If you've been reading me for a while, or you actually know me In Real Life (lucky people!), you know that I attended a boarding school in West Africa for junior high and most of high school. I was here in Michigan for tenth grade (which is massive post fodder all in itself), but otherwise the majority of my time was spent at the International Christian Academy in Ivory Coast, West Africa. The school is now defunct due to the civil war and its ongoing aftermath. Sometimes that sends me for a loop. It's difficult to wrap one's mind around the idea that one's school, a place that had such impact on one's life, is simply Gone.
Anyhow. The memories are still there. Not all of them are pleasant. I did not enjoy much of my junior high or high school experiences, years when I was all too often an Outsider (but not in the cool way) and most definitely an Oddball. If I could only go back and redo those years...Ah well. Haud vultus tergum.*
I wasn't the only odd one out, however. I roomed with the same person for most of high school: two out of the three trimesters my freshman year and all of my junior and senior years. And I mostly regretted straying from her that one trimester in ninth grade, too--that was the year when the mostly nice sophomore I roomed with teased me unmercifully about my total lack of curves. It's amazing how quickly the comment You make the walls jealous! loses its amusement factor.
So I went back to Lauren, and neither of us ever strayed again.
Our parents always agreed that the reason Lauren and I worked out so well as roommates is that we were so weird that no one else could quite handle us, whereas we could handle each other. There's probably some merit in that. I think we worked well because we were quite different and often simply left each other be, but we also had moments of mutual insanity that helped us vent off some of our oddity.
The stories I could tell (and perhaps eventually will) about what we got up to together...There's the time I nearly burned down our room and Lauren saved us both. The time we pulled off a massive practical joke on our universally despised dormparents. The year we had to jerry-rig a lock for our room door to keep out vengeful staff members seeking retribution for the practical jokes Lauren continued to carry out on her own.
And then there was the time we tried to break Lauren's arm.
Oh yes. You read that correctly. We tried to break her arm. On purpose.
There was actually a bit of logic behind this endeavor. You see, our boarding school held a formal banquet every trimester, and everyone had to attend, whether in first grade or twelfth, whether or not you had a date. Students in junior and senior high were also assigned to work as servers at one banquet each year. The concept behind all this, I was told, was that we would learn how to behave at formal functions (when we were the attendees) as well as how to serve food properly (when we were the servers). I still remember that we had to serve food over the right shoulder and remove from the left. Or was it the other way around? Crap.
The banquet during second semester always took place around Valentine's Day and was called the Sweetheart Banquet. It was the closest we had to a Homecoming function, and there was a Sweetheart Court with a senior boy and a senior girl elected as Sweetheart King and Queen. It was all very smooshy.
Well, our junior year Lauren was in a particularly uncomfortable predicament. She had been dating one of our (few) junior boys, and he dumped her just a couple of weeks before the banquet for another girl who had returned from the States unexpectedly at the start of the second semester. Lauren had NO desire whatsoever to attend the banquet where she would have to watch them be smooshy with each other.
The catch was that attendance, as I mentioned, was mandatory. The only way to get out of going was to be sick (which would be difficult to fake) or injured enough to require a trip up to the mission hospital in my home town three hours north of school.
Lauren, being nothing if not creative and determined, decided the best solution was for us to break her arm the night before the banquet.
I told you she was different.
When she told me about her plan and insisted my participation was a necessary element, I was understandably reluctant. But such was her persuasive personality and my own level of craziness that in the end I agreed.
So the games began. We decided we needed to have a plausible scenario for the break. Fortunately, we already had a reputation for going on occasional sprees of insanity, so our solution was fairly simple. That Thursday night we made a great show of being under high stress and running amok on one of our stress-relieving rampages. I believe at one point Lauren chased me through the dorm with a plunger. We alternated this with shutting ourselves in our room and making a good deal of noise while trying to break her arm.
And try we did. We bent it in ways it should not have gone. We bashed it against the walls. I slammed my foot against her braced arm. Finally she took our footlockers, placed them about eight inches apart, and rested her arm over the gap. I then jumped on her arm with both feet.
It was awful. I was cringing the entire time. And NOTHING WORKED.
I realized at some point that there was a major flaw in her plan. You see, Lauren had a particular habit that spelled doom upon our efforts: every morning at breakfast and every night at supper she drank four glasses of milk. Every Day.
That girl's bones may as well been crafted of steel. They didn't even creak.
So Lauren had to attend the banquet after all, only she was sporting the most spectacular set of bruises on her left arm that I've ever seen. They even rivaled mine.
And what thanks did I get for my horrified efforts on her behalf?
Lauren walked around for the next two weeks telling everyone that the bruises were the product of domestic abuse. From her roommate.
It's a good thing I loved her or I might have had to turn lies into reality.
I still love Lauren. She may live all the way on the other side of the world living a very different sort of life from mine and producing many gorgeous alphabetically-named children, but we still keep in touch. It says something about our friendship that she (eventually) gave me permission to tattle on her, lo these many years later! And just because she's Lauren, I'll keep posting pictures of my fabulous footwear so that she can walk around in her flat shoes happily "hating" me for them.
I love you, Lauren. Maybe someday I really can visit you down in the Land of Oz. And I truly hope you never are in need of a broken bone again, darlin', but if you are, I'll do what I can to help out!
I just hope you haven't been drinking too much milk.
********************************"No looking back." I totally used an English-to-Latin translator for that. What, you think I don't know how to sound smarter than I really am? That's half the trick to being an awesome teacher. Also, that means if the Latin is wrong, I'm off the hook. Blame the software.