I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then. ~ Lewis Carroll
Have you ever stepped back in time? Returned to a place you swore you’d never set foot in again? A place that gives you shivers just thinking about? A place where nightmares are born and never die? I did.
Junior high school.
My old school was the polling station for our last provincial election. The moment I walked in the door I got smacked upside the head by memories. Smacked, I tell you. Upside the head.
I cast my vote in the gym, locale of many sports-related bully-target moments for this asthmatic teacher’s pet. They (that’s junior high speak for those damn adults) even made us dance in there. I don’t mean after school ‘shags’ — really? shags? — that I never attended. Nope. All the latest dances were part of the phys ed curriculum. The box step. The alley cat. The hustle.
Okay, only that last one was ‘latest’ when I was in junior high. It was the height of disco fever after all. I don’t know where the rest of those steps came from but I can’t get that alley cat music out of my head! It is macarenaesque as bad dance ear worms go.
On my way to vote in the gym, I passed the entry to the most horrific place of all. The girls’ locker room. Humiliation abounded inside those walls. Like hell would I change into my gym strip — really? strip? — in front of the other girls. Instead I endured taunts through the curtain of one of the few change cubicles.
“Joanne you’re so flat!”
“Not as flat as Julie! She’ll never get boobs.”
On this trip back in time, I didn’t get to revisit the one room where I was completely at ease. Math class. I was the star of junior high math. In grade six I lead my team to victory in the math Olympics (which was really only who could do rote times tables the fastest). Throughout junior high, my math mark was never below 95%, and it was normal for 100% to grace my report card. My favourite teacher, Mr. McDonald, wrote the best report card comment ever.
“What can I say?”
No, I can’t go back. Don’t want to. But in looking back, I can find the good, focus on the positive. I did make friends that I still have 35 years later. Even some of the bullies and cool kids that wouldn’t give me the time of day and made me quake in my sneakers when I walked through the halls are now friends.
And it is fun to remember how embarrassed the art and home ec teachers were when they got caught making out in the supply closet.
Do you have a scary place? Would you be brave enough to go back?