Plumdale High School’s football field was not the typical high school stadium. The bleachers were built into a hillside, sloping down from the rest of the school campus, with the field at the bottom of the hill, so when you approached the stadium, you entered from the top row, not from the bottom. You could barely tell that there was a stadium there if you didn’t know where to look. Also contributing to its low profile was the lack of lights. And because there were no lights, games were played on Saturday afternoon, whereas most of the other high school teams in the area were played on Friday night.
I woke up to the ticket booth on that Saturday afternoon and bought one general-admission ticket. Two weeks earlier, at the previous game, actually buying a ticket was a new experience for me, since that had been my first time attending a Plumdale Panthers football game and not being a student anymore.
I walked about halfway down the bleachers to my usual spot from the year before, right across the aisle from where the marching band sat. I went to every game the year before, my senior year, and I always sat across the aisle from the band, because some of my friends were in the band. More specifically, I sat there because Melissa was in band and she usually came and sat next to me during the third quarter, when the band took a break after doing the halftime show.
I was over Melissa by now. She never liked me like that, she went to another school’s prom with a friend of a friend who needed a date, and that made me upset. But she didn’t like him like that either. And we were still friends.
“Hey, Greg,” I heard a male voice say as I approached my usual seat. It was Mr. Peterson, my economics teacher from the year before, who was a University of Jeromeville alumnus. “Have you left for Jeromeville yet?”
“Tomorrow morning,” I said. “I’m going to pack as soon as I get home from this game.”
“Good luck,” he said. “I think you’ll really like it there.”
“Thanks.” I sat and watched the game, looking through the program during timeouts and slow parts of the game. I still recognized a lot of names on the team, but there were only a few players on the team whom I actually knew.
Early in the second quarter, I heard a female voice behind me say, “Greg! You’re still here!” I looked up and saw Rachel Copeland sitting next to me. She was a year behind me, just starting her senior year, but she had a lot of friends in my year, including her boyfriend from last year, Paul Dickinson. I don’t think they were together anymore, though.
“I leave tomorrow,” I said.
“Are you ready?”
“Not really. I’m going to pack tonight. But I’m excited about it.”
“I didn’t think you’d be here today.”
“There aren’t a lot of people I know still in town. Melissa left for San Angelo last week. They’re on the same schedule as Jeromeville, but she’s living with relatives so she doesn’t have to wait for the dorms to open. Renee started at Valle Luna State in August, and so did Kevin at University of the Bay. I haven’t talked to anyone else in the last couple weeks.”
“Paul left Friday for Santa Teresa. His family is staying in a hotel there for a few days, making a vacation of it.”
“That’s cool.” It sounded like Rachel and Paul were at least still friends if she knew this. Or maybe they were back together and I didn’t know it. You never know.
“So how come Santa Teresa and San Angelo and Jeromeville and those schools all start so late?” Rachel asked.
“Because we’re on the three-quarter schedule,” I said. “Instead of having two semesters, we have three terms during the year, so our finals breaks come a third and two thirds of the way through the year. So we need to start late so the winter holidays come a third of the way through the year, instead of halfway through.”
Rachel thought about this. “So your school year gets out later, then?”
“We go until the middle of June.”
“Don’t other schools get out earlier than that?”
“I’m not really sure.” I wasn’t. I really didn’t know that most colleges get out well before June. High school typically lasted into June in this state in the 90s, so I figured college was the same.
Rachel went and sat with some other friends at halftime. I got to say hi to a couple of my other former teachers that day. I don’t remember who won that game. I don’t even remember who the opponent was. But I do remember one thing: Plumdale High School would always be a part of my life, but it was time to move on. And the next morning, everything was going to change, forever.