Writers’ Workshop: My Lab Partner

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I did a couple of things "backwards" in high school: I took Algebra II in freshman year because I had taken Algebra I in grammar school, when my new school would have put me in Geometry that year, and rather than taking Chemistry in junior year and Physics in senior, I did them the other way around.

We were assigned lab partners alphabetically by last name, and that put me with a girl named Liz. Liz was kind of pretty, a little on the plump side (in a good way), a year behind me in school, and seemed intimidated by me. I had no idea why, but that was life in the big city, I figured, and while we were cordial and friendly, that was about as far as it went.

Back in the early ’70’s, my school, like many other schools, had an area outside where kids could smoke. Since I smoked at the time, I spent a lot of my time out there. I guess it was in October that I was surprised to see Liz out there, having a cigarette, so I went over and talked to her for a couple of minutes. Turned out we both smoked Kools, so that was something we had in common. We didn’t talk much longer, because she had to scamper off to class (or so she said).

She seemed to be a little less frightened of me then, and we started chatting a little more during lab time and saw each other a little more frequently in the smoking area. But I didn’t realize that I had developed an attraction to her until the Friday that she showed up dressed up nicely, in a black jumper dress with a colorful blouse underneath, black nylons, and dressy shoes. In short, she cleaned up very nicely…

That evening, as I was watching my usual trio of music shows (In Concert, The Midnight Special, and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert), it hit me: I had a pretty hot lab partner, and since she didn’t say anything about a boyfriend, she might be fair game. I was a bit handicapped dating-wise because I didn’t drive or have a car, but damn it, I liked her, and thought we might have some chemistry of the other sort between us, so I was going to broach the subject with her on Monday.

Little did I know that she had just started dating a guy that I knew through my brother. When I saw the two of them together on Monday, my heart sank. I never said anything to her about it, but there went that idea.

Liz and I, and to a lesser extent Rick (her boyfriend), became great friends after that. I was sorta-kinda dating J, the daughter of a friend of my folks, who seemed to like me until I saw her among her friends one night. I had agreed to go to her prom and she had reciprocated, so we were really kind of stuck together. The day of J’s prom, Liz grabbed me and gave me a hickey. Whether J saw it or not, I don’t know, but things were a little cold between us after that. Not cold enough to get her to tell me to find someone else to take to the prom (which would have been fine, because Liz had introduced me to a friend of hers, who I hit it off with instantly, and apparently had a prom dress and everything), but she was pretty chilly. Liz facilitated our breakup by running up to me at prom and giving me one hell of a kiss, because that was just the kind of girl she was.

We lost touch about a year later. For me, she was the first girl who ever introduced a little chaos in my life. Which is a very good thing…

12 thoughts on “Writers’ Workshop: My Lab Partner

  1. Liz coming in HOT at that dance! I bet that was so exciting. lol And I cannot believe the schools facilitated a place for you all to smoke back then!

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    1. Liz was an incorrigible tease and a real mixer. That was why I loved her so much. Had I not been so consumed with self-doubt, I would have tried to get her to leave her boyfriend for me. Mom would have had a stroke, of course: she once told me that Liz was “bad news.” Which I knew, and loved her for it. Part of the reason I took up writing was to play “what if?” with scenarios like that…

      Considering that very few of us that used the smoking area were old enough to buy cigarettes, it was amazing that they gave us a place to smoke. They closed it during my senior year, but we had a way around that: our campus was right near a Cook County forest preserve, and it was clearly marked with several concrete pillars where campus ended and the forest started. As long as you were on the forest side of the pillars, they couldn’t touch you. There was a nice big grassy field, and Liz and I would sit out there.

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  2. I went to a Catholic school and the ones who I saw smoking were the kids with “stoner’ jackets on (The lumberjack jackets). I went to my prom with 2 girls who, later on, one became a nun and the other an arsonist-burned her parent’s home down.

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  3. Woo, Liz was a feisty one!
    Brings back memories of the “old days”. As I was reading, I remembered the high school smoking areas. How strange!

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