The Duran Duran Chronicles – Chapter 2.1
I Can Find My Own Way (Or The First Day of Junior High)
I entered the hallowed halls of Walt Whitman Junior High ready to conquer the world. If that entrance was a scene in a movie, I would have been filmed in badass slow motion. My loose, black sweater and silver jewelry contrasted the pastel and neon tops the girls wore. Their Jordache jeans were much brighter than my faded denim and my blue sneakers looked out of place in the sea of brand new, white Reeboks. The boys were no better. The only way to differentiate between them was by the color of their Members Only Jackets.
I had to walk past a group of girls from my grade school. For seven years, they’ve never uttered a word to me or wasted a glance my way. They didn’t say anything that day as I passed either; they didn’t have to. They looked me up and down as they giggled. I rolled my eyes (I think this was the moment when the habit began) and kept walking. For the first time in my life I felt contempt. I decided at that very moment that I didn’t want to be like them, or look like them. I wanted to be myself. And, if that meant being “the freak with the magenta streak”, I was ok with it.
Ignoring the snickers, I pulled the schedule from my notebook. First period was English; my favorite subject. Conveniently, the room was located on the same floor I entered on so I didn’t have to ask anyone for directions.
As I approached the classroom, I spotted a girl sitting in the front row. She was hard not to notice; her hair was cut in a short bob, one side dyed platinum blonde, the other jet black. She had balls. From under her black cardigan sweater a Joy Division tee shirt peeked out. I decided at that moment this girl would be my new best friend. But it wasn’t just her hair and band shirt I noticed. It was a small pin on her sweater; a pin with a picture of five handsome, young, new romantics on it. A Duran Duran pin!
My biggest fear starting Junior High was that I wouldn’t find anyone to relate to. The girl in the front row relieved that fear. All the girls I knew were into sports, clothes makeup and gossip. I was into music, writing, reading, movies and the drama club. Those activities branded me the quiet loner. This girl obviously had the same interests as I did. I made a mad dash for the empty seat behind her. I remember what happened next as if it happened ten minutes ago.
As I reached the aisle, a gaggle of blondes, wearing junior varsity cheerleader uniforms, pushed past me and headed for the back of the room. I had to grab a desk to steady myself as I stood there, mouth agape. Such rudeness! I really wanted to stick my foot out and trip one of them, but instead took a deep breath and waited for the Stepford Cheerleaders™ to settle in their seats before I took mine. At least that was the plan.
As the last girl sauntered through the door, the entire class turned to stare. I swear she entered in badass slow motion. She had blue eyes and long, elegant, natural, blonde hair. Her skin was perfect. Not one scar of puberty. In fact, the only trace of puberty could be found in her curvy hips and flawless breasts. No remnants of baby fat on her entire body.
Her name was Theresa Christian or She Who Would Become My Nemesis™! She was the epitome of a mean girl: stuck up, pretty, popular. At the time, I didn’t realize so much evil could fit into a petite, twelve year old cheerleader. Looking back, I am certain she’s Satan’s daughter. She Who Would Become My Nemesis™ (hereinafter known as SWWBMN) shoved past me. Rolling my eyes I followed behind to take my seat but before I even took a step, SWWBMN stopped abruptly, smirked, and nonchalantly pushed my new best friend’s notebook on the floor.
“Oh, “I’m so sorry.” SWWBMN said innocently; her friends hysterical in the back row. She didn’t even bother to step over the mess she just created. She stomped on the notebook as she made her way to her friends. Under her breath she muttered, “freak.”
“What the fuck,” I whispered to myself, oblivious to the fact that I was two inches away from SWWBMN. (I wasn’t trying to start trouble. I was genuinely shocked at what had transpired before me. It was a spur of the moment reaction, not an act of war.)
“Excuse me,” SWWBMN swung around, taking a step towards me. We were the same height so we were face to face. “Are you talking to me?” she asked.
It was that very moment, I realized my patience had a limit. That limit was a twelve year old, stuck up, blonde. “Yes, I was talking to you.” I straightened my stance.
“Well,” she said, flipping her layered hair, “I would appreciate it if you do not talk to me. I do not associate with freaks.”
I envisioned me yanking out her perfect hair, strand by strand, until she was bald. I took another deep breath with every intention of ignoring her but my mouth had a different idea. “Oh, well that’s good, because I don’t associate with jerks.”
My hand flew up to my mouth before I could say anything else. I was no longer in control of my voice. Insults were flying around my brain and I tried my damnedest to keep quiet. I did not want to get suspended on my first day of school. That would not have sat well with The Powers That Be.
Then the teacher walked in. Saved! SWWBMN huffed, actually huffed, turned on her heels and joined her friends. I could feel her glaring at me as I picked up the notebook and placed it back on my new best friends’ desk. “Hi,” I said taking the seat behind her. “My name’s Taylor.”
She smiled, “I’m Hazel.”
“Any idea who the witch is?”
“That’s Theresa. “Hazel rolled her eyes. “I went to grade school with her. She used to be nice until she grew breasts.”
“Nice pin,” I pointed to the Duran Duran pin on her sweater.
Her eyes grew wide. “Thank God, another cool person in this cesspool of a school.
I never thought of myself as a crusader but in that thirty second confrontation, I mustered up anger and courage I never knew existed. My grade school career was normal and quiet; it was a small school and everyone knew each other so any issues were dealt with rather quickly. Theresa Christian was the first real bully I had encountered, and I decided then and there, that I would not allow myself or my friends to be bullied by her.
“OK, settle down class.” The teacher entered the room. She couldn’t have been more than a few years out of college. She pulled out an attendance book and immediately started calling names.
“Amy Hale.” She called once she reached the H’s.
“It’s Taylor.” I corrected. Ms. Brady looked down at her book and back to me. From behind, I heard SWWBMN huff again.
“Your name is listed as Amy.” The teacher said.
“That’s because it is. I go by my middle name, Taylor.” I hated my first name. It was simple and dreary. Ms. Brady paid me no mind and went on to the next name.
“That’s so pretentious,” I heard whispered behind me. I knew who it was without even turning around. The gaggle of blondes all giggled. You know what sound is worse than nails on a chalkboard…four blonde bimbos and their muffled giggling.
Hazel turned around. “Looks like someone’s been reading the dictionary today.”
Theresa straightened up in her chair. “I don’t need to read the dictionary, freak, I’m a straight A student.” She whipped her hair and sat back.
“Dimwit,” Hazel continued, “everyone in this class is a straight A student.”
Theresa glared. Hazel was right. The class we were in was for students with a 3.5 grade point average or above.
“Hazel Miller?” The teacher called.
From behind us came a chorus of muffled “freaks” I turned to say something to Theresa and her band of sycophants but before I could get a word out, Hazel turned around and gave them the finger.
“OK,” Ms. Brady straightened up. “I will not tolerate name calling in my class. I do not want to hear a peep out of any of you for the remainder of the period.”
Hazel and I both looked back and sneered at Theresa and her clones. They returned the sneers and the rest of the class was uneventful. The bell rang and I gathered up my crap. “Where do you go next?” I asked Hazel.
She shuffled through some papers and pulled out a crumpled piece from her notebook. “Looks like I have Pre-Bio. What do ya have?”
“Oh cool. I have Pre-Bio also. Are you in all advanced classes?”
Hazel smirked. “Yeah, and Theresa probably is too. She hates me because last year I had the highest grades in the 6th grade. She came in second and she hates not winning.” She paused, looking at my notebook that already had Duran Duran scribble on it. “So how do you know Duran Duran? No one in the States knows them yet.”
“There’s this record store that gets in all these imports. My brother hangs out there. They were playing Planet Earth. I had to get the album. They are so good.”
Hazel stopped and looked at me. Her eyes were wide again. She grabbed my arm. “Oh! My! God! Do you mean Mad Platters?”
I grabbed her arm back. We started to jump up and down. “I can’t believe you know Mad Platters! It is the best store!”
“We must go there after school one day. They have all these cool bands from the UK. I wish I was born in the UK. Their music is so much better than our music.”
“Oh,” Hazel said as we continued our walk to the next class. “I know. The US wouldn’t know good music if it tripped them.”
“I know. My brother listens to heavy metal. Some of it is pretty good. Not that I would ever tell him that.” We walked to class talking about all the great unknown bands we listened to.