WILSON HIGH AND A DISCOVERY.
Finally, the day came when I was to try out my new zombie appearance– daring to go to school without make-up to cover my pasty pale skin or Patchouli to cover the scent of death. Because of my transformation I now looked like a white kid, or perhaps a light skinned Mexican.
Mom dropped me off at the main gate of Wilson High on Multnomah Street, right on top of a hill overlooking El Sereno to the North and East and City Terrace to the South. “Portate bien, mijo. I’ll pick you up here after school.”
As mom drove off I approached the main administration building. a large two-story structure with an awkward flat canopy roof that made the building look like it was wearing a hat. Atop the canopy were several satellite dish receivers, giving the appearance that hair was sprouting out of the top of the hat.
The administration office was easy enough to find. I told the too-preoccupied-with-putting-on-my-nail-polish student receptionist I was a transfer student and she directed me down the hall to another student receptionist who took my transfer papers, checked them with her computer. Satisfied that I was indeed Lazaro De La Tierra transferring from Lincoln, she printed out my transcript and walked down to the office of a Mr. Wood.
“He’ll be your counselor from now on,” she explained.
Mr. Wood was amiable enough. He went over the last classes I had taken at Lincoln, assigned me to the next classes in sequence at Wilson. Printed out a class schedule for me, gave me a hall pass and directed me to my first period class–history in what he called the Four Hundred Building, room 323.
I walked across a suspended walkway connecting the administration building to the Four Hundred Building and stopped for a moment to take in the panoramic view of the Los Angeles skyline.
Wilson is situated high on a hill and I could see the Los Angeles basin below. On the horizon, the buildings in downtown Los Angeles glistened in the morning sun–iridescent glass and metal fingers reaching for the sky. Down below the walkway I could make out a huge football field, with bleachers and off to the side a dozen bungalow classrooms. On the other side was a baseball and soccer field and more bungalows. One thing for sure this campus was huge, much bigger than what I was used to at Lincoln.
I scoped out the kids walking past me. Lincoln was mainly Latino and so was Wilson–90% I later learned. With my new lighter tan I felt a little like a fish out of water. At Lincoln I had melded in beautifully–brown on brown. Here I was Cafe Con Leche against a turbulent mosaic of café, mulatto, Indio and everything in between. I had really liked myself as dark skinned, even if it was due to the make-up that covered my ghastly white skin. Passing for white was going to take some getting used to.
Soon I found myself walking down a hallway in the Four Hundred Building looking for room 323.
And that’s when I heard a voice call my name.
“Lazo? Lazaro is that you?”
I turned to see an attractive girl approaching me. She appeared to be my age and seemed to know who I was.
“I’m Lazaro,” I stammered. Who was this girl? How did she know me?
“You don’t recognize me?”
I then I smelled her scent. The perfume whose scent I had memorized years before when I had talked to her at the Home Depot.
“It’s me, Pearl.” She said. “Pearl Gonzalez.”
Pearl! My eighth grade crush. The only one who had actually made an effort to come to my eight year birthday party, the girl whose parents wouldn’t let me be her friend because she was Catholic and I was Protestant. The only girl I had ever really been interested in. But now she was grown up and boy was she gorgeous! Was she always so light skinned? I somehow remembered her as being a little darker skinned. But her pretty face, and those lips, they were the same. There was no mistaking it, this was Pearl!
“Yeah, it’s me.
“Hi, how are you. I mean, good to see you again.”
“Boy Lazo, you’ve changed a lot .”
Immediately my defensive blinders went up. She would she remember I was once darker skinned? Would she remember my Patchouli smell? The brain tacos she once saw me eat? She might be someone who could give me away and blow my cover at Wilson.
“It’s me, all right,” I smiled lamely. “Same ‘ol me.”
“What I mean is you’re so mature now and grown up. I barely recognized you!”
I could tell she really was pleased to see me and doing her best to put me at ease.
“Are you going here? To Wilson?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “This is actually my first day. Transferred over from Lincoln. Looking for room 323.”
“Room 323. Why that’s Mr. Hanna’s. That’s my History class too. Come on I’ll take you there and introduce you.”
To my surprise she took my hand and led me down the hallway . Within moments we were entering Room 323 and she led up to an jovial over-weight teacher named Mr. Hanna..
“Mr, Hanna. This Lazaro De La Tierra,. He’s a transfer from Lincoln.”
I handed Mr. Hanna my transfer slip.
“Glad to meet you Lazaro. Just take a seat over there, we’ll be starting soon.”
I tried to find a seat but could see the room was already pretty filled up. Though I wanted to sit with Pearl, the best I could do was the adjacent aisle and two seats behind her.
The history class went by fast. Mr. Hanna returned graded essays to the students and had a couple read their essays out loud to the whole class. Then he went on a rambling lecture about the causes of World War Two. I had gotten a little bit of this information at Lincoln but Mr. Hanna told it all with a great deal of excitement and suspense. Made it sound like a crime drama instead of boring history.
Throughout, all I could think about was Pearl. She seemed to happy to see me! Every now and then she would look back over her shoulder and smile at me.
Before long the passing bell rang, signaling we were all free to go to our second period class. I looked at the class agenda I had been given and saw it was biology in one of the bungalows by the football field.
I caught up with Pearl as she was leaving to classroom.
“Pearl,” I said. “ So great to see you again after all these years.
“Oh Lazo, I owe you an apology.
“You do?” What was this about?
“Yeah, I told yo my parents didn’t want me to associate with you before, on account of you, you know, that religion thing. Well, they’re over that now. “
‘They are?” I responded..
“Yeah, we can be friends again!”
Suddenly I was already to believe there was truth and justice in the universe. I could be Pearl‘s friend after all! My mind immediately went to, maybe even more than friends, perhaps. But I didn’t want to push my luck. Just be happy that she’s back in your life, Lazo, and be happy about it! Just take it step by step.
“I’ll be seeing you on campus, Lazo.” Pearl said. “Great to see you again!”
And then I saw it.
Dangling from her neck was silver chain and on the chain was a small, silver pendant. Carefully and beautifully crafted, it was a small outstretched palm of a hand with a circle in the middle and inside the circle the outline of a butterfly!
The Palm Hand! This was the mysterious symbol that I had been chasing for months, the symbol that Mrs. Falcon had given my mother to hang by our front doorway. I knew it held the key to my identity as a zombie. But what was Pearl doing wearing it around her neck?
Before I could say anything, Pearl turned and walked away and was soon lost in the crowd of students in the hallway.
Copyright 2012 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions, Inc.