The year was 1992. I was 14 years old, a Freshman in high school, and trying hard to be madly in love with a boy with whom I’d been friends all through grade school and who lived just down the street from me. His name was Jeremiah Fletcher, and he had the most beautiful, long-lashed, big blue eyes I’d ever seen. Long and lanky, he constantly wore sweat suits, often bearing the logo of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, which only heightened the blueness of those gorgeous eyes. (It also made for a very funny interlude during a junior high class field trip, where his blue sweats matched the blue screen the weatherman used to show the maps during the broadcast, turning Jeremiah into just a head and a dancing pair of hands and shoes on the monitors in the studio. But I digress.)
When I say I was trying hard to be madly in love with Jeremiah, what I mean is that I was trying hard to get him to allow me to hold hands with him on the bus and walk with him at school. There were plenty of kids at my high school who were much more heavily involved in relationships than that, but we both were introverted kids who were barely getting out of the “abject fear of catching cooties from members of the opposite sex” stage of adolescence.
It didn’t help that we had also been good buddies in a nerdy group comprised of 3 boys and me at school since 1st grade, hunting Bigfoot on the playground, investigating student “crimes” such as stolen bubble gum in the classroom, and founding a NASA fan club during recess. When we hit junior high, we’d stuck together in our nerdpack, dominating the Scholastic Bowl team, competing in creative writing contests, and accidentally learning Spanish profanity together in class. (Cavoca apparently does NOT mean “cave,” according to Señora Henson.) By high school, though, the majority of my male friends beat a mass exodus from our friendship as they were enticed by the allure of team sports such as football and basketball (two things I have never given a rat’s ass about) and were fascinated yet frightened by my newly acquired boobs, being thusly reminded that I was, indeed, a GIRL, and therefore could no longer be befriended. Jeremiah was the only one who did not bolt, for which I was grateful, but alas, my own hormonal teenaged stupidity kicked in and triggered my desire to fit the mold by dating, and all those years of chummy friendship were not leading to romantic attachment to the degree I wanted it to. By midterms of that year, Jeremiah had reluctantly agreed to be my boyfriend, but was in no way interested in being remotely physical in any way, other than to tease me and tug hard on my figurative pigtails to make me squall.
That January, everyone around us was pairing off to go to the Winterfest dance. In my usual direct and assertive fashion, I decided that Jeremiah needed to take me to it because I said so and EVERYBODY ELSE WAS GOING – like, all two of our other mutual friends had dates, so why couldn’t we go? Jeremiah adamantly did NOT want to go to any dance at all and was understandably getting pretty damn sick of my shit – at this point, I’m pretty sure he only sat next to me on the bus out of both habit and security, since all I did was harass him about holding hands, whereas there were other kids on the bus who would routinely steal things out of backpacks and spit tobacco juice down the suede leather coats of the fancy girls who could afford them.
Things came to a head one weekday afternoon on the way home from school. I believe I delivered Jeremiah an ultimatum that we were going to BREAK UP if he didn’t take me to the dance and act nice to me, an idea which he probably welcomed with open arms. I know that somehow we were arguing and that things had started to get a very tame version of mean (again, we were goody-goodies). Finally we rolled up to our stop and were free to stomp off indignantly, which I did, cutting him off in the aisle of the bus to get down the stairs first for maximum huffing effect as I swept past him.
I don’t know if it was my cutting him off that did it, or if he’d just finally reached his limit of dealing with my bullshit, but however it transpired, I pissed that kid off something fierce. When we were both off the bus and the driver had pulled away, Jeremiah Fletcher mustered up all his courage, girded up his intestinal fortitude, and pushed me right over into a snowbank, then grabbed up a handful of snow and pelted me with a snowball that hit me right in the face and crumbled straight down the neck of my coat.
I was beside myself with fury, spluttering with the shock of the cold and the lamest and most well-deserved assault ever. How DARE he do such a thing?
And then, my knight in shining armor happened along in the form of my older brother, who had gotten off the bus before us and witnessed the altercation escalating. Now let it be known to all that my brother is a gigantic noodle-limbed teddy bear and was not then nor has ever been known as any kind of physical threat. But on this day, some little snot had just pushed his baby sister down and pelted her with a snowball, and THAT SHIT JUST WOULD NOT STAND.
As soon as Jeremiah saw my brother, he beat a hasty retreat across the road toward his house. And here it was that he made his fatal mistake that day: in his cocky teenaged arrogance, rather than just cheesing it to the safety of home, Jeremiah Fletcher chose to stop and make a snowball with which to pelt my brother as well.
I watched the following tableau evolve in what seemed like slow motion from my repose in the snowbank. Jeremiah, resplendent in his bright blue sweatpants, had bent over at the waist, back toward us and butt waving enticingly in the air, to gather up more ammunition from his side of the street. My brother had dropped his bookbag and done the same, but was just that much quicker. With remarkable speed, my brother drew back and fired his snowball, which arced gracefully and with laser accuracy across the entirety of the four-way intersection and, guided at this point by what must have been none other but the hand of God, exploded spectacularly as it smashed right into Jeremiah Fletcher’s crotch and racked the poor kid’s balls from behind. His bell well and truly rung by the Excalibur of icy projectiles, Jeremiah immediately crumpled sideways into fetal position with a howl and a crunch as he hit the snowbank hard, and my brother immediately launched his fists into the air in a show of unbridled triumph.
I don’t remember getting out of the snowbank – my brother may or may not have helped me up. I don’t remember getting home – we may or may not have laughed ourselves all the way up the hill to our house after that. But I will always remember that clear, brittle, and crystalline moment in time when my brother avenged my honor with naught but a sphere of frozen righteousness.