Sitting in alphabetical order in high school English class, I hide behind Johnny Martinez’s wide, football fullback shoulders. I am in a panic because the teacher announces a pop quiz.
I pull out a clean sheet of paper and shoot a quick prayer of desperation to God and His entire choir of angels as I write my heading and number one to five.
God knows I am no slacker. I always do my homework, but after tackling an entire chapter in my history book and doing all the odd-numbered math problems for Algebra II, the English poem about love, virgins, and seduction put me to sleep last night.
What do I know about sex, especially written in complicated “olde” English? I am sixteen, I have been kissed once on the lips by a non-relative, and I have been on a total of three dates, all heavily chaperoned by my mean and vindictive older brother.
I had no frame of reference as I read the poem, just some icky feeling that the poet had the hots for some zaftig maiden.
I promise God all sorts of things as the teacher rattles off the questions, and I attempt weak answers. I promise to be kind to my younger sisters. I promise to say a rosary every night to the Virgin Mother for one whole month. I promise to control my impure thoughts about Johnny’s very wide, very muscley shoulders.
Please, please, please, dear Lord, help me get through this quiz. My A-plus average depends on this.
We hand in our papers and the teacher goes over the quiz and the poem. I get a sinking feeling that I will not get anything more than a few points on the quiz, but on the bright side, I won’t have to keep the promises I made in desperation.
To my surprise, the teacher returns our papers the next day and I have made an 80. It must be a miracle or a mercy. She explains that upon looking at our answers, she has reconsidered some of our answers and has accepted some of our literal interpretations though she expected a better understanding of the allusions.
Her explanations the previous day helped me some with those, and I think it is funny that the poet and I had more in common that I first expected. He wrote about his salacious attraction to a beautiful maiden and I spend most of English class wondering how it would feel to run my hands over Johnny’s double wide shoulders.
But now that God has kept His side of the deal, I will have to keep mine.