It was 1984. Apple introduced the Macintosh, Indira Gandhi was assassinated and the Soviets boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. I was a freshman in high school, a bookish late blooming teen with glasses, acne and braces. Of all the events that year, back then I only cared that the movie Sixteen Candles released.
Sixteen Candles brought to life the caste system alive and well in my high school. Athletes dated cheerleaders. The honor society kids socialized within their species. The golden rule was a hard, steadfast rule: seniors don’t date freshman. Sixteen Candles gave me hope as love won out over unspoken rules.
The senior on my romance radar was Chris Mattola. Fair sandy hair, piercing ocean blue eyes and a gregarious smile. My daydreams involved his toothy grin and hand extended in the hall to take mine. We shared the same lunch period where I’d angle myself close enough just to take a peek in those baby blues and sigh. Each lunch my girlfriends, ironically each of us Jennifer, would giggle and talk about what a dream he was.
“Girls, where is this talk going to go? Every day it’s Chris Mattola, Chris Mattola. Yet I haven’t seen a one of you do a thing about it.”
Jennifer Caslin had the right to question us. She had a boyfriend and our Chris Mattola talk was taking up her bragging time. Jennifer Towner had the best shot of catching Chris, although still a long one. She was a tall blond with her own captivating blue eyes, but a sophomore. Then there was me, Jennifer Walker.
“Hey JW, you could write something. You’re really good at it. You know his locker, we could slip it in."
Jennifer Towner the unattached sophomore suggested. Jennifer Caslin grinned and dove for her notebook and pen. She always loved a half baked plan that would never work.
“There is no way I’m writing anything and signing my name. No way.”
The notebook was put in front of me. All eyes were on me.
“Do this for all the freshman that have a voice but are never heard.”
Jennifer Caslin really belonged in the debate club.
“Okay, but I’ll make it a riddle and I’m signing ALL our names.”
I wasn’t the best poet, but I had heart. Although I can’t quite recall my exact writings, I’m sure it wasn’t freshman mush, but at least gripping junior level romantic offerings. I can’t say it was even close to Song of Songs though. Again, this isn’t it, but something like this:
Those eyes, those ocean blue eyes, they paralyze and hypnotize.
Your smile, your kindness,
you are a treasure---
If we could meet, what a pleasure.
Since all our names were Jennifer, I signed off that way. Before we could lose our boldness Jennifer Caslin took it and slipped it in his locker, #1049. By lunch the entire cafeteria was abuzz. Someone sent Chris Mattola a love note, and he really liked it. Who was this mystery writer?
I wrote two more notes that week and by Friday, the fury over her identity was nearly the fanfare reserved for prom talk countdown. I watched Chris at lunch and he seemed on high alert, looking around for a clue. I revealed we shared the same lunch period. I even heard his sister ask after school if anyone knew anything. Jennifer Towner kicked Jennifer Caslin for snickering.
Reality hit when Jennifer Caslin’s boyfriend, Todd, asked if she knew anything. Todd and Chris lived in the same neighborhood and Todd couldn’t help but wonder as he certainly heard all us girls wax poetically about the gorgeous Chris Mattola. When Jennifer confessed she was the mastermind but I was the executor, Todd reminded her that she was a Christian and that lusting after one guy while dating another really wasn’t going to fly. Sheepishly Jennifer agreed and asked Todd to reveal our identities as gently as possible.
I dreaded lunch that Monday. Todd made sure to tell each of us that Chris was relieved to know who it was. When the Jennifers went their separate ways, Todd called out to me.
“I think you should know JW your words really moved him. He asked me to point you out.”
My heart was racing faster than Andretti could go in the Indy 500. Todd sighed.
“He’s really sorry you’re a freshman.”
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