Monday, September 19, 2011
Every sixth-grade boy at our school had a thing for Mrs. Urbanick. Sophisticated, blond, regal; she was the Grace Kelly of our elementary school. Hers was the only class where the boys fought to sit up close in the front row just to be near her. It didn’t matter that we didn’t understand why we enjoyed studying her from behind as she scribbled Lake Tit-i-caca on the blackboard. She was the reward for toughing it out through grades one through five. When my time came, I was eager to participate in what was referred to as “The Mrs. Urbanick Experience.”
It seems that Mr. Urbanick wasn’t as infatuated with his wife as we sixth grade boys were. He must have been what kids called a homo because there just wasn’t any other explanation for how anyone could be so stupid as to let her go. But let her go he did, and when I returned to school after what seemed like the longest summer in history she arrived with a brand new name—Miss Copicado. This didn’t seem so horrible, even though the name “Mrs. Urbanick” conjured up perfume-scented images of someone lounging on the deck of a yacht. “Copicado” sounded like a fruit with a ridiculously large pit.
It was exceptionally hot that first day of sixth grade, so hot that the indigo ink in my new Junior Huskies was heating up and beginning to run, staining my underwear blue. Mrs. Urbanick (make that Miss Copicado) was wearing a heavy wool suit in a light mauve color. (Why she chose this outfit I’ll never know. Perhaps her ex-husband was a cross dresser and kept all the lightweight party dresses for himself.) Miss Copicado started off the day by picking up a piece of chalk to write her new name on the blackboard. When she lifted her arm to write, we all saw the large dark stain under her arm. I’d begun that morning idolizing her from the front row, but my infatuation with her withered and died that day. Miss Copicado had…pitted out.
It was beyond me to feel sympathy for Miss Copicado or to consider all that this poor woman had lost, aside from the aura that had briefly captured my pubescent fascination. I don’t remember much from my “Miss Copicado Experience.” The months flew by in a blur—but a year or so later I spotted her crying in an empty classroom. “Are you all right?” I asked.
I could see she wasn’t, but she nodded, her lashes heavy with tears.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Do you want me to fetch the school nurse?”
Sniffling, she said, “Nat King Cole died.”
“I was confused, thinking she was referring to “Old King Cole.”
She was wearing that same mauve suit and was now staining it with tears. I didn’t know how to comfort anyone, much less someone blubbering over the death of a character from a nursery rhyme.
I was too immature to forgive her for those stains under her arms but I’ve matured since then, although I still think about her every time I see an avocado.
Who was your first infatuation? Care to share?
Posted by Stephen Hayes