There was a feeling of excitement in the air as all of the juniors rushed down the hallway and poured into the auditorium. Today was the day that everyone had been waiting for and no one wanted to miss a single second of the action. All of the English classes had been cancelled so the students could attend a special assembly on sex education. We were afraid that the assembly would be cancelled when some of the parents protested that this kind of program did not belong in a predominantly middle-class, predominantly white high school in the suburbs. However, their campaign failed and the assembly was held.
All around me the students were happily chattering about what the assembly would talk about and making crude jokes about what kind of homework would be assigned in a sex education class. The noise was deafening until a strange lady walked into the room and announced that she was our guest speaker. For the next 45 minutes you could hear a pin drop, as she talked about different issues of sexuality including lesbianism. When she mentioned that lesbianism was becoming very common for teenage girls and that our campus probably contained some lesbians, a murmur instantly went through the crowd. It seemed like everyone had an opinion on lesbians. A football player was telling his buddy how lesbians always hit on other girls, especially in the showers after gym class. A cheerleader was telling another cheerleader how lesbians were gross and she would kick their butt if she ever found one in her school.
The guest speaker heard the cheerleaders talking and took the opportunity to get the assembly back on track. She told us how coming out was a major problem for many lesbians because they feared if they were honest then nobody would be their friend or that somebody would hurt them. Then she gave some astounding statistics about hate crimes still committed against gay people in the United States. It was astonishing to think that in this day and age that people had to face such discrimination and fear because they had a different sexual preference. As I gathered up my books to head to my locker, I could still hear people making comments about the behavior of homosexuals. Even though I had never met a lesbian before, I instinctively knew that the things they were saying were not true. In fact, I didnít even believe that someone my age would actually be a lesbian. It just sounded too weird.
As I neared my locker, I saw that my good friend Erika was already waiting for me. We always met at my locker after sixth hour so we could walk to our history class together. We would always laugh and joke about the dayís events as we made our way through the chaotic hallways. But today Erika didnít look like she was in the mood for joking. She was slumped up against my locker with her arms across her chest. Her brows were furrowed and she was scowling at the floor. I walked up to Erika and asked her what was wrong and she proceeded to tell me that some girl had just told her that she had a crush on her and she didnít know what to do about it. I tried to get details from her, but it was impossible to hold a private conversation in the hallway.
While classes were in session, the hallways looked
perfectly normal. They were about five-foot wide with three rows
of lockers on each side. Banners about upcoming school events were
plastered haphazardly and there was a lingering aroma of stale cigarette
smoke and dirty gym socks. In between classes all hell broke lose.
There were people everywhere. Some were getting things in their lockers,
some waiting outside of the classrooms, some were making out, some were
engaged in fistfights, but everyone was making noise. There was no
way Erika and I could hear each other over the commotion.
Finally, we arrived at the classroom and dropped the subject because we didnít want anyone to overhear what we were talking about. I really didnít know what to tell Erika, but I hoped an answer would come to me during the course of the class. About halfway through the class the fire alarm went off and all the students spilled out into the hallway trying to get away from the flashing lights and loud buzzing sounds. We were herded into a grassy quad area until the all -clear was given. Through the crowd of people, I spotted a senior I knew from band named Jamie. She walked up to us and asked us what was new. Since she was also a good friend of Erikaís and more worldly than me I decided to tell her about Erikaís situation to see if she could help her out. Instantly, I knew I made a big mistake.
Jamie looked absolutely outraged. Her face was red, her fists were clenched, her eyes were bulging, and her breathing became labored. She took a step toward Erika and had just opened her mouth when the all-clear signal was given and we had to go back to class. As I made my way back to class I tried to figure out what had happened, but couldnít come up with any explanation other than Jamie must be uncomfortable with the concept of lesbianism.
When I got back to my history class and took my seat in front of Erika, I noticed that someone had put a note on my desk. I wasnít sure if the note was really intended for me or put there by mistake, so I tried to pick it up without attracting the attention of my eagle-eyed history teacher. To my surprise the note said ìConfidential and Urgent- For Stacyís Eyes Only.î Now I was really curious, but I was still afraid of getting caught with a note in my history class because the teacher would immediately take the note and mail it home to the offenderís parents. In the end curiosity won out and I opened the note hoping to see a note from the boy I had a crush on. Instead I got a note from Erika. In her note she confessed that she was a lesbian and had a girlfriend that was a sophomore at our high school. She explained that Jamie was the girl that had a crush on her, which was why Jamie got so mad when I explained Erikaís predicament to her. Erika also said that she was afraid to tell me about who she really was because she was afraid that I wouldnít want to be her friend anymore. She had risked telling some other people and now they didnít want to have anything to do with her. She said she understood if I didnít want to be friends anymore and just to let her know.
I was astonished by what I read, but I somehow managed
to keep my composure and wrote a reply. I told her that I didnít
care what her sexual orientation was and that I would still be her friend.
I realized that I would need to keep this information secret though, based
on the reactions of the other students to the sex education assembly.
I handed Erika the note and she looked visibly relieved. We
remained friends until we lost touch after graduation and I never revealed
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