I turn the pages of my yearbook until I find the varsity baseball team. The wave in Steve DeVoss’s hair kills me. While my third-grade teacher has me building a California mission sugar cube by sticky sugar cube, DeVoss is an honest-to-god baseball player, spinning curveballs past every middle school hitter in the valley.
His wave—shining with hydrogen peroxide—rises from the razor-straight part lining the left side of his head, crests in a gelled swell, and finally breaks across the right side of his forehead before washing past his ear. He seems a god. Like what a god would look like after being sent to earth to live as a twelve-year-old with the wisp of a mustache. Straight teeth, straight ahead, straight at everything that matters.
Middle School (I)
Chandler is moving from California to Indiana. We spend our final hours playing basketball in his driveway, the sunlight becoming garage lights that cast two-way shadows as we dribble and shoot.
At home that night, my mother is drawn to the sound of my sobs. She opens the door to my bedroom, and a spear of light widens into a long triangle that climbs my wall. She sits on the side of my mattress; her fingers on my shoulder and in my hair are dry and warm.
“Chandler moved across the country, but you can still be part of each other’s lives.”
Mom reaches her arm past my head and clicks on my bedside lamp. I watch—her pink bathrobe indistinct through my wet, squinting eyes—as she walks to my bookshelf and slides out my yearbook. She returns, sets it on my orange bedspread, runs her fingers from the crown of my head to the tip of my nose, and leaves the room.
I sit, wipe tears and snot onto my sheets, and pick up my yearbook. There’s me in the class picture, shirt buttoned and hair styled into a perfect wave. There’s Chandler, always three right and two down, near whenever I need him.
I turn pages until I reach the end. I find the blue cursive that loops across most of the inside back cover. I whisper the lines of Chandler’s message like we’re still friends—like we can both have great summers and see each other more next year.
Middle School (II)
Jane, Audrey, Susan, Patty. My finger stops beneath the small, neat letters of each name, beneath the black-and-white headshots in my yearbook. Patty: the cutest girl in school? Or blonde Susan who wears bike shorts on volleyball game days and whose mother wears riding pants and knee-high boots when she picks up her daughter? Or Audrey, a foot taller than every boy and who knows the words to every Def Lepard song?
Or Jane, with the freckles, and hair between straight and curly, and braces? The first and only time I held Jane’s hand was in kindergarten. She was Mary, I was Joseph, and the baby Jesus we carried up the aisle between rows of parents was a doll the color of cream whose eyelids hinged open and closed with every step. When Jane looked at me from beneath her blue headscarf—across the manger and our blinking baby—her cheeks were galaxies.
At our end-of-the-year beach trip, I watched from across the campfire as Jane rolled up in a blanket with Jerry VanderMey.
What would Jane’s hand feel like now? On the page of my yearbook, everything feels the same, from face to hair to Times New Roman. Smooth as the horizon, and cool. Patty, Susan, Audrey. Jane. The page is a road I could race forever.
A lot can happen in five years.
I want to curve a ball past swinging bats.
I want some future third-grader to memorize the page where he can find my black-and-white headshot in his yearbook.
I want to live like a wave that never breaks—a wave that keeps curling and curling, taking me along for the ride of my life.
I fall asleep with the lamp on, yearbook open across my lap.