Dear Ralphie Jeffers,
I am sorry Ralphie. I am sorry that I kicked you in the balls in seventh grade. You seemed like a nice guy in a rough and tumble way.
Previous to this, you sometimes bumped into my desk on your way out of the classroom as Mr. Lowenbach chased you out and to the principal’s office. Once you reached under my chair in music class to pick up a penny. Much delighted, you held it up in the air singing “I found a penny, I found a penny!” Despite the singsong quality of your voice, the music teacher Mr. Walsh was not pleased, and in a to-the-brim, syncopated fashion, he said “Then put it in your pocket.” Come to think of it, your “I found a penny” to Mr. Walsh’s “Put it in your pocket” might have made a cool mix and you were the kind of guy that might have pulled that off.
I don’t know why you suddenly took notice of me that seventh grade spring. Maybe it was my new American Indian look, inspired by the pages of Seventeen: two long braids, a gauze shirt, leather bracelets. Maybe it was a subtle upturn in my confidence as my new dance teacher Roberta Fera had recently told me that I not only had a dancer’s body, but real talent.
Whatever it was, it inspired you to chase me that day, from the cafeteria all the way to Social Studies. You chased me so fast that I had to dart behind desks to skirt being caught. It was a pursuit and I was the pursued, and I was the girl that Ralphie Jeffers was misbehaving for today. I moved back and forth between the desks, and even around Mr. Lowenbach’s. I felt my heart pounding and my baby-powdered underarms grow sticky. And suddenly, there I was, backed up against the shelves that lined up against the windows, and you, you little devilish rascal, were coming right towards me. To do what? I have often wondered. But I will never know… because that was the moment that I lifted my left knee to my chest. And then was the moment that I shoved my left heel into your balls.
I don’t know why I did it.
Your face turned red and so did mine. Then a chorus filled the classroom that would have made Mr. Walsh proud. “Jeannie kicked Ralphie in the balls! Jeannie kicked Ralphie in the balls!” I think you started to cry. And then you left the room. I did not look at you when you returned. In fact, throughout the rest of junior high and then through all of high school, I never looked directly at you again.
That night while getting ready for bed, I casually asked my teenage sisters “What happens if you kick someone in the balls?” “How do you know that word?” Cathie asked. “It really hurts them,” Suzy added. From between the slats in his bedroom door, I could hear Davie shout out “Why do you think they have cups?!” I did not know what he was talking about. The only cups I knew about were the ones we drank from and the ones that poked out of my mother and sister’s bras when they were hanging to dry. Cathie added, “It’s only to be done in self defense.”
And this is why, dear Ralphie Jeffers, I told this story to my daughters. As an example of a method of self-defense. As a lesson in what not to do to a boy that you have a crush on in seventh grade. Oh, dear Ralphie Jeffers, I guess I missed my chance with you. I hope this episode is no more than a mere blip in your childhood memory bank, and that perhaps my finally apologizing for my misdirected overwhelming passion will provide some solace, all these years and so far away from Kensington Junior High.