I stood where Alicia Avenue ends at Pasado Rd. in Linda and leaned against the chain-link fence, staring out into the open field where Alicia Intermediate School used to stand. The school was demolished in 2013 because of its proximity to the airport and a natural gas line, so there were no classrooms left to jog my memories of when I was a student there; but still they came.
I remembered what it was like to attend classes with a deep pain in my heart because I thought my dad had left the family. His in-laws were visiting and he was tired of their nagging, so he left. Thankfully, once they departed, he returned. But I knew that wasn’t the case for many of my fellow classmates. Maybe that’s why Billy was a bully. He couldn’t get over the pain of his dad leaving and never coming back.
Billy was my friend for a short while, but something changed. Maybe he was jealous of me for having a dad that was still around; but for whatever reason, he started picking on me in wood shop, by making fun of things I was making, or by throwing small pieces of wood at me when the teacher wasn’t looking. There wasn’t much to Billy; he was short and skinny, so I wasn’t really afraid of him, but he was so annoying. I thought about punching it out with him, but I was worried I might accidentally punch him in the mouth and hit his teeth that stuck out so much and were spaced so far apart he could have flossed with shoelaces. I also didn’t want to get in trouble for fighting. But still, going to wood shop, a class I really enjoyed, was taxing. I had to do something, but what? I needed a miracle. That miracle came when I met……Jesus.
There it was, written on the blackboard amongst all the other names…… Jesus. I looked around the room of my seventh-grade physical education class but I didn’t see anyone that looked like Jesus. The teacher had written the names on the chalkboard so that he could organize soccer teams. I want Jesus on my team, I thought as the teacher wrote numbers next to the names. I got the number three, and so did Jesus. He was on my team! But when his name was called, the teacher pronounced it “Hey-Zeus”. Jesus wasn’t what I expected, he was a stocky Mexican kid that struggled with English, but he sure knew how to play soccer! It was on the soccer field where the accident happened.
Billy the bully, who was on the opposing team, ran toward the soccer ball as Jesus and I hurried toward him from opposite sides. He was aiming towards the goal! The three of us kicked toward the ball but Billy kicked it a split-second before us. Goal! Billy didn’t get to see it, though; he was writhing in pain on the ground. Jesus and I had missed the ball and kicked Billy’s leg, both of us at the same time. The school nurse was called and Billy was put onto a stretcher. His leg was broken. I took no pleasure in Billy’s pain and was sincerely sorry; however, he never did bother me again.
Someone else of Mexican descent had helped me a year before, in sixth grade. It was in the boys’ bathroom, where middle-school conflicts often take place. I had walked in to use the urinal and when I had finished my business, an older student asked me if he could borrow my comb. Yuck! I thought as I looked at his greasy hair. But I wasn’t about to tell him no. I handed him my comb and cringed as he combed his hair. The Fonzi wannabe then took my comb and threw it in the unflushed urinal. Luckily, it was right then that Peter, a fellow sixth-grade classmate of mine, walked in. Now Peter was no ordinary sixth-grader; he was feared by many and had older brothers that were feared even more. He even had a girlfriend who was an eighth-grader.
Peter saw what was going on in the bathroom and grabbed the soon-trembling eighth-grader by the front of his shirt collar and held him against a bathroom stall.
“When I let go of you, I want you to grab that comb, comb your hair, wash it off, and then give it back to my friend Bobby. You got that?”
The pinned eighth-grader nodded silently, and when he was let go, walked over to the urinal and grabbed the comb, shook off some of my pee and combed his hair. He then rinsed off the comb at the sink, wiped it with a towel and then handed it to me.
The school bell rang and the three of us walked out of the bathroom and into our classrooms. After sitting at my desk for a short while, I glanced behind me and across the room to where Peter was sitting. As usual, he was talking to a girl. He noticed I was looking at him and he smiled a quick smile and nodded slightly. I then turned back around and stared wide-eyed at the front of the classroom. Peter called me his friend! I was amazed and found it hard to believe. But word must have got around that I was Peter Garcia’s friend, because no upper class-man ever bothered me again at Alicia Intermediate.
I started to recall more memories of my time at Alicia as I stood at the fence that early Sunday morning, but the near-silence was soon disturbed by the familiar rumble of Harley motorcycles stopping nearby. I watched as the riders parked their bikes, and with Bibles in hand, walked across the street and into the building marked “Christ Has Risen Ministries”.
“That’s enough memories for now,” I told myself. “It must be time for worship.” I took a few photos of the open field, locked my car, and then walked across the street and into the church.