I don’t easily make decisions but once I’ve made up my mind, you can consider it done. Once middle school was over I was dead set on never stepping foot at Inglewood High. I’d use my uncle’s address to get into Hawthorne High School, just 15 minutes south of Inglewood was a new world of high school opportunity for me. The Beach Boys went to school there in the 1950’s. Hawthorne isn’t a beach city but it’s close proximity to Redondo and Manhattan Beaches was close enough. At the time, it still had a very mid century California vibe until they painted it like an in-n-out.
My first day was scary, I didn’t know a single person there. I recognized a girl I’d shared a word or two with a few weeks before school when I picked up my schedule. Thank god she was friendly. I hung out with her and her friends for the first week until I got acclimated. I’d end up with several different friend groups; the skaters, the goth kids, the nerds and a mostly girls group. I didn’t have a favorite group, they were all interesting in their own way.
I would soon find my friend Richard who I’d known from middle school, we’d pass hilarious notes back and forth in math class. Richard wasn’t out at the time but his love for Sarah Michelle Gellar was usually his main topic of note conversations. He’d indulge me in letting me spill my teenage level crush story of the day.
Monica was one of my very first new friends, she was loud, hyper and liked to wear bright clothes but I admired how she acted how she wanted regardless of what other people thought. She had a guy “best friend” but he was secretly in love with her. It wasn’t really a secret, his feelings were very obvious but she just was not interested so the guy was permanently friend zoned. Sheri was my darkside friend, but she was not a goth. She had a dark sense of humor, super sarcastic and her mom was strict so she would rebel in passive aggressive ways. She was the person I would ditch 6th period with the most. At least once a week we would come to school dressed exactly the same but never on purpose. She’d always tell me about her older brother, he’d been expelled the year prior for bringing a butchers knife to school and he liked to set things on fire. He wrote poetry and loved Radiohead. She tried to set me up with him and I agreed but then I met him and he looked too much like one of my cousins. Yes, I declined based off looks and not his probable criminal record but hey, I made the right choice in the end.
The goth kids were a mixed group with the stoner kids. Most were seniors or juniors. With them, I learned I could hang out with people who did different things/ acted differently than I did and it didn’t mean I had to act like them if it didn’t feel right. Maybe because I was raised by pretty strict parents or because I was also raised to think independently. Maybe the D.A.R.E program worked?! It came from somewhere I suppose, the point is I never touched drugs in high school.
I don’t remember how I met Ivan, I just remember Sheri and I would side eye him outside our classroom before Honors English class. I bought into the cool boy in a band aesthetic, the “mysterious ” vibe of a guy who only wore rock band t-shirts. I think as teenagers we assign ourselves stupid labels even when we “don’t want to be labeled”. I gave myself the badge of girl who likes guys in bands. It came from the assumption that they had good taste in music and at age 14 not much else mattered.
We exchanged several cd’s, I introduced him to Radiohead and he showed me Tool. I wish I could say that my courting methods changed over time but sharing music has been my long standing way of getting to know potential partners. I once refused a second date with a guy who had no cd’s of his own, that was an absolute deal breaker.
My initial affection for Ivan eventually wore off, I had figured him out; he was an amalgamation of everything and everyone he thought was cool but the dots were easy to connect and the mystery (for me) was over. We stayed friends for years though, we maintained a lot of mutual respect. I also met my friend Renso because of him, he was a year older than us and he was actually the cool one. Renso was reserved with most people but a fucking hoot once he opened up. I always felt like he understood me in ways most people could not, we saw the world the same way. Till this day, he’s one of my favorite people and still one of the coolest guys I know. He is also insanely talented.
By the end of the school year, Monica had started dating a total douchebag, she spent all her time with him and since we had no classes together I didn’t see her anymore. Sheri briefly went to a continuation school because of her grades. My friend Maira, who I thought didn’t like me when we first met, became a great friend before the school year ended. I learned to never make that assumption about a girl again thanks to her. She knew all my secrets and was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. She dated Frank who lived across the street from her but she still knew how to balance having a boyfriend while maintaining friendships. I should’ve learned more of that from her. I spent a lot of time at her house, her brothers treated me like family. She and Frank are married now and have a beautiful family.
I’d come to adore Hawthorne, for all it’s different nuanced kids and the ability to ditch class to eat at the Jack In the Box across the street. But, like other good things in my youth, this would be just another happy blip.
By the end of the school year my parents had decided that we were moving 65 miles east to Fontana. I’d have to leave Hawthorne and all my new and fun friends. I’d get to finish my freshman year at Hawthorne, collecting most of my friends school I.D’s as tokens on my way out. I tried to have faith that I’d stay in touch with those that wanted to do so. After all, these were the days of email and AOL instant messenger. I’d make one last trip that summer to Hawthorne to hang out with Sheri. Later in August, Ivan, Renso and I would go see Radiohead at the Hollywood Bowl. It was my first concert. They’d be the only Hawthorne friends to ever come visit me too.
Each friendship was a new lesson that year, lessons in self expression, in acceptance of others, in morality, and expectations. For a long time I would wonder how different my life would be if I had stayed but now I see that I was meant to learn and go. I wouldn’t realize how much all of these connections would shape me until later.