At The Harbor with No Water
By: Lady Jenna
Catching anyone up on my life up till now is no hard task. My twin brother, Archie, and I were born in upstate New York in 1983. At the age of ten, two years after our little sister Ginny was born and one month after our father died, we moved to Little Harbor, New York. Little Harbor, despite its name, was half an hour's drive to any actual body of water. So in fact there was a little harbor in Little Harbor, but it was so little no one could find it. No one I've ever met anyway. When Archie and I had come to the age for schooling the family decided that he would go in a year before me, so I ended up entering pre-K at age five instead of four. The reason for this is, even though Archie and I were different genders we still looked quite a bit alike, and we didn't want to confuse anyone. Thank God Archie never failed a grade. In fact, he had graduated four months ago and was currently awaiting replies from the many colleges he applied for. He had wanted to take some time off from school so now he worked at the local pizza place six nights a week. That about sums up my life so far. Oh, my name. My name if Jacqueline Lynn Robinson, Jackie for short. I am 18 years of age and I have light brown hair that comes just above my shoulders, green eyes, and somewhat of an attitude. I enjoy reading immensely and have made a point to stay away from baseball in any form. I'm about five feet eight inches and about 135 pounds. There, that about sums up my life so far.
I listened to the sound of my sneakers hitting the floor and my new pair of jeans sweeping together as I walked down the hall on the third floor of Little Harbor High School to my homeroom. It was the first day of my senior year and I was looking forward to some real life preparation. It's a tough world out there, and I intend to be ready for anything. I heard the click of a pair of brand new high heel shoes walk up behind me and then felt two hands cover my eyes. I smiled knowing perfectly well who it was, and that she knew I knew perfectly well who she was.
"Hey Dee," I said as the hands moved away and I could see again. My best friend Denitra Blake stepped out in front of me wearing a yellow mini skirt, shirt and jacket, with matching shoes and earrings.
"Hey girl," she said smiling and chewing on a piece of gum. I could smell the mint coming from her mouth so it must be a new piece. Dee almost always had a piece of gum in her jaws and never cared if it still had flavor or not. She moved a few strands of her shiny black hair off of the dark brown complexion of her face as we continued walking down the hall toward the homeroom we would share for the duration of the school year. When I had walked into my first day of school in Little harbor in the fifth grade Dee had been the first person to talk to me and we've been best friends ever since. We walked into room 302 and were greeted by the cheers of people we had seen last week, but on the first day of school whatever we did during the summer vanished and everyone was happy to see each other again. I felt an arm drape over my shoulders and saw Evan standing beside me almost protectively. Evan was one of Dee's brothers and so far the only one to be held back a year. There were eleven people in Dee's family. She had a mom and a dad who must love each other to the ends of all Earth because they have nine children. Dee has five older brothers and three younger ones. Each one of them watches out for her and will kill anyone who messes with their sister. Since I'm her best friend the same rules apply to me. Now I'm as much of a feminist as the next woman but having eight guys constantly worrying about me and questioning me about any guy they see me talking to fells kind of nice, kind of fortified. Evan was my age but several inches taller. His complexion was a bit lighter then Dee's but his brown eyes were darker. He was growing in a moustache on his upper lip and in the right light I could actually see it. The three of us sat down in the middle row all next to each other. Dee was talking to Tanya Webb, a nice looking girl with a very dark complexion; she really was almost black. Tanya wore a white T-shirt and a pair of very form fitting jeans and sandals. Tanya was he class gossip and was probably filling Dee in on all of the stuff that would or could happen today. I took a mechanical pencil out of my brown and black book bag that I had set on the ground by my feet and placed the pencil into my ponytail so it stayed. I looked toward the front of the room and watched Mrs. Fox sort some papers into piles on her desk as she waited for the first bell to ring and the kids to settle. Mrs. Fox must have been close to retirement and probably had kids our age, yet her hair remained the same reddish brown color it might have been in her youth. I never really understood women who don't seem to want to grow old. My thoughts were, you went through being a baby, you went through being a toddler, you went through being a pre teen, you went through being a teenager, you went through being a young adult, you went through being middle aged. So when you got to old age you should shut up and give yourself a Goddamn rest. The head of every male student in the classroom turned toward the door as Sandra Sanchez walked through it. Sandra had her hair filled with volume, her face filled with make up, and her bra just plain filled. She was more skin then clothes, and more hips then anything else as she walked in and slid into a seat in the second room. The bell starting homeroom rung and Mrs. Fox got out of her seat and closed the door and started handing out papers. She had probably done attendance as we walked in and was ready to get to work. I checked my watch to make sure it was on time with the school's clock. It was. When each student got a sheet of paper then bent over and got out a pencil, that made me feel a bit smarter having already been prepared. The sheet was the typical stuff we had to fill out every year and then she passed us our class schedules. First period I had Spanish, which was no problem. Señora Johnson would be my teacher this year and she loved me. Second period was a study hall and third was a college level math course. I wanted to get in some real life as soon as I could. Fourth period would be the interesting one, English. Last year the senior English teacher had retired to Jamaica so I would have a newbie. Fifth period was gym and I felt baseball in my near future. Then I had lunch followed by another study hall. Then I had shop, which was a bit of a surprise to me. Eighth period was Social Studies. They didn't call it Social Studies but it was what every kid in the school would call it. We signed some more papers and then Dee and I compared schedules. We had second, fourth, lunch, sixth, and eighth together. Evan and I had lunch and seventh. Tanya was only in my fourth and lunch but was in another of Dee's classes that I didn't catch. I don't think anyone asked Sandra about her classes. The bell for first period rang and we had five minutes to get to first period. Señora Johnson's room was on the first floor so I jogged down the few flights of stairs and down another hallway. I passed by the nurse's office and waved to Nurse Grimes as she thumb-tacked a new poster to the wall. It read "Skip the wrong period and you'll be seeing more then the principal." I found Señora Johnson's room easily enough and received a hug hello from her. I surveyed all of the kids in my class before sitting in the second seat in the second last row from the door, my usual perch.
Spanish had been no sweat. I had made a list of all the supplies she had told us to buy and wondered how much of them we would actually use. Most of the stuff I had already, Archie had been in her class the year before so I already had all of the notes and dictionaries. Archie kept very good notes, which came very handy very often. Except when I was sick, Mom would still make me copy down the day's notes. In study hall on the second floor I made two copies of my schedule, one for home and one for my locker. We'd get our locker number and combination tomorrow morning. During study hall I had dropped my pencil and gotten scolded by the teacher. I checked my schedule and was happy to see that I had a different study hall teacher later in the day. Miss. Westing and I weren't going to get along. Math involved a bit more note taking and listening. Mrs. Frankfoot, yes that's her name, had a very soft voice so I had to move up a seat from my usual spot just to hear her. She also wrote very small so I added a magnifying lens to my list of supplies. The school must have hired her by e-mail or something and I almost feared imagining her teaching a room full of a hundred kids with her tiny little voice.
I stood outside of room 221 and prepared myself for fresh blood to Little Harbor High, which is basically an older lady who is actually enthusiastic about working here. Dee caught up to me just outside of the closed door and we fussed about Miss. Westing together, just like teenagers do. Dee walked into the room first and I followed her, reading my schedule. For the teacher's name all it writ was "Walker" so I wondered if it was Ms. Mrs. or Miss. Now you'd think with all of those possibilities I would have been right… Well I wasn't. It was Mr. Walker. Now on occasion I've had male teachers but in Little Harbor it was rare, and Mr. Walker was one of the rarest. I sat down in the second seat in the second last row and Dee sat at my right, closer to the door. Mr. Walker had looked up at us briefly then continued working on something behind his desk. He was young, early 20's young. He had short hair with brown roots and blonde tips and I'd have noted his eye color but he didn't look at me for very long and I hadn't been close enough to tell. Dee leaned closer to me as she pulled out a pencil.
"Quite the fox isn't he?" she asked me.
"Ew," I said in reply but in my mind I quite agreed. The bell beginning fourth period rang and all of the kids were already in their seats, probably as awe struck as I was. I didn't see where Tanya sat but Sandra placed herself right in front of Mr. Walker, which was in the seat right in front of Dee. I glanced at Dee and her face looked like she had just bit into an unripe lemon, and that's bad. I noticed some other kids I new personally and others I knew only by name, and we were all waiting for Mr. Walker to do something besides sit behind his desk writing. Finally he stood up and walked around in front of his desk and sat on the corner of it, directly in front of me. He was reading the paper he had just been writing on and finally looked up at us. He looked somewhat surprised that his classroom was filled with students, even though he had watched everyone of us walk in. He had blue eyes.
"Lewis Attkinson," he read. A male voice coming from somewhere behind me acknowledged that Lewis was here. He went through the list simply until he came to Derrick Robins, which meant he was stuck on my name.
"Jackie Robinson?" he asked not believing he had even said my name. I raised my hand until he looked directly at me.
"Your name is Jackie Robinson?" he asked me. It was the first not attendance related thing he had said. I nodded.
"Well, not THE Jackie Robinson," I told him and his eyebrows lowered. He continued with the attendance until he was done then he set the list on his desk and looked back at us. He surveyed us for a few moments; somewhat like a hawk looks for prey. I hope that simile isn't too accurate.
"Alright then," he finally said clapping his hands together, "my name is Mr. Walker, and I am your new English teacher, hurray. I thought that today I'd let you get to know me and tomorrow I can get to know all of you. So for today, and only today, you can ask me any question about myself at all."
"How old are you?" a kid asked.
"Damn, how can you be a teacher so young?"
"I did a lot of homework and skipped a lot of grades."
"Where you live at?"
"I live here in Little Harbor, in the West Side."
"Got a girlfriend?"
"So you live alone or something man?"
"What's your first name?"
"That's nice, any more questions?"
"Boxers or briefs?" a girl asked and the class laughed, myself excluded.
"Ha! You owe me ten bucks girl!" she said and the class laughed again.
"What's your favorite book?" I asked. He was an English teacher; it was a good question. He looked at me a little surprised and leaned toward me.
"Go tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin," he answered, "and yours?"
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl," I answered truthfully. It's the only book I know that I've read five times. Some of the kids in the class laughed but I didn't care. Mr. Walker leaned away from me.
"It's a good book," he said nodding slightly. He then turned to the rest of the class, "any more questions?"
"Where you from?"
"Why'd you come here?"
"What's your favorite movie?"
"Army of Darkness."
"Too hard to chose."
"You dye your hair?"
"Ever been arrested?"
"You're not supposed to."
"Not for eight months no."
"So you're a April baby?" Dee asked. He nodded.
"I love April babies," Sandra said chewing on the eraser of her pencil.
"Jackie's an April baby," Dee said. She knew for a fact I wasn't, I was born in September.
"Yo girl Jackie had a birthday party last week!" a guy behind us said.
"Yea, she was born in September, but her mom's name is April," Dee said and laughed slightly as the other kids groaned. Mr. Walker laughed slightly.
"Happy Birthday," he told me.
"Thank-" I said with a quick look at my watch and I was out of my seat headed toward the door. I could feel everyone's eyes on me, and Dee's grin. I placed one hand on the door to push it open when the bell rung. I was out of door before the bells finished ringing.
Gym had been mostly sitting in the gym listening to Ms. Rodan telling us what we'd need to be prepare, which was just sweat pants and sneakers, just like last year, and the year before, and so on until the beginning of time. She informed us that the first sport we'd relearn is none other that baseball, a sport I have gone out of my way not to play. Just to spite me Archie had been on the school's baseball team so Ms. Rodan told me she expected to see some of the Robinson baseball genes rub off on me. I don't really mind being named after a famous guy, it's just the moments like with Mr. Walker when he said my name and after the years those get to me. What a lot of people wonder is why did my parents name me Jackie Robinson in the first place. Well my Mother had a wonderful relationship with her Grandmother, and when Great Grandma died Mom vowed to name her first born girl after her. Her name was Jacqueline, and my luck Mom married Mark Robinson. Archie was named after Dad's Dad, Archibald. Which makes sense because the two are a lot alike, they sure look alike. We both have Grandpa Archibald's eyes and hair color. The trek from the basement where the gym was to the third floor where the cafeteria was soon going to be my least favorite part of the day. Especially after a tough period of dodging flying objects for forty minutes. Dee and I met right in front of the cafeteria doors and entered the room of talking teenagers together. Dee always had extravagant lunches. Today she had Macaroni salad, watermelon, a bottle of water, potato salad, a peach, five homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a Twinkie. Every day of every year Dee and all of her brothers have lunches that put my peanut butter and banana with a bottle of tap water plus apple to shame. I really had to admire Dee's mom, especially when John, the oldest son, was in his first year of college and her mom still made lunches for him. I could imagine her getting up at five o'clock in the morning and making these incredible lunches for nine kids, none of which like the same thing. You really had to admire the woman. Dee and I sat across from each other at a table in one of the two center rows; we sat at the table closest to the lunch line. The tables in the cafeteria were in ten rows vertically when standing by the lunch line. There was a large space between the fifth and sixth rows right in the center of the room. Dee and I sat alone at one of the tables with the most space.
"I don't believe you left English mid sentence," Dee said spreading her lunch out before me in a tidy fashion so she didn't take up much space. Despite what the wad of gum always stuck between Dee's teeth might tell a person about her, Dee was one of the cleanest and mostly orderly people I've ever met.
"I never thought 'Thank You' was a sentence," I told her opening my water bottle.
"Mid phrase then. Though girl, you shoulda seen the look on Mr. Walker's face! He was freakin'!"
"I was?" a voice said and Mr. Walker slid into the seat beside Dee and she almost dropped the peach she had just taken a bit from. She chewed and swallowed so quickly I wasn't sure she had even chewed.
"Yo Mr. Walker I didn't know you's was behind me!" she defended herself. He waved it off then turned to me.
"So Jackie, how did you know the bell was going to ring like that?"
"Oh she does that every year, though she usually don't leave in mid phrase like that," she said with a glance to me, "she was probably just giving you a message."
"What message would that be?" he asked still looking at me. I shrugged and took a bite out of my apple. Dee and I always ate the fruit first.
"You know, the 'Just cause you're a teacher don't mean you know more then me,' message," she told him taking another bite out of her peach.
"Yo Mr. Walker! How you doing man?" Evan said walking over to our table carrying his bag lunch; God knows what he had in it. He slid into the seat beside me and two guys took up the spare two seats.
"I'm alright," Mr. Walker told him.
"You've had English already Evan?" Dee asked. Evan nodded as he poured his lunch onto the table in one big heap.
"Yea, I got it fifth. It good to see ya again dude," he told Mr. Walker.
"Wait a minute here, you've met Mr. Walker before? And you ain't never told me?" Dee demanded.
"Told you? Damn girl you've met him too, both you's," Evan said pointing to Dee then to me. I kept my eyes from widening, I think I would have remembered seeing Mr. Walker.
"What! When?" Dee asked as if trying to catch him in a lie.
"Summer, some month, I don't remember. Mr. Walker here is a friend of Marco, girl, you mean you don't remember. Mr. Walker flat out introduced himself to you," Evan said with half a banana in his mouth. Dee studied Mr. Walker's face and I'd just wait for her to figure it out or for Evan to tell us.
"Wait a sec, Mr. Walker, when you dye your hair?"
"When you get it cut last?"
"Two weeks ago."
"How long was it?"
"About chin length I'd say."
"Snaps man! I remember you! Jackie! Girl this is Jason, that friend of Marco's he introduced us to! Geez Mr. Walker you've changed!" she told him happy with herself. I smiled, I remembered him now too, and he has changed. Dee said he had been a fox back then too.
"Yea girl, I don't believe you forgot that! Though I imagine that little bathing suit thing you had been wearing mighta cut the blood going to you brain!" Evan said smiling as he took a bite out of his sandwich. Dee frowned at him. That day was getting clearer to me. Dee and I had been swimming in their pool and came in for towels and there had been Marco, Evan, Donny (Dee's 15 year old brother), and Mr. Walker with long brown hair. Great, the first time I had met my new English teacher I had been in a bathing suit and dripping wet. Can I get a second first impression? Please? I saw a look of realization on Mr. Walker's face as he realized we had all met before too. I took a bite out of my apple.
"Hey that was a very stylish bathing suit! You didn't mind Jackie wearing it," we had thought matching bathing suits would be cute. Evan grinned and put an arm around my shoulders.
"That's different," he said bobbing his head up and down slightly.
"Evan?" I asked.
"Yea babe?" he asked still bobbing his head.
"Don't touch me," I said and the table started laughing. The people at the table, not the table itself, obviously. Evan removed his arm but gave me a friendly nudge. Ever since I moved here Evan has been doing stuff like that, hitting on me, but it was all in fun, we were a lot like a brother and sister, only more flexible.
"That had been a very enlightening day," Mr. Walker said drinking from his thermos.
"What you didn't know that my dad had any female sperm in him?" Dee asked him. Mr. Walker spit some of his coffee back into the little cup. I assume it was coffee, it smelled like it. Evan laughed.
"She loves saying that to people Mr. Walker. Hey, can we call you Jason?"
"No." Mr. Walker answered and I smiled. It was true; Dee did love telling people who knew her brothers but not her that.
"So Mr. Walker why did you move here?" Dee asked but I never heard the answer. I stood up and carried my book bag and garbage over to the garbage cans as the bell rang, and scooted out the door.
Dee and I sat next to each other in room 320 in Mrs. Dent's room for our second study period of the day. I finished off my bottle of tap water and went over the list of supplies I'd need. It then occurred to me that Mr. Walker had never given us a list of supplies. He probably would tomorrow. I spent a large portion of that study hall watching Dee draw in the sketchbook she always carried. I knew she was drawing from memory because she never once looked up from the book until I tapped her telling her the bell was about to ring. Dee loved to draw cartoons; she loved to draw just about anything, but cartoons mostly. She was drawing her and I wearing matching bathing suits talking to a cartoon Marco, Evan, Donny, and Mr. Walker with long hair. Shop with Evan had been fun mostly because Evan was a fun guy and loved fooling around, and Mrs. Licker let him, she really didn't care. Tomorrow we were going to start work on dragsters. Evan said he was going to have Dee designs his for him. I wished him luck. I didn't pay much attention during Social Studies. Mrs. Livingston was the most boring person on the entire planet. I just got the list of supplies I'd need and thought about my dragster.