Aside from starting to fantasizing about one of my teachers, the beautiful Ms. McCormick, life in Grade 5 was relatively uneventful.
I had begun to notice the girls around me more than before. They were each pretty and confusing to me in their own way. I had started to wonder if I looked okay, or if my clothes were as good as everyone else’s. I had become self-conscious. All the people around me were mysterious in one way or another. Maybe my curiosity was piqued by having all these people running around Area C all the time. Maybe I just felt a bit bewildered and uneasy in large groups of people.
Dr. H. N. MacCorkindale elementary school was designed with an open-area concept, where Grades K through 7 are grouped in different “Areas”: Area A, Area B, Area C, and Area D. Each Area contained two grades, and usually three sections of the area were arranged in a classroom layout, and a fourth section contained low, multi-purpose tables and stools, which were useful for science or art/craft projects.
When I started at “Corky” (as some people called it), I was in Grade 5, in Area C. Kim was in Grade 3 in Area B, which was across the hall.
One day in class, a kid sitting behind me asked to borrow a pencil. I turned around and saw this huge guy smiling at me, squeezed into his impossibly small desk. He said his name was Vince and I introduced myself. Turning around to my desk again, I hid my hands while I tore up tiny pieces of paper and pushed them in-between my fingers. I turned around to Vince again, waved my hands and snowed a little shower of paper bits over his desk. He laughed at my little magic trick and called me “John John the Leprechaun”. I knew we were friends from that point on.
Vince was a big kid – in fact, probably the biggest kid in the whole school. I didn’t see him around many other people, so I figured he was new to our school and, like me, perhaps a bit shy or a bit of a loner.
School puts people of all kinds of different classes, races and upbringings together whether they want to be or not. I was never really that good at socializing or playing in groups, however much I really wanted to. Maybe I was just too much of a loner or a voyeur, and enjoyed watching others from a safe distance. But hanging around with Vince made me feel safer around the bigger kids.