I was about to get keys to a new life at the 6th grade graduation ceremony. I was a good student, as far as I knew. I got A’s and stayed out of trouble as much as I could. Blending in with the crowd was an art, I thought. Being invisible among them was like the greatest magic trick one could do, and I so I felt like the Houdini of Dillon Elementary. I was so good no one knew who I was, except for Simon, Tan, and Wilson. They made me uncomfortable sometimes, but they were the only ones I talked to about action movies. As uncomfortable as I felt, all K-6, they were my only friends and conversations never deviated from action movies.
“Are you ready for 7th grade?” asked Simon. The 6th grade class was being seated in metal folding chairs in front of the audience. All faculty and everyone else’s parents. The parents who’d attended, whispered amongst themselves, and I saw the lunch lady by the coolers of fruit punch alone. I thought her face was the most proud.
“I dunno. Getting to the 6th grade took a long time.” I answered.
“Look how easy it was!” enthusiastically. Then Tan sat down next to Simon. He had to switch a few seats because the students were seated alphabetically. Of these 3 boys, I liked Tan most. He wasn’t afraid to say things out loud.
“Are you guys ready for the 7th grade?” asked Tan as he adjusted his slouch comfortably into the metal chair.
“I am, but Danny isn’t. He wants to stay in the 6th grade. Where’s Wilson?” asked Simon.
“You want to stay in the 6th grade?” Tan asked.
“I didn’t say that,” I corrected. Before I could explain Tan continued.
“I like 6th grade too,” said Tan, “but I don’t want to stay. After 7th grade, there’s 8th grade. And then it’s high school. My brother said high school was going to be the funnest. Wilson is staying 6th grade again.”
“Why is high school funnest?” asked Simon. No one said anything about Wilson. He rarely spoke, even less than I did. When he did, it was always a, “Yeah,” or “Nu uh.” Someone seated behind us shushed us. They actually cared to hear what the principle was saying. We saw the principle, maybe twice a year, unless a teacher was really pissed at you enough to send you to him. Besides graduation ceremony, he greeted us. The principle was like a restaurant host. Then he started calling us on stage by our names.
“Well, the girls. But my brother also said their the reason high school is hard too” said Tan.
“Araceli, Gabrielle… Ayerson, Brittany… Azanian, Gregory…”
We sat there in silence, watched the students cross the stage. I recognized them all. They didn’t speak to me
“What happens with the girls?” Simon finally asked.”
“Beliz, Anthony… Binder, Carl… Bo, Lee…”
“They get prettier. And meaner. But prettier.” Tan explained. More silence. Great, I thought, more Tracys, Lisas, Amys, and Dominiques. Beauty and age was a dangerously cruel combination. My mother had that combination.
“Oh, well at least we’ll still be friends. They’re just girls, and they can’t do anything to us.” Simon said confidently.
“Yeah, I guess so.” agreed Tan. I said nothing as I watched Aubrette cross the stage to receive her certificate. I wanted her to walk more slow.
As it turned out, Simon was wrong. He was wrong about girls not being able to do anything to us. They became more dangerous to us boys as they got older, and when they became women, they’d gain even more the power. They had the ability to crush us into dimensions of despair we never could have imagined. But they also had the ability to save us from the that despair. Boys were at the mercy of girls, and the ticks of time only granted them more power. That was the law of the land, if you knew that, you wouldn’t suffer as much. Nobody knew that. I didn’t know that. The other thing, Simon was wrong about, was us remaining friends.
During the Summer, my mother, baby brother, my father, and I moved two towns away. The packing made me feel sad, but I didn’t cry or mention anything. Our new place was still in the Los Angeles County, but since I lived in another district, I wasn’t allowed to go to the school I was supposed to. I would not be joining Simon or Tan in the 7th grade, but neither was Wilson. We never saw Wilson again. (I did see a Martial Arts flyer on the bulletin board of a coffee shop in Los Feliz. On it, was a guy flipping another guy over, and the guy being flipped over looked reminded me of Wilson.) Even though those guys made me feel uncomfortable, I’m sure I made them uncomfortable too.
I was to attend school at Rutherford Intermediate instead of Wellington. Incidentally, Aubrette Butterson’s summer unraveled the same way mine did. She was to start 7th grade at Rutherford too. I was with my mom at the supermarket when I found out. I stood next to a wall of greenish bananas and my mother was speaking to a lady whom I recognized as the same lady dropping Aubrette off at school. I turned towards the greenish bananas and held my smile in when she mentioned she was moving to the same city.
Sometimes, I fantasized about Aubrette holding my hands. Other couples in school did. It didn’t seem anymore special to me than being Houdini of Dillon. But I can’t share my power of invisibility with Aubrette like whatever it was the couples shared. She’d have to want to share that kind of power with me, not just because I wanted to give it to her. I started feeling queasy all of a sudden. I felt like vomiting. And I did. I threw up onto the wall of greenish bananas and Aubrette and I were going to the same school.