend? He’s seventeen.
Melanie’s tone was as crisp as her Huckapoo blouse. “How did this ever happen.” No question mark.
He said I looked good in my new jeans. He asked me to see his new stereo. He played the le freak, c’est chic song.
“You danced with him then.”
No, I sat on the bed. I was in there for an hour. He showed me his Hannukah money.
“Did you do it.”
I don’t know. Maybe.
“You don’t know.”
I think. Kind of. There’s this one problem.
I mean, we did all this stuff, and the thing is, well. He didn’t kiss me.
“He didn’t kiss you.”
No. He said he liked my jeans. I can’t believe no one came in. Everyone was downstairs.
“So how do you feel.”
I don’t know.
“Don’t you feel anything.”
I feel like something really bad happened. It’s all this stuff. You know, he didn’t kiss me.
Then Melanie hit the designer-jean rivet on its shiny gold-toned head: “It’s like you’ve been ruined.”