Science class in the ninth grade. Film day. The lights are off, the bubblesque TV perched atop a rolling stand soothes the room with flickering glow. Students slink down into their chairs, rest their feet on other chairs. For a few sacred moments, school is not a jungle. We put our masks away because no one is looking. X sat beside me, but to see the screen, we oriented ourselves toward the front of the room, X behind me.
You know that feeling, when a ladybug or an ant crawls on your skin, how it tickles? If I were commander of planet earth or even dictator of a small European country, I’d have my minions bring in buckets of non-stinging insects and let them crawl on my arms and legs. That fact may just be the weirdest piece of intel you’ve ever heard. I realize that. Apologies, but I feel it’s important you understand just how much I enjoy that featherlight touch, so that you’ll believe the rest of my story.
Back to science. We were watching something about the Hubble and why we should be amazed by it and by mankind’s genius for building it and all hail science class… thank you, science class. This doctrine delivered by that deep, trustworthy voice my generation has come to associate with boring school films. Everyone was getting as comfy as we could in the hard plastic and metal chairs on the harder tiled floor, in the stark decoreless science room that smelled of magic markers and sulfur.
I was daydreaming/snoozing/definitely not-watching when I felt this tickle on my back. It was late in the school year, one of those blazing hot days. I wore a light shirt that didn’t tuck in, the small of my back open to the air when I slouched down in the chair. X behind me must have accidentally brushed against me with his knee. X’s knee felt so nice against my back, like one of those ladybugs. And though X’s knee was brushing against me an awful lot, I just figured he was a bit clueless and unaware (ironic). And it felt so nice… I let it go.
Right up until the moment I felt his hand reach around, clearly not his jeans, not an accident, still feathery but (zoinks!) not worth it, going for the front of my shirt.
Well that was unexpected.
All that time, all those touches. None of them accidental. Had my chair suddenly become electrified with 100 volts it wouldn’t have launched me higher into the air than that horrible realization. I yanked my chair forward a safe distance, the screeching chair legs screaming for me. Heads turned. The voice of boring science droned on, and I was just a bit more wary of the world. When the lights came on, X asked me if I would go with him. That was the phrase we used. Stupid, I know.