Everything I know about politics I learned in eighth grade. I had never been a fan of elections. I had become used to being the one casting the votes rather than sitting nervously on the sideline as ballots were counted, hoping that my name would be on some of them. As was the case on the playground, I pretty much expected that if I was going to be picked, that I was going to be picked last. But when my friend, Doug, decided to run for Head Boy, I saw an opportunity: I became his campaign manager. I designed posters and wrote clever slogans. Caricatures of Doug and his infamous mouth full of big, shiny teeth were everywhere. In the halls. In the cafeteria. In classrooms. I even suggested that since "head" is another name for a toilet on a ship, we could post flyers in the bathrooms.
That didn't happen, but we did end up winning the election in what could best be described as a landslide. That is, if your definition of "landslide" extends to a difference of more than fifty votes. The celebration of this victory never fully extended to Doug's staff: me.
It was at this moment, sitting at the back table in our Earth Science class, that I felt the separation of social strata as oppressively as I ever would. The popular crowd found their way back to our table. Not to see me. To see Doug. I moved my backpack and scooted my chair out of the way to make way for the well-wishers, boys and pretty girls, who wanted to connect with the newly minted Head Boy. My work was done. The five dollar fee which we had joked about when the election was still weeks away was forgotten. We were friends, after all. Were friends.
We still talked after that, but we were never as close as we were during that stretch run in eighth grade. Our paths diverged. I watched as Doug's star grew brighter, and I hung out with my friends in band. I wonder if James Carville still gets a Christmas card from Bill Clinton.