You go to school in Indiana??

Living in Southridge did not entitle to me attend Fontana school district schools. Instead, this area of Fontana is assigned to the Colton School district even though Colton is 20 minutes east of Fontana and none of that makes any sense. My neighbor Alfredo got a transfer to Kaiser High School because of football. I did not play sports; I do not like balls flying at or near my face. I am absolutely comfortable watching sports instead, as long as there are snacks involved.

My assigned school was Bloomington High School. When I asked Mary about it, she made it sound fine. Bloomington is the neighboring city to the east of Fontana. Bloomington isn’t actually a city, it’s an unincorporated area that was once named Crestmore. One of the first things I noticed about Bloomington in 2001 was that the home plots near the high school did not have sidewalks. People talked about the infamous “number streets” where all the gangsters lived. The “number streets” is a small grid of streets with one story tract homes built in the 1950’s and aren’t supposed to be standing at this date, because they were not made well. They don’t have sidewalks either. The high school was built in 1962 for a student population of 900. In 2006, the school population was 3,000.

An ancient map of the number streets

I think everyone at one point has wanted to go back in time and do things differently or better. That’s how I interpreted my change of schools from Hawthorne to Bloomington; an opportunity to do it again, but different. I would show up, not still figuring out who I was but instead fully secure in who I wanted to be. Or you know, who I thought I was at age fifteen. Have you met a teenager? You can laugh at my misguided confidence.

I’m grateful that I had Mary with me on the first day of sophomore year. She introduced me to her friend group, a group of girls who all looked very different from each other and I thought that was cool. I told her I wanted to meet the kids who looked like they were in a band or at least listened to good music. I would be quickly disappointed, everyone who wore band tshirts was still wearing Korn and Slipknot. No one had informed these kids that those bands were so 3 years ago. How had their music tastes not expanded? We all start somewhere but it was like they started and never kept going. Just stayed comfortable. There were Dead Kennedys and Misfits shirts floating around too, but I never got into that. We could be acquaintances but I wouldn’t date a “punk”.

I desperately looked for anyone wearing a Tool shirt among the clusters of high schoolers. I found nothing for weeks. I wore mine, that’s probably all I wore for months and my binder was a shrine to Maynard until everyone called me the Tool Girl. Thank you Bloomington, real original.

Then one day, I saw her. She wore a white tool shirt and dickies, dirty blonde hair and heavy eyeliner that really highlighted her blue eyes. I just ran up to her and said “Tool!!” And that’s how Sam (Ashley) and I became friends.

It’s funny how you’ll ask the universe to send you something but if you’re not specific enough you’ll end up with something similar but not exact. The universe is not a mind reader. Sam played bass in a band, her favorite bands were Deftones and Incubus. She had a controlling boyfriend who didn’t go to our school. Among a sea of people with whom I felt nothing in common, her friendship was exactly what I needed. Sam and I understood each other creatively, we shared a journal that she would draw pictures in and I would write poems inspired by her pictures or vice versa. We’d pass it back and forth and it turned out pretty dark, but it’s not like we were listening to pop music so I’m not sure what we could’ve expected.

Freshman year at Hawthorne I took Chorus as my elective. It was my 6th (last) period and the classroom was at the front of the school, it was really easy to walk right past it and keep going to the Jack In the Box. The first time Sam suggested we ditch a class it seemed like a good idea, we stayed in the restroom until the late bell rang. Once we walked out of the restrooms, I asked her where we were going next, were we walking to get something to eat? Turned out, this campus was locked and there was no leaving unless you were in with the sexual predator security guards. That was a hard pass. Also, even if you managed to leave the perimeter, it was a good mile and a half to the local Burger Basket. We walked around the campus for less than five minutes before being stopped by security and told to go sit in study hall. That was the last time I ditched until I had friends old enough to drive.

I took German as my foreign language at Bloomington, I thought it was really cool that they offered it even though I had planned to take Italian at Hawthorne. Italian was not offered at Bloomington. Frau Pahner was a fabulous teacher, she was a tall German woman who loved Rod Stewart. She pronounced my name perfectly from day one. This would be a recurring theme with any foreign language teacher I’ve ever had, they always said my name correctly. I joined German Club and went on their field trip to the Old World Village in Huntington Beach. I enjoyed that class thoroughly, I’d still love to see Germany one day.

I’d originally planned to get into leadership, I so badly wanted to rekindle my love with debate and public speaking. Bloomington did not have a debate or public speaking class or club. Their school leadership was just a popularity contest crossed with a decorating with banners and balloons club. However, Bloomington did have a farm. I had one class on the farm because I’d opted to take Horticulture Science (Ag) instead of regular science that year. I found learning about plants was far more interesting than people.

With the farm came the Future Farmers of America (FFA) association which also had a leadership team but they participated in extemporaneous public speaking contests and debate. Their competitions included plant identification, bovine ID, and you could also raise farm animals and compete in livestock shows at the county fair. No, we did not have milk tasting contests, you’ve watched too much Napoleon Dynamite. I was there for the leadership program.

While I was busy learning to be a leader, I was also busy making enemies. I have never been a belligerent person, it takes a lot to really piss me off and I’ve never bullied anyone. I made an enemy on a misunderstanding that blew out of proportion. One day Mary and I were walking behind a girl named Gil (Gillian), I think Mary already knew her and I’d recently met her through a friend, she seemed like someone who could joke around. I’d seen her interact with the boys, she definitely joked around. We walked behind her and said “Hey Gil, you want a lollipop?” and just said it over and over as she walked away from us. Apparently this was not cool and we now had a new sworn enemy.

Mary and I had a ‘slam book’, a plaid cover spiral notebook that we passed around friends. Everyone contributed, posing questions, adding drawings, jokes, and stories. The book got into the wrong hands at some point. Someone started talking shit in our slam book and the conflict went back and forth. Gil hated us, and now her best friend hated us too.

One sunny day in ag science class, we sat outside as a class on bleachers. Someone had gotten a hold of a new “slam book” that was making its way around school. The first page said “This book has no rules except one: No Fio, No Celina”. Celina was in my class and I took the notebook over to show her and we both laughed out loud and threw it away. That’s the story of how I met my best friend Celina, a friendship born of hate against us.

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