And The Story Begins With An Act of Rebellion
And The Story Begins With An Act of Rebellion
My life changed the moment I met Richard Fuentes, or just plain Ricky, as I have called him this whole time that I've known him. It wasn't how you see in movies either, where we share an intimate moment for a couple seconds and knew that we would be friends forever. The only reason I chalk up us being best friends is because we had Mr. Moreno for our seventh grade science teacher. I remember the first day of school, walking in class and having Mr. Moreno point out an empty chair next to this pudgy kid with a chipped tooth. I immediately wanted a new seat, as I doubted that we would click at all. To make things worse, as class had begun, the first words out of Moreno's mouth was, "I hope you like the seats I assigned you, They'll be yours for the rest of the semester and the person sitting next to you will be your lab partner for the remainder of that time as well."
Well I just about shit myself right there in the middle of class. Who puts people together for whole semesters? I thought to myself. But I decided to make the most of it and at least try to make this class seem bearable. I remember doing the initial hello of middle school. And if you've been home schooled and you don't know the initial hello in middle school, then it went along the lines of this.
"Hey," I said.
That was it.
"Hey," was the answer I received.
So at least the guy was in the know. But as the first weeks of school went by, I learned that Ricky and I had a lot in common. We would talk about girls we thought were cute, or about the Dragonball Z episode that had come on the night before. This was back in the year 1999, so this was when that show was at the peak of its popularity. Not everyone was watching it in my school, only the cool kids, so it was a plus that he did know about it and followed it so closely.
Now that I think back on it, I don't even know what I was so nervous with Ricky in the first place. Maybe it was his appearance that kind of struck me as odd. For one, Ricky had this huge, protruding lump on the back of his right ear that he had been caused by a German shepherd attack a year before we had met. It was the first thing you would notice, even though it was on the back of his head and not the front, it stuck out so much. He had some chipped teeth too, that ran crooked along his upper lip. Also, he had this weird posture, where it made him look like he had a hump on his back. He would never really stand up as straight as possible ever, just kind of slump over all the time like he was about to fall on his face. But Ricky did have style, considering that we were both in Middle School. He always had new clothes, and the guy had more pairs of shoes then what I see in most girls' closets. He had this uncanny way of repelling dirt from his white clothes as well, because I would never really see him stain anything. It seemed like the guy could keep himself looking crisp in a tornado. All these things together made Ricky an odd sort of person. I came to find out later on that his appearance was also something that kept others from wanting to get to know my good friend.
He was also somewhat of a troublemaker. He would always get bored in the middle of class and start to act up for attention. I can't complain too much, because it was entertaining. At the same time, it was also very stressful because I never was too far away from the things that my friend Ricky got himself into. I didn't get dragged into it all the time though. There were a few instances that I was responsible for.
One of Rick's favorite games in class to play was the game "penis." Now, if you've never played the game, you probably don't know the rules too well, so I'll go over them briefly. You have to play with more than one person, and one person starts out by saying "penis" out loud. Then the next person has to say the word, but louder than the first person did. The game goes on like that until one of the group gets in trouble for saying the word out loud in class, making him the loser. Yes, it does seem like an immature game, but once you get the hang of it, it can be really fun. One day, while Ricky and I were playing in Mr. Moreno's class, we had even decided that just using the word penis was getting to be a little boring, Ricky started to use words like "goat piss" and "miscarriage." No, it wasn't in the best of taste, but Ricky rarely ever kept anything in good taste when he was bored and in class. When that started to get old, we would start to dare each other to do other things besides just screaming random things in class. It started with Ricky maybe throwing his Snickers bar at Ralph Harmon, or maybe me pouring some pickle juice in Sarah Slaughter's foundation. Soon even this got to be a little out of hand.
After a couple of weeks, needless to say the stakes were so high in our games that we began to run out of dares to do. It got to the point that we were doing the same old stuff everyday, and that was beginning to make Ricky even more irritable. I remember sitting in class one day, and neither of us could think of anything. Nothing at all. Things seemed like they would be lost in one boring hour and fifteen minutes of Mr. Moreno talking about cloud formations and what high and low pressure meant when predicting the weather.
That's when I purposed the impossible. Mr. Moreno had a very expensive pager back then. It was one where you would receive headlines and sports scores on it during the day so that you could get breaking news as it happened. Back when Walter Payton had died, he dedicated a good part of the class to what we made of the event, and how we feel when we see our role models and heroes pass away. In all honesty, it was pretty cool, considering that it was a science class and we spent most of the day talking about a Chicago Bears running back. Anytime breaking news would come along that Mr. Moreno saw as relevant, we would end class early and have a discussion about it. He even took special care of it and took it out of his belt clip when he sat down so that it wouldn't slip out and fall to the ground. Moreno loved that fucking thing, so I decided to throw a curveball at Ricky and see if he would swing at it.
"Hey Rick, I dare you to jack Moreno's stupid pager," I taunted as I knew that I finally had something that not even my dumb friend would try to pull off.
"What?" he replied, "You're not being serious are you?"
"As a heart attack," I replied with a grin.
I could literally see the wheels turning in Ricky's head as he processed what I had just purposed to him. I was pretty ecstatic that I had finally come up with something that my daring friend would never try to do. It was an unfeasible thought that someone would be able to get that pager away from Mr. Moreno. He had a hold on it like it was attached to him by an umbilical cord. There was no way that my friend would be able to even consider doing it, much less pulling it off. I think that the whole improbability of the whole situation took shape. For one, Mr. Moreno was our favorite teacher and good friend. Two, stealing a pager is pretty seedy. Those things were really expensive at the time, especially because it was when more and more people started to get cell phones, so the only people that still used pagers at the time were doctors, and apparently Moreno.
Ricky and I went through the rest of class pretty quietly. Ricky never answered my dare; he just asked if I was serious and then shut up about the issue for the remainder of class. We mostly just focused on our schoolwork for a change, which wasn't really my intention. I recall that towards the end of class, Ricky excused himself for a couple of moments so that he could ask Mr. Moreno a question about some homework that we had to do that night. I paid no attention while he was up there really. I didn't really think anything of him going up to speak with Mr. Moreno until he came back to the seat next to me with the biggest shit eating grin on his face. At first I didn't believe it. Ricky couldn't have been that dumb, I couldn't fathom how idiotic of a dare it was until I realized that if Ricky did really steal that pager, both of us would be in really deep shit.
"So you wanted me to get that pager huh?" Ricky asked me in a sly voice.
"You didn't," I told him. "There's no way that you stole it right there."
"Oh, I sure did buddy. That shit was easy as cake son."
My jaw dropped at the amazement that began to flow through me when he told me that he really did take that damn pager. I didn't think anything of the inaugural proposal, mostly because I didn't think that the dumb jerk would be stupid and brave enough to pull it off. I always thought in the back of my head that Ricky would have the common sense to realize that I just wanted to make him see that he couldn't do anything and everything, like he thought he could. Apparently I was the wrong one.
"Dude, I was fucking joking! Go give that shit back."
"It's too late now man," he told me, "I'm keeping this shit."
"He's going to notice that it's gone Rick, go put it back."
"Are you listening? I can't just go walk up there and say, here Mr. Moreno, I just stole your pager for a dare, have it back old buddy. That motherfucker will get pissed. So just chill. He won't notice that it's gone until after class."
We sat through most of the class pretty quietly. I tried to ignore that weird feeling that travels through your stomach when you're involved in something stupid. When time was getting short, we heard Moreno call out that it was time for everyone to hand in his or her worksheets. I walked up with both Ricky's and mine in hand.
"What?" he asked me as I handed them over. "Fuentes is too lazy to hand in his own work?"
"Something like that," I told him. I was very nervous standing up there with Moreno looking me over with his eyes. His meaty hands seemed like they were fumbling in his pockets for a while. A strange look covered his face, and I started to walk back towards my desk. I grabbed my backpack, and as I looked over towards Moreno to see him looking through his desk drawers and under his desk, looking for something.
The bell rang, and the huge mass of humanity that was Booth Fickett Magnet Middle School's student body emptied out into the hallways and out the door. Ricky began to celebrate as soon as we got out of the science hall and into the sunlight. We both took the same bus together to transfer at Vail Middle School. He pulled out the pager and looked around to see if anybody had followed him. Then he started to cackle and examine the booty as if it was made of solid gold.
"This shit is pretty bad," He told me through a grin.
"I didn't want you to take it," I blurted out. "I didn't want you to do anything. That's why I told you to steal the damn thing."
"You thought I was going to pussy out son?" he asked me. "That's cold Abel, I thought you knew me better than that."
At that point, a mutual friend, and my best friend at the time, Kevin Miner walked up to both of us. He right away noticed the pager that was sitting in Ricky's hands.
"Hey, where did you get that?!" Kevin asked.
"He stole it from Mr. Moreno," I answered for Rick.
"Really? Damn Ricky, you're ghetto."
Ricky went home and told his mother that he had bought the pager at school from some kid. She threw a fit and told Ricky that the kid probably had stolen it, and it wasn't a good idea to be activating it. It sat in a drawer for years until they didn't even activate pagers anymore.
The next day, Moreno told me that he had lost his pager and left it at school through the night to look for it the next day. He figured that he could find it in the morning, but it didn't come up. He told me that he suspected a janitor had taken it.
We were an odd bunch in that time. I didn't consider us odd, but that is the kind of category that we were automatically placed into, mostly because we didn't fit in any ordinary mold. It consisted of Ricky and me of course. Also, the Kevin that I mentioned earlier was a regular in our group. I had known Kevin since I was about seven. We had the same kindergarten class together and had been best friends ever since. But there also was Andrew Sizemore, who we referred to as Troll, because of his pointed ears and short stature. There was also Steve Holleran, who was a classmate of ours who took the same bus transfer at Vail Middle School. He was this kid who played pop warner football and mostly just kept to himself, and for that reason he didn't have a very big following of friends at our school. Our school, Booth Fickett Magnet School, wasn't a very welcoming community for introverts. I've heard that most middle schools are like that, but I've seen different in some places.
Tucson, Arizona, where I grew up, is a pretty hard place to grow up as is. It has 108-degree average for some summers, leaving you with a feeling that you're half scorpion or something. Not to mention that most drugs that cross over the border seem to find their way to Tucson before they're transported all over the states. Nogales is only about forty-five minutes south of it, making Tucson one of the easiest cities in the states to find cheap drugs. To some, that may seem great, but that also means that tweakers are running around every corner, asking for money or stealing something from somewhere or somebody. But not everything is so bad about my hometown. For one, we don't have to worry about snow. And another thing that I enjoy about it is that you can find some of the best Mexican food that you've ever eaten. I'm Latino, so that's pretty important.
I wasn't too appealing to speak to in middle school as well, apparently. I have to admit, that I was pretty gawky at times. Also, I wore my hair very long and back in a ponytail most of the time. For some reason, this was a big reason why I just couldn't break the ice with a lot of kids. Youths are over-particular when it comes to picking friends, I've come to observe. Looks are pretty important for a majority of people I meet, which is pretty shallow when you think of it. Things like that are inevitable though, so you can't really complain too much. People saw me as this weird kid who wouldn't cut his hair, and for that I wasn't very popular at all.
We still made the most of our time with each other, even though we weren't of the elite or anything like that. Like when we'd ride the bus together. We'd always make stupid contests where we'd try to hit cars on the way to school with random shit like erasers or unwanted items from packed lunches. Thinking back on it now, I don't think that we ever kept score or anything like that, it was mostly just a way to pass time. Yeah, I know, pretty stupid way to pass time. I admit that now that I'm older and more mature, notwithstanding that I do also admit to that fact that at the time it was also pretty fun. Bus rides were long and boring, and it was very stress relieving to clown around with some friends before or after school.
One day, Ricky and I were throwing old erasers at cars when this kid who rode our bus, Trevor Price, joined in with us out of boredom. With the extra kid, we ran out of erasers faster than expected, so Ricky opened up a bag of David's Sunflower Seeds. We started throwing those at the cars, but after a while of that, our new companion Trevor started to complain.
"Those things are too fucking small!" he told us. "Ya can't hit shit with those things. The wind carries them away before they even get a shot at hitting something."
"It's fine," Rick replied pretty nonchalantly, "you just have to throw more than one at a time. If you throw like three or four, then they'll start hitting some cars."
"Nah," Trevor answered, "it's not working. Let me see the bag."
He snatched the bag out of Ricky's hand and then tossed the whole thing out of the back window. It sailed in the air for only about a second before the wind caught it and sent it smack dab in the middle of a women's windshield who was driving on the side of the bus. Seeds flew all over the hood and glass, making the women swerve and have to correct herself before careening into the next lane over. She shot an evil look towards the bus window, and I couldn't stop myself from exploding with unstoppable laughter. She kept her gaze on the window that the seeds came out of, Ricky's coincidentally, and then began coasting her Volvo so that she could get behind the bus.
"Man, she looks pissed," I informed Ricky as I tried to peak a look to the back window of the bus so I could see what she was doing.
"What is she doing?" he inquired as I tried to position my head so that I could see through the eighth graders heads that populated the bus.
"I think she's following the bus dude."
"Damn," Trevor blurted out. "Doesn't she have work or a fucking soap opera to watch?"
"Apparently not," I said, "I've never seen anyone so pissed about their car getting hit."
She was more than pissed to be completely honest. She was livid! She began shouting into her windshield so loud that you could hear her from outside the windows. After about three city blocks, everyone on the back of the bus was talking about it. After a few more minutes of that, pretty much everyone on the bus was in on what was going on, all except the bus driver. He would just look in his rearview and yell for everybody to sit down and quit acting crazy.
The bus pulled in to the bus bay at school and everyone started to get off to get to their class. As we were unloading off the bus, I could see the crazed women's car looking for a space to park. At Fickett, there were two ways to enter; the bus bay, which was a half circle dedicated to dropping off and picking up students, and the faculty and visitor parking lot. She wasn't able to enter where we had, so she had to go into the visitor lot and then make it over to where our bus was. I began talking with Kevin about doing something after school together and forgot momentarily about what was going on outside the bus. As Ricky, Trevor, Kevin, and I stepped off the bus, there was the woman from the Volvo, standing on the outside of the fencing that separated the bus bay from the rest of the school. She had a wild look in her eyes and was gripping the fence so hard that her knuckles were bright white with tension. Kevin and I tried to scoot off, but she began a huge attack that shook the concrete underneath our feet. At that point, Ricky and Trevor took off, only leaving blurs of them darting off into the inner workings of the school. The women focused her attention on my best friend and me.
"One of your little friends was throwing crap at my car!" she screamed at us from the top of her lungs.
"What are you talking about lady?" I questioned, trying to play stupid. "What friend?"
"One of the two that just ran off!"
"I don't know those kids lady."
"Bullsnot! I saw you talking to them earlier."
"I just told them how dumb it was to throw stuff out the window at passing cars."
Kevin and I walked off as she hollered and wailed about going to the office and informing them about it. I just put it at the back of my head for the time being and walked with Kevin to go read in the library for a while before class. Little did I know that would not be the last time I'd hear about the event.