It’s Tyler’s first day at Eastgate High School as a sophomore. One problem is that it’s April, and the school year will be over in a little more than a month. Another problem is this is the third high school for Tyler since his first day as a freshman. Will he be able to cope with yet another new bunch of students?
I picked up the class schedule that slipped out of my hand. It just missed falling into the puddle of water where I thought it would end up. Just one more reason why I hate going to a new school. I especially hate it when a move is near the end of the school year. Trouble is, my dad is some sort of troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security and his job location changes all the time, so it seems like we move all the time. The current move took us to Oak Grove in the San Francisco Bay Area, and as of today I’m attending Eastgate High School.
I looked up from my schedule to see a guy standing in front of me, smiling. He had a badge pinned on his shirt that read “Welcome to Eastgate High!” in red on a yellow background, the school colors.
“Uh, hi.” Yeah, I know, kinda lame. But at 7:30 in the morning on my first day at this high school, I didn’t expect anyone to say anything to me. I continued to look at the guy, and discovered that his infectious smile made me smile too. Infectious, sort of like when someone yawns, and you yawn too.
“You’re new here, right?”
“Uh, yeah.” Shit, I couldn’t seem to speak in whole sentences this morning. “I just moved here. This is my first day.” At least that seemed a little better, but no gold star. Way far away from a gold star, in fact.
“Well, I’m on the Eastgate Welcoming Committee. My job is to welcome new students to our magnificent high school.” He spread his arms out as if that would take in the whole campus. “Okay, okay, it’s not really magnificent, but it’s not half bad either. And I’m here to help you find your way around.” He grinned and pointed to his badge.
“And I guess I looked like a deer in headlights so you knew I’m a newbie.”
Now he laughed. “Yeah, something like that. Actually, I have newbiedar.”
Oh. My. God. Did that mean...? Now I’m the one who laughed. Might as well go for broke. Nothing to lose.
“Is that sort of like gaydar?”
“Yeah. Don’t be offended, okay? But that’s tingling too.”
Again I laughed. “And what exactly is it that’s tingling and where is it tingling?”
“That’s for me to know and you to find out.”
“Oh, I think I might know. And finding out would be fun.” I patted the bench to my right. “Have a seat and you can tell me all about it.”
He sat down sort of sideways, facing me. “And what is the ‘it’ that I should tell you all about?” Man, he had that majorly infectious smile, and it had me totally infected. I had contracted a good infection, a smile infection. And that’s what I did. Smile. But now I had to tell him what the ‘all about it’ is all about.
“Well, let’s see. A bunch of stuff. How about starting with Eastgate High School.” I tapped his badge.
He pouted. “Spoilsport!”
“Hey, first things first. Right now I have lots of questions. Like, where’s my first class? How do I get there? Where do I go after that? How do I get from class A to class B. Practical stuff like that.”
“And what about those other ‘its’?”
“We can get to the other ‘its’ later.”
“Is that a promise?”
“Yeah, that’s a promise. Absolutely.”
He reached with his left hand and turned my right hand until my schedule faced him so he could read it. Then he pointed to the first class on my schedule, but he kept holding my right hand with his left. It really felt nice having him hold my hand.
“Okay, Mr. Tyler Lee McFarland, newbie sophomore at Eastgate High School. See, right here, your first class is Homeroom. Of course, that’s not really a class, it’s just homeroom, like you’re probably used to from whatever school you came from. Here you can see that your homeroom is in room SS‑111. That’s in the Social Sciences building.” He pointed to the furthest building to my left. “You have Mr. Devers for homeroom. He’s cool. He cracks jokes all the time. I think you’ll like him. Then you have English next, and that’s also in room SS‑111 with Mr. Devers. You’re lucky. Plop your butt in a choice seat in Homeroom and just stay right there for your first period class.” He grinned, and unfortunately let go of my hand. “You with the program so far?”
“I think so. Homeroom. English. In the same room. With the same teacher. So far, so good. What’s next?”
“Your period two class is AP Human Geography. That’s in room SS‑224. Just walk out of SS‑111, turn right, walk to the end of the hall, take the stairs up to the second floor, and you’ll be facing room SS‑224. Piece a cake.”
I looked at him. “I have one more question, probably the most important.”
He paused and waited for me to continue, but when I didn’t he turned his head so we were looking directly at each other, both smiling.
“I guess, because of the pregnant pause, I’m now supposed to ask you something like, ‘and what is the one more question that’s probably the most important?’” he asked.
“Yes, that’s what you’re supposed to ask me.”
“Hmmm—okay. What is the one more question that you have that’s probably the most important?”
“You know my name. You read it off my schedule. So, what is your name and why isn’t it on your badge?”
“My, that’s two questions.”
“Twice as much for the same price,” I replied.
He laughed. “My name is Gene Liu. Legally it’s Eugene Liu, but the only person who is allowed to call me Eugene is my grandmother. And my mom and dad, when they’re pissed at me. For all others, I’m Gene, never Eugene, please. And in case you’re wondering, I don’t have a middle name. It drove the school registration system crazy. So they invented a middle name for me, it’s X. So I’m Eugene X Liu on the student records. Weird, but true.”
“Did they say what name the X is the initial for?”
“The X isn’t an initial, it’s my complete, full, and definitive middle name, one letter long, on the Eastgate High School official records. As such, I don’t have a middle initial.”
I looked at Gene and sucked on my bottom lip for a few seconds and thought about what he had told me.
“You know, you really do have a middle initial. It’s an X with a period after it, the middle initial for your middle name which just happens to be an X without a period after it.”
Gene started to laugh.
“Hey, it’s not funny, Gene, it’s unique. You’re probably the only person who has a middle name and middle initial that are exactly the same. Except one has a period and the other doesn’t. And your middle initial is one character longer than your middle name because of the period. That is very different, very funny, and very cool. I think you need to go to the office and have them change your records from Gene X Liu without a period after the X, to Gene X. Liu with a period after the X.”
“I never thought about it that way. Maybe I should get my folks to start using the X as my middle name on everything else. But your suggestion for the school records won’t work. Middle initials at Eastgate High are entered without a period. However, as you’ve noticed, on the class schedules the middle name is spelled out in full. Weird, don’cha think? So I’m already good to go. You probably don’t know this, but in Mandarin Chinese the letter X is pronounced like ‘ch’ but more gutteral and nasal all at the same time. It’s also hard to pronounce. When I met with my counselor she asked for my first name, middle name, and last name. I pronounced my middle name, X, the Chinese way. That was very funny and very cool!
“However, since time is fleeting, we should get back to your questions, Tyler. Two questions, if I remember correctly. I already gave you the short-story-long version of my name. You also asked why my name isn’t on my badge. It’s because the label maker ran out of label tape, and we discovered that there wasn’t any in the supply cabinet, so the school district purchasing person has to buy some more. Then they’ll make my label and I’ll add it to my badge. Of course, by the time they actually buy the label tape and send a roll to Eastgate High School I’ll have long since graduated from the University of California at San Francisco with my pre-med degree and be slaving away as a newbie intern at some hopefully nearby hospital.”
“Okay, that solves the missing name on the badge question, and you also answered the ‘what is your name’ question telling me that it’s Gene Liu.” I grinned, tilted my head to one side, and raided my eyebrows.
“I assume you have some more questions, right?”
“Uh huh. Like, are you a sophomore like me, or a junior, or a senior? Or perhaps even a freshman?”
“I’m also a sophomore. And I’m on the Sophomore Student Council.”
“Aha! A politician, ‘eh?”
“Hmm. I guess so. There was an election to select the candidates, one person per sophomore homeroom, and I ended up as one of the candidates. But there were no campaigns, all we did is get up in an assembly of the entire sophomore class and tell what we would do to help the sophomore class. Then everyone voted. The four of us who got the most votes were on the Student Council. I know you’re going to ask, so I’ll tell you. I finished in third place. More than enough votes to get me on the Sophomore Student Council.”
“Cool. What does the Sophomore Student Council do?”
“Mostly plan stuff like Sophomore dances, the Sophomore trip, things we can do to help the school like participating on the welcome program for new students, volunteer projects where we work with organizations in the city like the library and the recreation department, the friends program for incoming freshman, the No Homework Fridays petition, help with club rush, stuff where we could make money like the sophomore class car wash and the cupcake bake sale, things like that.”
“What’s No Homework Fridays?”
“We started feeling like we were being loaded down with homework every Friday, and we all have stuff we have to do at home, chores and things like that, going downtown or to the mall and hanging out with friends, going out to eat, going to see a flick or two, riding around on our bikes, going hiking, school sports that we participate in, football games and basketball games and dances on Friday nights to attend, and church on Sunday for those who are into that, and all that plus homework took so much time we didn’t have any weekend time left to just be by ourselves. We talked about what kind of homework we were getting, how important or unimportant it was, and decided that it usually wasn’t that important. We designed a petition and got signatures to eliminate homework on Fridays. We got almost 1,200 signatures, not bad in a school with just over 1,700 students.”
“Man, that’s cool. What happened?”
“We submitted the petition to the principal and his staff, and showed a video presentation we made with students talking about the kind of homework they were getting that they had to do over the weekends, some teachers who said they agreed with us, and parents who talked about why they agreed with their kids and how much stress their kids were having about homework. The principal told us they’d discuss it with the teachers at their next meeting and get back to us. They did discuss it which surprised a lot of us on the Student Council. Then they announced that they’d approved our proposal. We were told that we’d be getting a little more homework Mondays through Thursdays. At the end of each semester they said we’d be expected to finish projects and study for finals over the last couple weekends, including Fridays.”
Gene grinned, and I could tell that he was very proud of what they’d accomplished.
“Man, I’m blown away. You guys did something that helped every student instead of just sophomores. I’m very impressed. How did it go over with the student body?”
“We had people giving us high-fives and pats on the back and it was great. Until a senior walked up to me and said that what we did was great, but what were we going to do next? At first I thought that was pretty funny, but as we talked about it in our next meeting we started getting freaked that we needed to come up with something new for our next project as good or better than No Homework Fridays. Our advisor told us to cool it, and stop and think. We did, and realized that we still had lots to do this semester and we didn’t need to have another special project like No Homework Fridays.”
“It sounds like you guys really do a lot for a Student Council. At my school last year the Freshman Student Council didn’t do much more than the Freshman Dance and work on the other school-wide dances. I don’t know if they did any volunteer stuff, but if they did they sure didn’t publicize it in the school paper. Do the other class student councils do as much as you guys?”
“They do a lot, but we like to think we’re doing a lot more. Hey, it’s almost time for the first bell. Let me see your schedule.” Gene looked at my schedule. “Okay, if you want to meet for lunch — it’s between fourth and fifth periods — you can meet a bunch of other sophomores. We meet in the cafeteria. If you want.”
“How can I possibly turn down an invitation like that? I think it’s a very good thing for me to meet other kids who are sophomores — saying that because I’m a newbie, you understand.”
The bell rang as I completed my sentence, and Gene stood. “That’s the five-minute bell. Time to go to another invigorating session in Homeroom.” Gene yawned, and I laughed at him.
“What, does Homeroom bore you or something?”
“Yup. I’m a realist when it comes to Homeroom. Let’s go!”
We stood and started walking to the Social Sciences building.
“Hey, Gene, do you have the same Homeroom as me?”
“No, my Homeroom’s also in the SS building, in SS‑210. I have old lady Lydia Slatterman. She’s a real piece of work. You don’t want to ever have her for any class. Unfortunately, I also have her for California History and Government first period. She redefines the word ‘boring’ to mean unbearable, and that’s exactly what that class is, unbearable. Then I have Algebra 2 and Trig third period with Reilly. That’s a sleeper as well.”
I looked at my schedule. “I have Curzon for Algebra 2 and Trig, sixth period. Is he or she a good teacher?”
“That’s Paul Curzon. He’s great. I had him for Geometry last year, and unlike Reilly he made what should have been a total sleeper of a boring class a really interesting class instead.”
Just like at my high school in Lakewood, we jammed through the entrance into the Social Studies building along with a mass of students. It appeared that everyone tried to get through the door at the same time.
“Okay, Tyler. I’m heading upstairs to my homeroom. Yours is about halfway down the hall on your right. I’ll probably see you in the quad after second period. Later, dude!”
“Later. And thanks for all the info, Gene.”
As I walked down the hall I thought, ‘Later, dude? That is so 1970’s! It’s like something my granddad would have said when he was in high school. Nobody says that anymore. But Gene’s a nice guy, and maybe he’s gay. That would be cool. Maybe I’ll find out more during lunch.’
The seats in my Homeroom were about half filled with chatting kids. I checked the clock. 7:51, about ten minutes before the start of homeroom. I looked around for a well-located seat, since this would be the same room as my English 2 class. I picked a seat about halfway back in the center of the room and sat down. The seat behind me was empty, the ones in front and to each side were occupied. The guy on my right looked over and grinned.
“Hi, I’m Mark Simmons. You don’t look familiar, are you new?”
“Yup, I’m Tyler McFarland, and I’m a newbie here.”
“Where are you from?”
“Lakewood, that’s south of Los Angeles. I went to Lakewood High. My dad was transferred so we moved to Oak Grove because it’s close to his work.”
“Hey, my cousin goes to Lakewood High. You might know her, she’s a sophomore this year. Her name’s Veronica Becker.”
I grinned. “I know Veronica. She was in some of my classes both last year and the first part of this year until we moved to Oak Grove. Really pretty, long strawberry blonde hair, super friendly. We were lab partners in Biology, and studied together for our geometry exams. She was in my Algebra 2 and Trig class this year.”
“That’s her! She’s a real brainiac. She’s gotten straight A’s since first grade. Probably since preschool. I suppose if you studied together then you’re a brainiac too.”
“I do okay. I don’t know about the brainiac part, never heard of that before. Where’s that from?”
“I’m a comic book fan. I collect old comic books. The Brainiac was a character in the Superman comics. He was super smart, but a nasty villain. Veronica’s got the super smart part down cold, but of course she’s no villain.” Mark grinned at me and raised his eyebrows like he was questioning whether I was a villain or not.
“Hey, I’m not a villain either. I’m a peace-loving pacifist.”
“Glad to hear that. But isn’t pacifist and peace-loving about the same?”
“Yeah, but being a peace-loving pacifist is like double-strength, sort of like getting a Frappuccino with two extra shots of espresso.”
“Cool. I love Frappuccinos. Maybe we can go to the Starbucks in the shopping center down the street and I’ll try your two extra shots of espresso idea.”
“Sounds great. I’d like that. Also I’ll learn something about what’s where in Oak Grove.”
“When did you move here?”
“A week ago. The movers picked up our stuff last Monday. They trucked it here and moved it into the house on Thursday. My mom got me registered on Friday afternoon. So here I am, on Monday, the sixteenth of April, a newbie sophomore on my first day at Eastgate High School.”
“Whoa, that’s really pushing it, man! So, what do you know about our wonderful little city?”
“Almost nothing. The whole move thing happened so fast, it seems like maybe two or three weeks, but it was more like two months. It’s that there was so much to do, and getting together with my friends to tell them I’m moving and to say goodbye. That was tough. And then the packing. Ugh, I never want to do that again! Not just packing my own stuff, which there was a ton of, but helping pack all the household stuff too, like everything in the kitchen cabinets. Then after the move everything has to be unpacked, so it seems I’ve been doing that non-stop until yesterday. My mom and I had to do it alone because my dad had a meeting back in Maryland. Great timing! As a result, I think I developed an allergy to cardboard boxes.”
“You mean corrugated boxes.”
“Cardboard boxes are the ones that stuff like cereal and crackers come in. Packing boxes like you used are corrugated boxes.”
I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. “Uh, Mark, how do you know that stuff?”
“My dad works for Lyndenhaal. They make both kinds, cardboard and corrugated boxes. He’s drilled the difference into my puny brain so now I react automatically when I hear someone call a corrugated box a cardboard box. Or the other way around. You’re my latest victim.”
“I’ll try to remember that. Anyway, I’m still not finished unpacking my stuff. I can’t unpack the kitchen boxes because My mom hasn’t decided how to arrange the cabinets. So I’ve been concentrating on emptying the boxes stacked in the garage so my folks can park both cars inside.”
“If you need a hand, let me know. My rate is affordable, a Coke and some chips.”
“Hey, that’s great. If you have the time, you could help me tonight. Let’s exchange cell numbers and you can text me and let me know what time you can come by. Or if you can’t make it, that’s okay too”
Mark tapped our phones to automatically exchange cell numbers and email and home addresses. Mark found my information on his cell.
“Hey, I live about one block from you! Cool!” he said. “After school we’ll take the same bus, number 5, then walk home from the bus stop together.”
“You live on Morgan Road?”
“No, on Whyte Park Circle. It crosses Morgan Road about a block past your house, and I live two houses to the right down Whyte Park. I walk past your house when I go to and from school. Say, why didn’t I see you on the bus this morning?”
“My mom decided to drop me off on her way to work, so I got to school at around seven fifteen. Way too early when homeroom starts at eight.”
“That’s true. Still, you had a comfortable ride in a car instead of a bumpy one in an old school bus that’s part of a fleet that should be put out to pasture. That’s my opinion, in addition to the School Board not doing shit about the problem.
“Tyler, let me see your schedule. Maybe we have some of the same classes.”
I pulled out my schedule and gave it to him.
“I don’t freakin’ believe it! You and I have exactly the same schedule. Well, except for fourth and seventh periods.” He grinned and handed my schedule back.
I laughed. “I would say five out of seven isn’t anywhere near having exactly the same schedule.”
“Hey, it’s really seven out of nine! You forgot about Homeroom and lunch.”
“I don’t know if that really makes it any better, somewhere around three-quarters of our schedules. However, I’m glad about those three-quarters. Being a newbie, it’s nice to have someone I know in most of my classes. And in Homeroom and at lunch, too.”
“Hey! I forgot about Morning Break. We have that together, too. So it’s actually eighty percent.”
I laughed. “Pretty soon you’ll figure a way to get it to one hundred percent.”
“Even I, math genius extraordinaire Mark Simmons, couldn’t accomplish that unless and until we had an infinite number of periods in each day at this magnificent edifice. And even then we would only get infinitesimally close. Alas, despite the fact that I like going to school — don’t frown, I really do like school — I certainly wouldn’t want more periods or longer periods each day than we have already.”
The bell rang for the start of Homeroom. I, of course, as a mid-second-semester newbie, had to stand up and tell something about myself and where I’d previously gone to school and the typical yada-yada-yada. The kids in homeroom seemed to find it interesting and were friendly.
Two of my new classmates, in addition to Mark Simmons, commented that they had relatives that went to Lakewood High. I hadn’t known either of their relatives because they weren’t sophomores. That made me wonder if there were other Eastgate High students who had relatives that went to Lakewood High.
Lakewood High didn’t have homerooms, even though I knew what they were in general. So after I introduced myself I wondered what else happened in Eastgate High’s homerooms besides having the newbies introduce themselves. Mr. Devers took roll, in alphabetic order by last name. Everyone seemed to be in class since every name he called, including mine, received a ‘Here’ response. Next a large LCD display above the whiteboard came on and a man, his name displayed at the bottom of the screen as ‘Jerome Bimber, Principal’ greeted us and among other things named activities including home basketball games this Tuesday and Friday, and a dance next week on Friday. He congratulated the basketball team for their two wins last week. He told us that the construction of the new roof on the science building started on Saturday and would be finished by Wednesday. He reminded us that to see all of the scheduled activities and results and stories about the spring sports teams we should log on to Blackboard.
After the announcements, Mr. Devers said, “Alright people, you can study or you can talk among yourselves, but please hold it down. And be sure to stay in your seats.”
When he finished I turned to Mark. “I don’t know what Blackboard is, though I’d guess it’s a website for students.”
“You guessed right. In the pack of stuff they gave you during registration there’s an instruction booklet for Blackboard, and a three-by-five card with your login ID and password.”
“Damn! I left all that stuff at home.”
“No problem, you won’t need it until tonight anyway. You use it to see what your homework assignments are for each class, and for most classes you can submit your homework online. Classes like Physics and Biology that have labs, the lab works is usually submitted in your class.”
The first bell announcing the end of Homeroom interrupted our conversation, but because we both had English 2 first period in the same room we resumed our discussion.
“Okay, let’s look at your schedule and I’ll tell you about your teachers.” Mark said.
“Homeroom and first period you know about. Second period we both have AP Human Geography with Ms. Lorentz. She’s cool. Third period we both have Chemistry with Dr. Smith. He has a PhD in Chemistry, and when he retired from his job he decided he’d teach. He made a ton of money with patents and retired when he turned fifty. He’s okay, and sometimes he tells funny stories about stuff that happened in the chem labs when he was in college. Fourth period you have Spanish with Maria Garcia.” Mark grinned. “She’s a great teacher, young and knows how to pound the Spanish language into our brains. You’ll like her. Then we have lunch. You can meet my lunch bunch.”
“Uh…,” I mumbled, interrupting Mark. “I told the guy from the Eastgate Welcoming Committee that I’d have lunch with him.”
Mark laughed. “Gene’s one of our lunch bunch. See, you’re on the right track, already meeting people on your own. After lunch you and I have AP Computer Programming with Mr. Jackson. He’s a freelance programmer and really knows his stuff. I assume since it’s an advanced placement class that you were taking it at Lakewood High.”
“Okay, that’s pretty much the same languages we learned here. You should talk to Mr. Jackson about getting from where you were in C++ to where we are. If you were just getting into it, we started on it in January right after the Christmas break. In that case we’re ahead of where you were.”
“Thanks, I’ll talk to him about that.”
“We have Algebra 2 and Trig sixth period. Mr. Curzon is a fantastic math teacher. I know saying this about a math class sounds bizarre, but you’ll love the class. I’m sure your class at Lakewood High was at pretty much the same place as ours is since it’s standardized across the state with the same textbooks. Then finally, you have PE seventh period, Weight Training. You’re planning to build up your muscles and go out for football?”
“NFW! I started on Weight Training at Lakewood High so I could stop being a punching bag for some bullies.”
“You were bullied? Why?”
“I’m gay, and I was out. Some guys thought it would be fun to show their dislike for gays by taking it out on me. After my freshman year that stopped. Bullies don’t like someone who fights back and wins.”
“You know you just outed yourself to me,” Mark said.
“Is my being gay a problem?”
“As you said, NFW ’cause I’m gay too, but I don’t go around announcing it.”
“I don’t plan to announce it either. But if someone asks I’ll either ask them why they’re asking or if I know the guy I’ll say yes. If it comes up in a conversation, like the one we’re having, I’ll mention it if it’s germane.”
“That’s pretty much what I do if someone asks me. But no one’s ever asked me.”
“That’s probably because you don’t look gay.”
“Neither do you, Tyler.”
“Gene must think I do. He told me his gaydar was buzzing when we met this morning.”
“Gene’s gaydar buzzes for any guy, gay, straight, bi, or trans. And sometimes even for butch-looking girls. He is totally unreliable. Trust me, the way you are right now you don’t look gay.”
“The way I am right now? What’s that mean?”
“You’re not wearing any gay-looking clothes or wrist bands, you don’t use black makeup around your eyes, and your hair isn’t dyed weird colors.”
“I never wear any gay-looking clothes or wrist bands. I’ve never used makeup or dyed my hair, either.”
“Good choices, Tyler. Neither do I. Well, I did last year at the San Francisco Pride Parade.”
“You wore gay-looking clothes and dyed your hair when you went to the Pride Parade?”
Mark laughed. “No, I wore a rainbow wrist band. And normal clothes, like what I’m wearing now. Just like you, I’ve never used makeup or dyed my hair. Have you ever been to a Pride Parade?”
“Yes. Long Beach has a Pride Parade every May, and I went with some friends last year. When is the San Francisco Pride Parade held?”
“June. The next one will be on June 30th.”
“Are you going?” I asked.
“Maybe. I’d like to go with a friend. How about you and I go together?”
“Sounds like a plan. It sort of sounds like you don’t want anyone else to go with us. Is there a reason for that?”
“No, not at all. Last year most of our group didn’t want to go, or their parents didn’t want them to go. This year I think a lot of guys and girls will want to go. We can all go as a group.”
“Yup, Gene too. Maybe they felt because they just finished their freshmen year they were too young, most were fourteen and a few had just turned fifteen.”
“How old were you?”
“Fourteen. I figured that I’d go anyway, so I did. I took BART into the city and found a good place to stand near the beginning of the parade. I had a lot of fun, then I took BART home. Now that we’re sophomores, maybe more guys will want to go. Anyway, you and I have a date.” We both grinned at his ‘date’ comment.
We heard Mr. Devers clear his throat. “Good morning, people. Before we get started on our discussion and lesson for today, I’d like to have Tyler McFarland stand and introduce himself.”
I stood and said what I’d already said in Homeroom, and that would be my standard intro in all my classes except PE. “Hi, I’m Tyler McFarland. I just moved here from Lakewood, a town just north of Long Beach and not far from Los Angeles. I started my freshman year at Helix High in La Mesa, near San Diego. I transferred to Lakewood High in Lakewood in the middle of my freshman year. Then I transferred here as of today. We move around a lot because of my dad’s job. He’s the one who initiates the moving around thing because when his employer says ‘Move!’ we move.
“I’m into computers big time. I like to hike and backpack. I swim and play tennis. I don’t go out for any sports teams because we move so often. I went to five different middle schools, all over the West Coast. I’m glad to be here at Eastgate High, my third high school. It seems like a great school with lots of friendly people. If I’m very, very lucky I might even be able to graduate from Eastgate High. Whatever.” The kids laughed at my closing as I sat down, and Mr. Devers started the lesson.
At lunch I hooked up with Gene and Mark. They introduced me to the group that they ate with every day. Including the three of us, there were eleven guys and five girls. I sat between Mark and Gene, and did my standard intro with a little more information. They were all friendly, and asked a lot of questions about my other two high schools. The only downer during lunch was the lunch. Cafeteria food is about the same at every high school, bland and dull and not very appetizing. We even talked about that during lunch.
Gene whispered that most of the others in the lunch group were gay. That surprised me. After lunch as Mark and I walked to our Computer Programming class I asked him about that.
“I think Gene is stretching things a bit. One of the girls is gay, the rest are straight. Including you, seven of the guys are gay and the rest are straight. That’s half the guys, and half isn’t most.”
“So four of each gender are straight. Are they all boyfriend-girlfriend pairs?”
“There are two who are, the others don’t talk about it so I don’t know about them.”
“Are there any boyfriend-boyfriend pairs?”
“Gene and Darryl are boyfriends and have been since they started middle school.”
“Do you guys talk about gay stuff during lunch?”
“Not often. We did talk about the Pride Parade, and when the play about Matthew Shepard was at Berkeley Repertory Theater. There’s not much homophobia here. We have an active GSA chapter, and by the way, you should join, Tyler.”
“When does it meet?”
“Every other Wednesday after school. There’s a meeting this Wednesday. You game?”
“Sure. Where are the meetings held?”
“Room PA-104, in the Performing Arts building. It’s supposed to start at 3:30, but it’s usually about 15 or 20 minutes late.”
I added it to the appointments on my phone, and said, “I’ll be there.”
Like my standard intro, all of my classes were at about the same place in the textbooks and other material as they’d been at Lakewood High. AP Computer Programming was the only one where I was behind the class. It didn’t turn out to be a problem. Mr. Jackson talked about a coding project using object-oriented programming that he’d assigned last week. It had to be turned in today.
I’d taken an online C++ course from UC Berkeley that covered object-oriented programming, and I’d received a grade of 100, equivalent to an A. So I asked him if I could download my program from my personal website and have him look at it to see if I had covered the same material as his class. He said yes, so I sent it to him and and I watched as he looked it over. He waved at me to come to his desk after a few minutes of perusing my program.
“That online course you took obviously did a good job covering object-oriented C++ development. Your code shows a very effective use of object-oriented coding techniques. Tell you what, Tyler, I’ll accept this as your first project in this class, and I’m giving you an A for your grade.”
I was shocked, and I guess he could see it from my expression. He grinned. “You’ve set a high bar for yourself. I’m looking forward to seeing the same level and quality of code from you the rest of this semester.” His comments made me decide that this would be my favorite class.
As Mark and I left for our Algebra 2 and Trigonometry class he nudged me in the shoulder.
“You pulled a program out of your back pocket and turned it in for a project that the rest of us had a whole week to code. You’re gonna get an A in Computer Programming, that’s for sure.”
“It was lucky that he let me turn in a program that I coded a couple months ago. From now on, I’m going to have to code everything from scratch just like the rest of the class.”
“That’s true. Let’s talk about our next class, Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. Now you’re going to have the opportunity to meet one of the best teachers at Eastgate High, Mr. Curzon.” We walked into the classroom and sat down. At the end of the class I had to agree that this teacher had a superior approach to ‘how to teach math’ compared to my Algebra 2 teacher at Lakewood High — who I’d thought had been a good math teacher.
After my Weight Training class I waited for Mark at the number 5 bus. Gene took a different bus. In fact, I hadn’t seen him since lunch. After our meeting before school started, the only times I saw him were at the morning break and at lunch. On the other hand, Mark and I were in five out of seven classes and homeroom, brunch, and lunch. I liked Gene, and I liked Mark. Gene and I were becoming friends. I hoped that Mark and I were becoming more than friends.
Mark and I waked home from the bus stop. He reminded me that he’d come over after dinner and help me finish my unpacking and help me set up my room. Then he walked to his house which was close to mine.
I unlocked the door and walked into my new home.
“Hi, Mom. I’m home!”
“I’m in the kitchen,” she responded.
I walked into the kitchen, and there, sitting at the kitchen table, was my dad.
“Dad! Your home sooner than I thought. That’s great!”
He stood up. “How about a hug, Tyler.”
We hugged, and I wanted to ask about why he had returned so soon.
“Well, I have some bad news for you,” he said, as if he anticipated my question. However, I certainly didn’t want to hear any bad news.
“So what’s your bad news?” I asked. “Are we moving again? Already?”
“Well, I got a major promotion. I went to our headquarters in D.C. to get the details, and it’s very straightforward. That’s why I flew home this afternoon.”
I knew what was coming, and I was disappointed. “So, where are we moving?”
“Well, that’s the bad news,” he said. “It seems I’m going to be stuck here for at least five years, so unfortunately we’re not moving.”
I had to compute what Dad just said. Then I realized what he meant.
“Oh my god, we’re going to be here for five years? That’s fantastic! This is a great house and I love living here. And it means I’m going to be able to complete my high school education and graduate all in the same place! And so far I love Eastgate High! This is totally fantastic! I can’t believe it!”
“Believe it, Tyler. It’s true. I’m the new regional director and I have a commitment from my boss to have my office in San Francisco for at least five years, and we’re going to live right here, in Oak Grove. So, you’ll be able to attend the same high school from now through when you graduate. Then you’ll go off to college and you’ll be the only one who’ll be moving, most likely into a college dorm.”
“Now,” my mom asked, “are you sure you want to go to Eastgate High School? We could probably find a nice Catholic high school for you instead. Like De La Salle?”
“I really, really like Eastgate High. I don’t want to go to any other school. The kids I’ve met are friendly, I’ve made some good friends, including one guy who lives down the street and we’re very good friends already. My teachers are all great. I like all of my classes. And I already got an A on a coding project that had been assigned for my AP coding class last Monday and that was due to be turned in in today.” I grinned.
“Now wait a minute, Tyler,” Dad said. “You weren’t a student at Eastgate High until today. How could you turn in a project that had been assigned in one of your classes a week ago? And that couldn’t have been assigned to you until today?”
“Mr. Jackson is my AP Computer Programming teacher. Last Monday he assigned a project using object-oriented coding techniques using C++. Never mind what that means, just that it’s advanced coding. So I showed him a program I wrote when I took that online course from U.C. Berkeley and that I got back with a grade of 100. He said it showed very effective use of object-oriented coding. He accepted it as my first assignment in the class. And he gave me an A.” I smiled.
“That sound pretty amazing,” Dad said, with a slightly skeptical expression.
“Hey, I’m a pretty amazing kid. You can’t deny that!”
“Yes, you are a pretty amazing kid. And your mother and I are both proud of you. So, what else did you accomplish on your first day at school?”
“I told you I met a guy who lives down the street from here. He’s in my homeroom and we have that and five of our seven classes together. His name is Mark Simmons, and he’s going to come over after dinner and help me finish unpacking my stuff. You’ll meet him then. He’s a real nice guy. I know you’ll like him.”
“Is he gay?” Mom asked, seeing my enthusiasm.
“Yes, but there’s no boyfriend thing happening here. We’re just friends. But, I think we could become best friends.”
“I think that’s wonderful, Tyler,” Mom said. “Your father and I will be looking forward to meeting him.”
“Does that means you’re going to give him your usual third-degree interrogation?”
“Yes, I’m afraid it does. That’s what mothers do. So just learn to live with it.” She grinned.
“Okay. I’m going upstairs to change and put my new textbooks away, then see if I can find where I packed my computer cables.”
“I’ll call you when dinner is ready.”
When I got to my room I changed then flopped onto my bed. This was the best first day I’d ever had in any of the high schools where I’d been a student. I’d met a bunch of great kids, a lot of whom were gay. I’d met Gene and Mark. Despite what I’d said to my folks, I knew that Mark was, in fact, boyfriend material. I’d just have to work on that.
I grinned. Most kids don’t worry about which high school where they’re going to graduate. That had been one of my major concerns. Now I knew that I’d graduate from Eastgate High School.
So those were the two things that are most important in my life: attending one high school all the way through graduation and finding a boyfriend. Now I had the high school thing locked up, thanks to my dad and the Department of Homeland Security where he worked. My only job now is go to work on the boyfriend thing. I’d start on that tonight when Mark came over.
Yes, life had suddenly made several quick turns and finally became outstanding for me, Tyler McFarland. Sophomore at Eastgate High School.
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