Notes From Jon: Chapter 2

Banning-Boys Are Stupid, part one

You know how you just think guys are indifferent to you because they stare at you or they look away every time you look at them? Or they do those really stupid things like pull your hair, tease you mercilessly or even call you childish names. This is because they can’t communicate properly. Instead of saying “Hey, Noelle, I like you, will you go out with me?” they say something inane or troublesome like “Ow!” holding their palm to their neck to illustrate their point before they add “Gawd Noelle, you are such a pain in my neck!” To a logical, lucid thinking individual (ie girl), this very clearly indicates that you are too much of a bother to them for them to even bother being polite to you. So, therefore, in the progression of logic, you assume they do not like you.

Well, that’s not necessarily true.

Trust me girls, when I tell you that at age 35, the same boys who called you wolflady will come crawling out of the woodwork and tell you that they had a HUGE crush on you.

Boys are stupid.

Let me illustrate the point.

Trips to the beach as a ward youth group were at once exciting and sleep inducing. Living in the Inland Empire meant that any beach was at least two hours away, if you didn’t count Lake Peris (which so often smelled like dead fish, it was completely unappealing). This meant that we had to get an extra early start on our trip and commandeer all the vans in the ward, conscripting any and everyone into service, since the ward youth trips to the beach often ‘activated’ the sleeper cells of inactive youth, and even got a few converts to Mormonism (for the day at least).

It was five thirty am when we hit the road on our way to Santa Monica. Someone knew someone who knew someone else who reserved a pit and an area for our group. I didn’t care, that was adult stuff. I had my bathing suit on under shorts and an extra large tee-shirt with a Back To the Future logo on it. It was my newest tee shirt and hadn’t been washed since it left the racks at the mall. The movie was still new and the beach was a perfect place to show off my new fashion. It wasn’t often I could buy a tee shirt at all, but my friend Sharon had me fill in for her during (the long hot desert Summer) August on her paper route. I bought the tee shirt and the Tears For Fears album, mostly because the video “Every Body Wants To Rule The World” featured kids from my class four-wheeling in Whitewater, not to mention the shots of Cabazon and beyond. Just to be extra cool, I brought that album tape and my walkman, jamming all alone in the back of the Eastbrooks van (without seatbelts, by the way).

My mom, who was a bus driver for the Banning School District, was driving. No one ever let Sister Eastbrook drive. She had no less than four accidents a year. If her husband hadn’t been a doctor, they would have never been able to afford car insurance. I suppose that malpractice insurance costs much less than car insurance, and Dr. Eastbrook thought nothing of it.

I had listened to side A of the album when the wads of paper started coming. The first one, I opened, but there was nothing in it. I looked around the van. My mother was busy chatting with Sister Eastbrook in the front, Jasmine was lounging in the first bench seat, listening to her walkman. She met my eyes and gave me her usual look of disdain and closed her eyes again, nodding her head to her own soundtrack, tugging the earphones closer around her ears. I could only see the back of Jonathan’s head, but Stanley, sitting beside him was glancing sideways at him.

Stan was creepy. You know how some guys make you feel unwashed just looking at them? That was Stan. He had blonde hair that always looked a little greasy. He was tall and pale with frekles and a wide mouth that he was never afraid to use. He was one of the youth that was only active when there was an activity, you’d never find him at church unless it was to leave for something fun. His sideways glance, icy blue eyes narrowed to slits, was just as creepy as the rest of him and I looked away to the companion in my seat.

“Your name is Louise, right?” I asked her. This was actually only the second time I’d been close enough to her to talk to her. She was new to the ward. I hadn’t ever seen her parents, but her and her brother, who was sitting beside her, were regularly going to church. She had just turned fourteen and was now in my Sunday School class.

Louise nodded and pushed her glasses up her nose. She had a nice nose. I always envied people with nice noses; mine was so… unHollywood. I had nice eyes, and everyone said I had a nice smile, so I wore bright pink lipstick to focus them there, instead of on my nose. And Louise had blonde hair, I envied that too. It was long and tied in a pony tail today, her bangs brushing her brows.

“You’re a freshman at Banning High School, right?” I asked.

“I will be this year,” she said. Her brother Raymond, tilted his head and looked around her to see me.

“Are you going to go to seminary?” I asked her.

“Maybe,” she replied, non committal.

I had just opened my mouth to tell her it would be a relief to have someone from Banning ward in the seminary class that actually went to Banning High School when another wad of paper hit me in the face. “Oof!” I picked it up and looked up at Stan. He was smirking. I cocked my arm back and threw the paper back at him. Several years of being a tomboy playing baseball on the first place team in Little League insured my aim. I pegged him in the ear.

“Ow!” he said, his wide mouth turning down into a frown. “I didn’t throw it at you!” His face could turn into three positions, creepy smirk, creepy smile, or angry scowl.

I snorted in disbelief as the Jensens chuckled: I could see Jonathan’s shoulders twitching up and down and Jasmine with her permanent sneering, (but I guess exotic and alluring to guys) mouth open in soft laughter.

“Moron,” I mumbled and turned back to Louise and yet another wad hit me, this one landing on top of my head and bouncing into my lap. I started to lift my hand to throw it when Louise put her small hand over mine. I looked up at her.

“That other boy is the one who is throwing them,” she whispered.

She let go of my hand and I cocked my hand back with a windup and let the little wad go, hitting him on the back of his neck.

“OW!” Jonathan exclaimed so loudly that my mother’s eyes turned up in the rear view mirror. He slapped the back of his neck.

“What’s going on?” My mother asked. I couldn’t see her lips moving in the mirror, only her focused brown eyes under her brow.

“Someone’s giving me a pain in the neck!” Jonathan proclaimed, his companios laughing at the shared joke.

I rolled my eyes and sunk into the corner between the side of the van and the seat, watching Jonathan with narrowed eyes. He turned slightly to look back at me, the round Jensen face, the large grey eyes and slight chin that could disappear when the sun was full on his face, all lit up with a strange sort of mirth. He was making fun of me, I thought, just like his sister would – if I hadn’t kicked her ass when I was thirteen. She kept her snide comments out of earshot, even if her eyes still glared daggers. Jonathan, however, did not have the same fears or restraints.

I beat up a boy when I was fifteen. His name was Billy and he was on my baseball team. It was the first team I had been on that hadn’t been coached by my father. It was both a relief and a curse, since I didn’t have the pressure, but we sucked as a team because our coach was inept.

There were two girls on this team, the Texas Rangers, and we were both better than Billy. He had said something about us being on the rag, he had been talking about it all day. I can only guess he just discovered, at fifteen, that girls have periods. In any case, he kept annoying the batsnot out of me until I finally hit him.

Tom Marlin pulled him off of me. Tom was huge, massively tall, for a fifteen year old, and only he was able to pull me off of the annoying little sexist pig. Billy’s brother came up to my father later while we were walking to the car.

“Your daughter beat up my brother,” he had told my father, looking very concerned, with his hands in his pockets.

I don’t think I was actually very worried. Everyone on the team knew Billy had it coming, and it wasn’t just the girls he annoyed and tormented. But there was always a chance my father might punish me in some way for misbehaving on the field. Baseball was, after all, life.

“I don’t think that is the sort of information we want to go spreading around,” my father had told Billy’s brother. “I don’t think, as a fifteen year old boy, I’d want anyone to know I was beat up by a girl, even if she did have a better slugging average.”

But I don’t think that Jonathan knew about that incident, or my slugging average. I’m fairly sure he knew I was a tomboy, since I regularly played basketball with the boys while the girls sat on the stage during ‘joint’ activities, but I don’t think he knew that I had beaten up a boy. In any case, Jonathan was much taller and broader than Billy, and never EVER talked about girls on the rag.

I had dozed off during “Head Over Heels” on side B of the album, and when I woke the tape was over and I could smell the familiar smoggy air of Los Angeles. I sat up and looked out the window. Mom and Sister Eastbrook were still chatting pleasantly but quietly in the front as the quiet filled the back seats.

I smiled looking at the smoggy dirty city of my birth as we passed along it on I-10. I looked up the hills and tried to see if I could spot my Abuelos old house, or the KFI studios, the station that I always listened to the Dodgers on.

“Can you see the temple from the freeway?” A voice whispered. I blinked and turned to see Jonathan turned sideways in his seat to look at me. Sandwhiched between his sleeping sister, who occupied as much as the seat as possible, and the drooling napping Stan, he had little room to maneuver.

His face looked earnest and inquisitive and I thought he would be less likely to tease me with Jasmine asleep.

“You can’t see it from the freeway,” I whispered back. “Not on a smoggy day. It’s too far down Santa Monica Boulevard to see.”

He nodded and glanced out the window, then back at me. “What about Dodger Stadium?”

I smiled. I couldn’t help myself. My father always said there were two sacred places in Los Angeles; the LDS Temple and Dodger Stadium. He had even pulled a bit of grass from the field one day when we had the rare opportunity to go on it with the Banning Little League. He kept it in his wallet, pressed between pictures of family and his Civil Engineers Union Card. “That’s off the Five,” I whispered. “Or the One-ten. You can only see it from the One-ten, it’s sort of in this basin, surrounded by park.”

He smirked slightly and I was sure this conversation was going to turn sour. He’s five seconds from making fun of me, I thought, calling me a tomboy, which I didn’t like to be reminded I was. I may have joked about being my father’s first born son, but I didn’t like when other people said I was. Maybe some tomboys could take that, but I was a lot more girly than your average tomboy. I may have loved cars, but I also loved pink little frilly things, ribbons, lace and boys. Especially boys.

“You really like the Dodgers, don’t you?”

I shrugged and nodded. “The Police Academy is there too, in Elysian Park.”

“Elysian Park?” he asked, his head rising slightly. “That’s the name of it?”

I nodded again, dreading whatever plan to humiliate me he was conjuring in his head.

“So Dodger Stadium is Elysian Field.”

I shrugged. “It is on Elysian Park Drive.”

“So it’s heaven.” It was a statement, not a question and he smiled at me. It wasn’t the smirky ‘I got you big dummy!’ smile, it was a nice smile.

I blinked at him, not sure why the sudden change in temperament from ‘oh my neck!’ to this, an actual conversation.

“The Greeks Heaven was called Elysian Fields.” The corners of his mouth tugged upwards, his nice, Osmond white straight teeth lighting up his face. “Is that your heaven on Earth?”

I blushed. I have no idea why or where the reaction came from, but I could feel the heat tingle my cheeks and suddenly, I couldn’t look into his hazel eyes. “I guess.” I looked at whatever was in my lap, walkman, cassette tap and earphones, then tucked my hair over my ear.

“That’s so awesome,” he whispered enthusiastically. I looked up to see him still smiling at me and felt something strange stirring in my middle.

I looked back out the window, not wanting to try to avoid his eyes by looking in my lap. Why was he even looking at me? He was going to say something nasty as soon as his sister woke up anyway.

“My dad and I are working on a yellow VW Beatle,” he said after a moment. I turned my head to look at him, seeing he was in the same awkward position he had been before, twisted about to look back at me.

“I love Beatles,” I found myself saying in a voice usually reserved for uncles with bribes.

“Me too. I love classic cars.”

Me too, I thought, though I rarely mentioned it aloud. I admired classic cars. I loved to look at them in shows and magazines. I even admired the way people could put them together and take them apart. I couldn’t even change the oil, though most guys assumed I could.

“We’re trying to get it going by the first of the school year,” he continued. “Then I can drive it to seminary and school, now I have my license. I can give a few friends a ride.”

My turn to smirk. “Maybe three friends. If you are lucky. Everyone will be jockeying for position.”

He laughed a little, maybe too loudly, because Jasmine stirred and sat up straight. “What was that?” she asked her brother, rubbing her eyes a bit with the balls of her fist.

“Nothing,” he said. “Go back to sleep.”

“How close are we now?” she asked, leaning forward until her head was between the drivers seats.

“Fifteen minutes,” my mom told her, smiling grandly. My mother had a beautiful smile when she did smile. My abuela has a self portrait she did in college. She’s beautiful, dark, and sad in the picture. I think that’s why she married my father. He made her smile.

Jasmine demanded Jonathan’s attention and he turned around. I propped my elbow on the rest and gazed out the window, watching city turn to suburbs until we reached Santa Monica. When we parked, I shoved Louise several times to get her to wake up. Man she was a sound sleeper!

Sister Eastbrook pulled the van doors open. “What’s – huh?” Louise mumbled, adjusting her glasses and sitting up.

“We’re here!” I told her and started to push her out of the seat. I was SO ready to do something active!