Even with today’s fashion trend of leggings under skirts, it doesn’t take too much to remind me why I choose pants over dresses every time I go shopping. A sighting of a glass elevator, an open staircase, a surfer dude, or an angled shoe mirror, and I’m a time traveler straight back to 1981 to the halls of my South Carolina high school.
He showed up in French class with his shoulder-length wavy blond hair,
wrinkled t-shirt and flip flops, and Sony Walkman headphones. Madame Howard called the roll, but Doug L. kept right on daydreaming of the beach, with his closed-eye head groove. We didn’t know it then, but in that split second the lasting image of a yearbook “most popular” superlative was forever seared into our minds.
All the girls wanted to date Doug L., but his heart was somewhere back in California paddling out to catch the next wave. What he hadn’t left there, though, was a prankish bullying sort of humor that wouldn’t quit. He cheated on English tests by writing the answers on a scrap of paper and taping them to the ceiling over his desk using a yardstick so that it appeared to everyone that he was looking up in deep thought to recall the information. He raised his eyebrows and invoked a romantic accent with an inflected question mark on certain French vocabulary words, especially the week he spent walking up to every girl in the school and asking, “un morceau?”
But the prank that sticks with most of us still cuts, thirty five years later. He laced a jagged piece of a broken mirror in his shoes and went around looking up every skirt, winning bets about what color underwear we were all wearing, leaving us broke and baffled about how he knew.
Until we saw all the boys huddled over by the smoking wall, doubled over with laughter and pointing at Doug’s feet. And that is how a broken mirror or a Walkman or a frayed shoelace moment can shatter a day or a life.