by Chris Rostenberg
In the Hommacks Middle School, I was infatuated with Mrs. X. I wouldn’t tell my friends her name, which was Liz Andrianni. She was this gorgeous Italian goddess, a funny girl in the seventh grade, and I used to stare at her picture in the yearbook. She was a very good skater and twirler and by the time she made it to high school, I was like, “Oh, my God!” How could I get her? What was I supposed to do?
I knew what I would do. I’d make a lot of friends, do cool things, become a funny actor, and impress Mrs. X with my balls. Then I would get her. Now, Liz was best friends with Regina, who was cute and zany and she went out with Michael, who I befriended. I always admired Michael because he had his whole life plotted out. He was going to learn a musical instrument, become a rock star, become the president of the United States, then retire, and buy his mother a restaurant for her to be a waitress in. We got into a lot of trouble together.
Michael took me to Mamaroneck High School, which was enormous, and he showed me how you could climb up this window and get on the roof of the Palmer Side of the school, run over the overpass where the police could see you, then shimmy up a pipe. Or you could go between these two walls and maneuver your way up like in Mission Impossible.
Then you would arrive at the roof of the Post Side of the school. You could see New York City from up there and Harbor Island. One time at Harbor Island, I saw a guy with a very fat pet raccoon that he made climb over a fence and the animal was trembling. Another time, I was in Grand Central Station and saw a man with a cat on a leash. I wanted to put Liz Andrianni on a leash.
Michael had found a ladder that allowed us to go on the second-story roof of the Palmer Side, where we found cans of black tar that Michael spilled all over the place. He climbed down to this thing, and untied a knot on a rope that was holding aloft the rope used on the flagpole. We went down to the flagpole and swung on the rope over a cliff.
Then we snuck around inside the school and found a fire extinguisher. We put it in the window and closed the window on the handle so it spewed all this white stuff into the school. They had to evacuate the school and call the fire department. Michael and I watched from far away as the authorities inspected the window and we were like, “What a bunch of morons.”
My older neighbor, Simon, wanted to know how to get on the roof of MHS, but I didn’t want to tell him. When Simon kissed his mother, he would give her tongue for practice. I was certain if I told Simon about the roof, he would tell his friends how to get up there, but he swore he wouldn’t, so I told him.
The next day, he told his friends and they went up there and got arrested. The night after that, they went to Orienta where all the rich people lived, and they went to the house of this girl who had been given an island for her birthday. The boys crept up on top of her garage, looked into the bathroom, and the girl was taking a bath with another girl. One of the boys made a noise; the girls were alerted and the boys were arrested a second time in two nights.
On the third day, Simon and his friends stole a PSAT from the high school and got caught. They made national news. Simon acts like this even today and I send him pornographic postcards in prison.
When Simon told me about the island-owning lesbian, I told him I had worse news. I was certain I was pregnant because I had never had my period. “No, Chris, that’s not true. Pregnancy is caused by sex and since you are a virgin, you can’t be pregnant.” And I was like, “What a bunch of morons. One moron after another.”
Back at the Hommacks, Michael and I had to go to the office because we were late. We were always late to class. The woman principal was this ball-buster we called Pink Floyd. We had to sign in and explain why we were late. Michael said he was late because he got lost on the way to school. I would put in the book that my name was Chester Bigg and I was late because I was with Michael. Pink Floyd got really mad because the book was a legal document that was sent to the capital. I pitied Governor Mario Cuomo up there in Albany if he had to sit there and read that stupid book. When we left the office I discovered a pair of woman’s underwear in my jacket pocket that Michael had slipped in. I put it in my mother’s drawer and she never noticed.
One day, Michael and I were given detention and we had to sit around in a classroom on the second floor. Michael jumped out the window. I did not jump out the window. We were both suspended. My crime was that I did not stop Michael. The principal was worried that Michael might have gotten hurt. Man, I had jumped out my second-floor bathroom window all the time and I’m sure Michael could have jumped out of a third-story window and been okay. I once saw the principal out in the playground preventing the children from playing dodge-ball or using the jungle gym and I shouted, “Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone!”
Liz and Regina heard about the event with the fire-extinguisher and the suspension and they wanted to come over to my apartment. I washed my clothes, ironed them and put on this cologne called Royal Spice that came in a cool pirate bottle with a leaf in it that my dad had always worn that smelled great. At last. I knew the girls were my key to becoming popular, and that I would finally get Liz Andrianni.
So I showed them my umbilical cord, which my mother had saved in a medical container, an old Scottish custom. I even offered to let them smell it. The next day, I was sitting there quietly by myself in the cafeteria and Liz and Regina burst in and Liz called out, “Chris Rostenberg’s mother keeps his belly-button in a jar!”