On the first day of Grade One, I sat in my big kid desk, and tried not to cry. I’d skipped kindergarten. I didn’t know any of these kids. There was a display of bright posters on the back wall. I turned around in my seat to get a better look.
“What the fuck are you looking at? Turn around!”
This girl was big, and she had crazy eyes, and now she hated me. I did as I was told. At recess, I found out her name was Nadine. This wasn’t her first run at Grade One. By the time her family moved away 6 or 7 years later, she’d failed so many times that no one could remember who her original classmates were. After a while, I figured out she wasn’t mean, just really weird. She didn’t pick up on cues. She was insecure, yet she didn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thought of her.
Nadine went to our friend Lisa’s house for dinner. Lisa’s parents thought Nadine was lovely. She made polite small talk, complimented Lisa’s mom on the meal. Nadine asked for a glass. Lisa’s mom brought her one. Then Nadine asked Lisa’s dad to pass the gravy. He did. Nadine poured herself a nice, big glass of gravy, and drank it down. She never seemed to notice Lisa’s little brother’s mouth hanging open, or the way he couldn’t peel his eyes off her for the remainder of dinner.
When Prince Charles and Princess Diana were getting married, Nadine told us that her family had received an invitation. Her family owned a business in town, clearly had a lot more cash floating around than the rest of us, and our farmer families. As far as she was concerned, her family was the closest thing we had to royalty. So of course they were invited. But they couldn’t go. They couldn’t find anyone to cover for them while they were gone. Great privilege is accompanied by great responsibility.
We learned the mechanics of sex from Nadine. She would bring her Barbies to school, demonstrate the way the bodies should be positioned. She never, ever brought Ken, though. Only Barbies. She was in the middle of showing us a particularly athletic threesome one afternoon, when Mrs. Grant got suspicious of the group of girls huddled in the carragana trees. She yelled at us, called Nadine an instigator. The rest of us were horrified to be in trouble, felt shaky, didn’t know what to do. Nadine packed up her dolls, made a face at Mrs. Grant’s back. “She does this, too, you know. Mrs. Grant probably does this with Mr. Grant every other night.”
Nadine failed out of our class in Grade Five. I kind of lost track of her. It was October of Grade Seven before I realized she hadn’t come back. Her family sold their business. They moved to the big city.
Nadine made out just fine.