While cleaning out my upstairs closet, I came across my personal photo album from back in the day which held some pictures from high school. Thumbing through some of the pages made me laugh. Life was so much simpler. All I had to worry about was doing my homework and making sure I was in the house before the street lights came on. Reflecting on the past, I can see how much I have changed since then. I came across a picture of me and my brother which instantly teleported me back to my first day of high school. Thinking back on that day, made my heart sullenly smile.
My mind swirled with excitement and anxiety which caused me to toss and turn the night before, so when it was time for me to get up, I was exhausted. My mom was the one who always awakened me and my brother, Scott, in the morning because if it were up to us we would never wake up on time. “Simone, get up. It's time to get ready for school." My mom said while gently shaking me awake. After a few moans and groans, she left to wake up Scott, I’m assuming with the same motherly gesture. With my eyes still closed I could hear the floor creak as my mom went back to her room, which was my cue to flip over and get a few extra minutes of sleep.
“Simone get up, come on let’s move it! If you want to get dropped off on time you need to get up!” She said, this time shaking me harder.
“I’m up.” I said in a crackling voice. I pulled my pink sheets to the side and sat up in my bed. Scott wasn’t up either. My bedroom was next to Scott’s room, so I heard her giving him the same spiel she gave me, just a little more authoritative. I got up, went to the bathroom to wash my face, brush my teeth and get ready. Fifteen minutes later, Scott burst into the bathroom.
“Can I have two more minutes please?” I asked making eye contact with his furrowed brow.
“You have been hogging the bathroom, I have to get ready too!”
I grabbed my gel and brush and went into my mom’s room to finish combing my hair. I always wore my hair in a slick low bun back then, so I didn’t technically need the bathroom anyway. Since it was the first day of school, I knew which clothes I was going to wear. That was one of the things I was concerned about before going to sleep. Luckily, I successfully picked out the outfit in my head before I finally went to sleep. I put on my light blue jeans, a red and white short-sleeved superman baseball tee, and a pair of red low-top Chuck Taylors.
I went back to my room to grab my backpack and sat on the couch in the living room to wait for Scott to finish getting ready. Twenty minutes later, we were on our way to school. Dorsey was about seven minutes from our house in the car. We could have walked but my mom dropped us off. When we pulled up to the school, my mom told us to have a good day, and when I exited the car, I felt like I was in a new world.
Outside was packed, there were kids everywhere, some looked lost and some looked found, it was chaotic. “Aye, come on! Let’s find out where your homeroom is.” My Scott said while motioning me to follow his lead. We walked towards the entrance weaving through the sea of kids. I guess I was going too slow because Scott stopped and put his hand on my shoulder pushing me along. When we got through the entrance, there were white papers tapped along the green wall. I learned these papers held everyone’s name and which room we were to report to when the bell rang.
“Wait here! Don’t move.” Scott said while leaving me to plow through the lost kids to see where homeroom was for me and him. I didn’t take my eyes off him while he scanned through the hundreds of names on the wall.
“Aw, hell nah!” I heard him say as I suppose he found our rooms. He made his way back over to me shaking his head.
“Ain’t this a bitch, we got the same damn homeroom!”
“Are you serious?” I said surprised. I guess they put us together because of our last names. My brother was a couple of years older than me, so I thought he would be in a classroom full of other eleventh graders.
"Come on man, let me show you around a little bit before the bell rings." I followed him through the crowd toward the "C" building. From behind, I heard, "Is that Scott?" I turned around and it was his friend LaTanya. She lived not too far from us and has been over to our house a few times.
“Oh God! Run Simone run!” Scott said while pushing me a little bit.
“Oh my God! Hi Simone! I forgot you are now in the ninth grade! Aw, look at Scott taking care of his sister!” She said teasing him.
“Yeah yeah yeah very funny! Who do you have for homeroom?”
“I have Ms. Hale, the French teacher. Who do you guys have? She said looking side to side at both of us.
“Ms. Hale.” Scott says.
“Okay, and who does Simone have?” She asked perplexed.
“Ms. Hale!” Scott said while looking down shaking his head.
“Oh my God! You mean to tell me you have homeroom with your little sister? How cute
is that. Aw Scott!”
“Shut up!” He said laughing as the bell rang.
I walked behind them as they lead the way to our homeroom class. When we walked into class, Ms. Hale was sitting behind her desk looking over some papers. Desks screeched in the background while students took their seats. Scott stopped at the beginning of the row of desks and motioned me to pass him to take a seat at whichever desk I desired. When I decided on a seat, he sat in front of me and LaTanya sat on the left side of him. I sat quietly eavesdropping on LaTanya talking to my brother about horoscopes. She was going on and on about how since he was a Capricorn he could hold a grudge, while I sheepishly looked at the kids filing into class. Some, you could tell were upperclassmen because they looked more confident when picking a seat as opposed to the fresh-faced freshman who were timid.
The more the class started to fill, the louder it became. It was side chatter all over the place. Ms. Hale never said a word. After a few minutes went by she stood up and wrote her name and room number on the chalkboard. Afterward, she turned around to address the class. "Excuse me everyone. Please settle down."
Her voice could not compete with the chatter in the class. One student banged his notebook on the table and yelled, “Yo! Ms. Hale is trying to get y’alls attention man.” He said commanding the attention of the class. “There you go Ms. Hale.” He says pointing to her. She laughed slightly and thanked him.
“Good Morning everyone, as was previously mentioned, my name is Ms. Hale. I teach French here at Dorsey; been with the school for some years now. Hopefully one day you may be interested in taking French with me. I know today is hectic for our incoming freshman, but I am sure you will find your way around campus. I am going to start off by calling role and passing out your schedules so you know where to go for your other classes. Please, if you have any questions, do not be afraid to ask. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question.” There were minor smirks and chatter after her introduction but the class seemed to still behave.
She walked behind her desk to grab her attendance sheet. “Okay, let’s first get role taken care of.” She starts to rattle off names as side chatter began to erupt again. Not as loud as before, but noticeable. Seemed like everyone in the class had names that started with the letter "J" and as she came to the letters "Jo" I knew me and Scott were soon to be called.
“Scott Jones,” She called out. “Here,” Scott said raising his hand.
“Simone Jones,” She called out looking in our direction.
“Here,” I said raising my hand not as confident as Scott. All of the sudden, a guy on the
other side of the class who looked too tall for his desk called out, “Wait a minute! Scott! Is this your little sister?!” Pointing to me in astonishment. Scott looked at him and chuckled.
“Yeah man, she’s my little sister.”
“Aw shit! Excuse me, excuse me, what’s your name?” He waved his hand to catch my attention.
“Simone.” I said, barely audible.
“How cute, we have another “Bones-Jones” in the house. Simone Bones-Jones huh. Well, we’re going to call you “Little Scott!" He said while he and his friends broke out in laughter. I laughed under my breath and shook my head.
"Oh God!" Scott said while putting his hand over his face. Ms. Hale continued calling out the other students' names, then moved on to passing out the schedules. I don't know why she didn't pass them out while calling the role. Maybe this was a way for her to reinforce putting a face to everyone's name. She grabbed the schedules from her desks and called out names again, this time students just held their hands up until she gave them their schedule. Eventually, she got down to Scott and me. When she walked away from giving me my schedule, I maybe had it in my hands for a mere thirty seconds then it was taken from me. “Yoink,” Scott said while he looked it over with LaTanya.
I overheard her telling him that I had good classes. Scott turned to me and told me my first class was with Mr. Ortega for honors Geometry in the Bungalows in the back of the school as he handed me my schedule. I slid it under my clear cover on my folder next to the pictures I had of me and my friends while looking over the other classes. I was excited because I had honors classes and I was finally able to take an instrument class.
The class started to erupt in more chatter. Obvious friends were checking to see if they were lucky enough to get the same classes. Some seemed disappointed about the teachers they were going to take. Then there were people like me, who sat there not knowing what to expect. The bell rang for us to set out on our next adventure. The desks screeched again as we all got up to beat the next bell and get to our classes on time. Scott looked at LaTanya and told her he was going to take me to my class. She teased him a little bit, said bye to us, and then went her way.
When we exited the class, the hall was packed like a music concert. I was paralyzed like a deer in headlights. “Come on sis,” Scott said while leading the way. I was a decent height, but thin as wind, so I was getting pushed trying to make my way through the herd. Scott looked back at me shaking his head, “Come on Sis,” this time extending his hand. I grabbed his hand as he lead the way by plowing through the kids. He walked me to my class and before I went inside he said “Hey, meet me right here when the bell rings. I’m going to take you to all of your classes today so you don’t get lost. Keep in mind I may have to come from the other side of school, so I won’t be here immediately. Give me time, but know, I will be here.” I agreed and went into my first class as a freshman.
Putting my album away, I feel my smile fade while sadness fills my heart thinking about that day. Scott and I were not like most brothers and sisters. We had a solid relationship growing up. It was rare to see us apart. Through our life together, he was always my buffer, my protector, and more importantly my friend.
From my window, I can see the wind blowing the trees as the sun begins to set for the day. The days are getting shorter since we are in Fall at the cusp of transitioning to winter, which serves as a reminder that the Holiday season is just around the corner. The holidays paint a different picture for me than most because instead of family coming together to celebrate, it is a constant reminder that a piece is missing from my family puzzle – my brother Scott. Unfortunately, Scott was killed in a single-car accident two days before Christmas and three days before his twenty-eighth birthday in 2012. His accident happened in Columbia, Missouri roughly one-hundred yards from his house. That was the day that my life changed forever. Everything that I thought I knew was challenged. A huge part of my identity died with him. Looking back with the knowledge that I know now, there are some hard truths in our story that I am forced to swallow.