Safe! by John L. Neel

All high school Freshmen are dumb, but I was, most likely, the dumbest, most goofy freshman that ever attended Woodlawn High.

Life for a freshman at Woodlawn was confusing.  Just learning where your classes were, stretched over three buildings, and getting there from your previous class, on time, was sometimes a challenge.  There were times you had to run...or you felt you had to, until you found the path of least resistance through the crowds of students in the halls between classes. Or, maybe I was the only kid who did this.

Trying to fit in was always a big concern for me.  Some Seniors knew me and spoke to me in the hall.  My great hero, President of the Student Body, Steve, and I had Gym together.  He adopted me like a kid brother and taught me the ways of the school and introduced me to all manner of Woodlawn luminaries.  I adopted all his mannerisms and tried to be like just like him. He introduced me to his friends and the Cheerleaders as if I mattered!

Cheerleaders at Woodlawn were, in the eyes of almost every guy I knew, the epitome of female loveliness.  Certainly they were the best looking girls that I had ever seen in my life.  But, they were not like the mean, self centered cheerleaders you see in movies.  These girls were smart, sweet, friendly, and approachable.  They all knew my name through Steve and because I always sat in the cheering section at games and cheered the loudest.  I had great School Spirit...still do.  They would always thank me after each game for being so supportive.  I may have watched the cheerleaders more than the games.

To me, of all the cheerleaders, there was one who stood out above the others, Tina.  I had a gigantic crush on her and I thought she was the most amazing person I had ever met. Every guy in my home room agreed.

Just when I was about to believe I would make it at school and perhaps be "popular," I did the worst thing ever.

After Gym Class, I had lunch.  It became a race between the freshman guys in my class to see who could be first in line.  After a shower, we'd dress and take our positions in one of the tunnels under the stadium that existed back in our time.  From there, the route took us in a back door, down a hall, to a nintey-degree right turn, down a side hall to another ninety-degree left turn, and down the main hall to the first door to the lunch room, on the left.  At the ringing of the change-of-class bell, we'd race off, pushing shoving, acting like fools, just to be first.

On the day of the incident, it was raining.  No, it was pouring.  By the time we made it from the stadium to Main Building, our feet were soaking.  I was well in the lead, until I got to the first turn, then my feet slipped out from under me and I crashed into the wall, Hard.  Stunned for a second, when I opened my eyes, I realized I was under the feet of a crowd of girls, looking straight up one girl's dress. 

Of course, the crowd of girls were the Cheerleaders, and the girl whose dress I was looking up was, of course, Tina. That's just the way the universe works.  Right?

Tina looked down at me with the most disgusted look on her face and said, "Stupid Freshman."

I never ran in the halls again, but the damage was done.  The story circulated widely through school and it took a good long while before my buddies stopped calling me "S. F." and let me live it down.  Just like the sweethearts they were, the next time the Cheerleaders saw me, they acted as if it never happened and greeted me by my actual name.  Tina, gave me one of her amazing smiles and a little wink.  I took it as her way of apologizing and letting me know that I wouldn't always be a Stupid Freshman.