I walked into school, a complete stranger from another universe or I may as well have been. I didn’t speak the language and all the other kids in my class inspected me like some kind of alien species. I was taller, to be fair, maybe that was the reason, or just the fact that I was new. Our teacher, Ms. Davis introduced me. Ms. Davis was a heavy-set woman who always wore dresses from many decades ago, their patterns and shapes had blended together into a tsunami of faded colors.
“Now settle down kids, as you can see, we have a new student among us,” Ms. Davis said. “He has come here all the way from Denmark to live and learn,”
All I could do was wave and smile, I didn’t know how to speak any English at this point. I got as far as “yes” and “no”, which I learned on the plane ride over. I was assigned a buddy, a small girl with medium-length brown hair, a cute smile, and she typically wore red ribbons in her hair. She was just like in the movies I watched back home. It kind of felt like I was on a movie set of some teenage sitcom. We were taught from an early age that America was the place to be, the place us Europeans dreamt about but not everyone could travel to. The place where the rock stars and models came from. Jennifer, the small cute girl with the brown hair who sometimes wore ribbons in her hair, showed me around the school and told me the names of all of my classmates. I quickly forgot every single name she mentioned as I was taking in all of the new information. That was day one, my mother picked me up in our blue mini-van while listening to some Bon Jovi album in our cassette player. We had moved to some popular lake area about 45 minutes away from school while the farm was being built. My parents would drive us every single day to and from school because they wanted to make sure we got our education. We listened to that cassette player every single day, making the same exact trip day after day, road after road. I was able to tell if we would be on time based on what song Bon Jovi was blaring at us. You would be surprised how quickly a young boy learns the English language. In just a few short weeks, I was beginning to understand things, mostly due to school but I cannot take any recognition away from Mr. Jovi.
I quickly learned that I was more gifted than the rest of the kids at sports. One day, during recess, some of my classmates asked me to join them for a game of touch football. I had been watching them from the sidelines for weeks, learning this strange new game they called football. It was weird to me that they just ran around with a ball in their hands and actually had the gall to name their game after the one and only football, the one that was well known and famous all over the world. I wondered how they would feel about this shameless stealing of a perfectly named sport. If only they knew. After weeks of watching from the sidelines and learning the intricacies of the game, I was given a chance to play. I sensed the doubt of the other players on the feel all around me as I walked across the lines at the edge of the field. The ball snapped and Steve immediately passed the ball over to me. It was my chance to show them how fast I was. All those hours of tag and running around the sandbox back at my old elementary school in Denmark were going to pay off, except this time I had to do it with a weirdly shaped ball in my hand and eleven people trying to stop me from scoring. They may as well have been frozen in time or running in slow motion as I juked and dodged my way through the enemy team and scored my first touchdown. I flexed my muscles and screamed out victoriously while spiking the ball down on the ground, my classmates stood there in disbelief. I had found a way to connect with them without having to understand the English language.
A few more weeks went by, but many more touchdowns and many more moments of triumph passed. I noticed that I was getting the attention of many of my classmates and our exchanges improved as I kept learning more and more. I must have been doing something right because one day one of the girls in my class walked up to me and presented me with a small white note. I opened it and it read
“Will you be my boyfriend?”
I was flattered but pretended not to know enough English to understand her request, after all, she wasn’t that pretty. I was holding out for the top girls in my 5th-grade class. Being good at a sport, even at lunch time had its perks. I rejected her offer and many more offers in the upcoming weeks. I had my sights set on a girl a grade higher than us, she was the only one who had started growing breasts, which deeply fascinated me. Whitney was her name and she was the daughter of my science and math teacher. It is an interesting time at age 11 when you start realizing that you like the opposite sex but are not sure what that means exactly.
In the meantime, my girlfriend was Stacey and we spent many lunch breaks swinging side by side on the school swings. It was kind of nice to hold hands like that, except for the sweat, that was awful. Stacey gave me a fake golden necklace that year and I wore it with pride. It was really nice receiving gifts, handwritten notes and holding hands on every occasion, regardless of how sweaty our palms were when fused together. That year I also celebrated my birthday with many of my classmates, at a pizza place that also had a play area, much like you see at McDonald’s, but more grandiose. We spent hours eating pepperoni pizza and climbing on top of the playpen, just playing inside it was not enough for us, the 6–8-year-olds did that and we were older, more mature. The little kids that tried to copy us and climb on the outside like we did were stuffed back to their own level. This was important to us, there had to be a difference, a benefit that us older kids shared. That evening ended with my mother backing up into one of the kids, it was a dramatic scene and luckily he was all right, I don’t remember his name.
Time passed on I decided to split up with Stacey, she was pretty cool but I wanted to go for the older girl with the big breasts. I did what anyone would do and befriended her friend first and eventually, she also asked me to be her boyfriend. I think most of the girls in class wanted to be with me because I was European, that was interesting to kids in the Midwest. Either that or the fact that I was the best lunchtime football player the school had to offer. Whitney’s friend eventually asked me out during lunch time, after I had just scored multiple touchdowns. The sweat dripped down my face as she prepared to ask me, Whitney stood next to her for moral support. I told her that I thought she was nice and that I was more interested in her friend. Whitney’s face lit up like the fourth of July and Amber stormed off, pouting along the way. That was it, I finally landed the only girl in elementary school with a pair of boobs.
I went home and told my mother about her, omitting the part about the big breasts, those are the kind of details mothers don’t need to hear about. I think it was the first time I felt butterflies in my stomach. This girl was perfect, she was older, wiser, and more beautiful than anyone in my grade. And she had breasts. She revealed to me that she had never kissed anyone before and decided that she was going to kiss me the following week. We did not discuss it further until she randomly joined my school bus route after a busy Tuesday. I knew this was odd because her house was not on my route. She entered the bus with me and we rode along towards my house. About one stop from my house she laid it on me, a big wet kiss on the lips. It felt amazing, like kissing an angel sent from heaven who had pillows for lips. It felt like being supercharged with electricity, except it wasn’t lethal. She quickly got off the bus and went to her friend’s house, who lived nearby. I got off the bus and ran towards the house, I had to tell my mother of this monumental news.
“Hey mom, I kissed Whitney,” I said with the excitement of a young man who had just been kissed.
“Ohh really, that’s so cute. I am glad you are liking it here,” my mother responded. It was important that we liked being here.
The truth was, I did like it here, the girls made it bearable, especially their willingness to get closer to me. That and I had discovered computers. My school had just ordered some state of the art Macintosh computers, equipped with the newest games. During last period every other day, we had an hour to play whatever we wanted. I decided that Oregon Trail was my choice. Oregon Trail was a very difficult survival type game where you had to take a band of travelers across the US plains, in the hopes of reaching the West coast for the gold rush. The basic premise of the game is to survive all kinds of hardships, such as various different diseases, hunger, animal attacks and bandits. It was extremely difficult, but I liked the challenge as nobody in our school had beaten it yet.
Another week went by and we spent lunch breaks swinging away on the swings, holding hands and laughing about just about everything. Whitney became bolder and decided to kiss me, right in front of her father, right outside his classroom. I don’t think he liked that because he was extra hard on me after that. My butterflies were beginning to blossom and I thought I felt love for the very first time. I knew what this was because I had seen Titanic recently, which gave me nightmares but showed love really well. Also, Rose’s breasts were amazing. Time went on and I continued to hone my athletic skills during lunch time and gym class. I always seemed to have an edge because of my bigger size and height, it almost seemed unfair. My friends and I also began having competitions on who could get to the end of Oregon Trail, which seemed like an impossible task. I was deep into another game, one of my last characters, Bob had just died to snake bites in Texas when Whitney’s best friend approached me. She seemed serious, way too serious for a 12-year-old.
“Oscar, why do you like Whitney,” Amber asked me.
“What do you mean?”
“Whitney thinks you only like her because of her big boobs,” Amber responded, with a stone cold expression.
“That’s crazy, I love her entire body and her personality.”
“Well, name five things you love about her or I have been told by her to break up with you.”
“I love her boobs, her smile, her body, her — .”
I ran out of reasons, I only really liked her boobs and the fact that she was older. Whitney and Amber saw right trough me.
“I knew it, you don’t deserve her,” Amber responded. “Whitney wanted me to tell you that she doesn’t want to be your girlfriend anymore.”
I sat there full of shock, the girl of my dreams who had given me my first kiss, was done with me. I looked at my screen and now Maggie, my last healthy survivor, had contracted cholera, the trail had also come to an abrupt end. I logged out and did my best to finish the school day, luckily it was almost over. I ran to the office and asked to call my mother, these occasions were usually reserved for sickness but I did truly feel sick.
“Mom, can you please pick me up, I can’t take the bus today.”
“Ohh honey, what’s the matter, is it your -.”
“Mom, just pick me up please, I shouted, interrupting her question.
A few minutes later my mom’s light blue mini-van pulled up into the school’s driveway, tears began streaming down my face as I ran to the car and jumped in the passenger seat.
“Mom, I have been working on finishing Oregon Trail for almost an entire school year now, Maggie just contracted cholera and I will have to start over again,” I said as the tears continued to stream down my face.
I loved Oregon Trail.