Six foot three and only thirteen years old, Julie was a perfect target for the herd mentality of school bullying. Her large blue eyes, pale narrow face, and long crooked nose did little to relieve her awkward disposition, and even if she had tried to fit in, Julie stuck out like an oversized sore thumb. The Sesame Street character, Big Bird, was also thrown into the mix of degrading nicknames and although I never voiced it aloud, I couldn’t help but see the resemblance.
Julie was the first friend I made upon returning to the Houston area. After living in the small port town of Bay City for the past two years, the upper-class white suburbs of North Houston were a stark contrast. I sat alone in the lunch room watching the throngs of middle-schoolers bustle around me, none of them paying me much mind. Insecure and painfully shy, I avoided eye contact, sipped my coke, and waited. The first day at a new school is always rough, but I knew what I was doing. I had it planned out the night before, much to my mother’s disapproval. I knew who I wanted to attract. I knew who my future friends were. I just had to wait. A dark shadow enveloped me as I looked up to see a towering blond amazon girl standing by the table accompanied by four of her average-sized friends. “Hey,” she said, “I like your shirt.” Mission accomplished. “Thanks,” I shrugged. “You want to come sit with us?” she asked. That was that. From then on we became inseparable all thanks to my black Guns-n-Roses concert t-shirt.
Besides finding my middle school clique, I had a difficult time settling into my new environment. At my old school, black and Hispanic kids from lower-income families graced the hallways but the North Houston suburbs were the exact opposite. We lived in the fairly well-to-do neighborhood of Atascocita (the big “A” it was often called) on a windy street named Magnolia Bend. At just twelve years old I would sit on my window sill smoking cigarettes and flicking the butts into my neighbor’s yard. They hated me. They hated my entire family. Even before Kirk and I egged their car, even before we threw condoms over the fence and into their pool, even before the cops paid us our monthly visit, they hated us because we were renters. We didn’t belong there and they knew it, sniffed us out like the lower-middle class derelicts we were. They had our number and we had theirs. We were enemies from day one.
Julie and I also terrorized the big “A”. We’d walk down to the boat docks and chase the ducks into the lake flapping our arms and quaking like a couple of special needs kids. Then we’d hike out through the tall weeds and hang out under the long bridge that connected Huffman to Humble. We’d pick up glass bottles along the way and chunk them against the sloped concrete wall yelling out the names of people who made our lives miserable.
“Mrs. Calfee!” Crash!
“My Dad!” Smash!
“Jennifer Whore-ton!” Clank!
“Everyone at school!” Whoosh.
Uh oh. One of the bottles soared over the top of the bridge and onto Interstate 1960. Julie turned to me wide-eyed, her mouth a perfect oval. I laughed and skid down the side of the bridge with my tall friend following behind calling out my name.
“Lindsay! What do we do? What if the cops show up?”
“Just run, Julie!” I laughed. She slowed me down though. Every time I looked back to see her bleach-blonde hair poking up in sporadic wisps around her head, her reddened face moistened from the sun, I laughed even harder. Tears burned my eyes as my towering friend doubled over behind me laughing and cursing at the same time. We’d light the wispy spires of yucca plants on fire and watch them burn like the Olympic flame for about three seconds. We purposely started a grass fire once and ran away when it got out of hand. We were trouble makers through and through. We both hated riding the bus so every day after school we’d walk about five miles to my house. Inevitably, the train of loaded buses would pass us by with our schoolmates yelling out the window, “Sasquatch!” Julie’s face would turn bright red, the rage eventually replaced with sadness and humiliation. I honestly don’t know how she survived middle school. To this day I still miss her.