The Beautiful South - “I’m Your No. 1 Fan” (4.11MB mp3 file)
A week or two before my freshman year of high school began, we (all of my fellow 14-year-old future ninth-graders) had to meet on campus for freshman orientation. I assume this is common with most high schools in this country (and colleges as well), but if you’re unfamiliar, it’s basically an opportunity for the faculty and current students to acclimatize new students to their new environment and show them around, so that they at least have some idea of where things are and can try to keep standard freshman harassment to a minimum. I rolled up to the school on that August day with a group of friends, all fully prepared to goof off and laugh at everyone when, a few minutes into the assembly, the student council representatives from every grade arrived to welcome us, and we all laid eyes on the hottest dude we had ever seen in person in our young lives. Chris Thompson was on the student council and was this unique (and charming) hybrid of Punk Rock Dude and Man About Campus. He was devastatingly good looking, and was also somehow “alternative” while also being really well-known and friends with just about everyone; I would come to learn that this guy spanned every genre, every clique. He delivered his speech and my friends and I whispered to each other, variations of “WHO IS THAT GUY?! HOLY CRAP, HE’S FINE/CUTE/HOT!” (enter whichever “cool” phrase used to describe attractive guys at the time), and when the principal announced his name, I think we all exhaled at the same time: “Ahhhh, Chris Thompson.”
We couldn’t stop talking about this guy all day, and when we got back to my friend’s house, we found her older sister’s middle school phone book and, of course, looked him up. (Did your schools do this? Our middle school put out a yearly phone book with every student’s address and phone number, and that shit should have seriously just been named THE PRANK CALL MANUAL, because that’s certainly all we used it for.) Being even more of a balls-to-the-wall off-putting extrovert than I am now (if that’s possible), I wrote down his number and called him that evening. Not kidding. The conversation went something like this:
“Hey, is this Chris Thompson?” I asked when a male voice answered.
“Yeah…?” he replied.
“Hi, my name is April, and I’m going to be a freshman this year. I saw you at freshman orientation and I just wanted to tell you that you’re pretty much the hottest guy I’ve ever seen,” I said, matter-of-factly.
(laughing) “Haha, uh, thanks! Hey, come up and introduce yourself at school, okay?” he offered.
“OKAY! COOL! YEAH! I will! … Uh, okay, see you next week then.”
(still chuckling) “Okay, bye.”
In the middle of my first day of high school, I spotted Chris in the hall and walked right up to him and introduced myself. I said something to the effect of, ” Hey, I’m April, I’m the girl who called and told you you were hot,” and he laughed again and said, “Nice to meet you,” and we chatted for a bit between classes… but little did I know that a lifelong friendship was blossoming. Chris could have been a total dick — I mean, think of every ’80s high school movie ever, or Jordan Catalano’s never-talking-to-Angela-in-front-of-anyone-else antics — and could have told everyone that some lame freshman girl called his house to tell him he was hot and “Haha, GOD, can you BELIEVE her?! Who does she think she is?! What a WEIRDO,” etc, but he was nice to me from the start and remained so during our years at school together. He always greeted me in the halls and soon he was introducing me to his friends and giving me rides home when I missed the bus (turned out he lived pretty close to me), and we traded mixtapes and went to shows together (They Might Be Giants and The Queers are two very fond memories I have), and even though he was Cool Guy On Campus and two grades ahead of me, he never belittled me and often made a point to include me in things. (I went to prom with him and his awesome girlfriend Lis and their group of friends one year when my date bailed on me at the last minute.) We never dated, which of course crushed me at the time, but we always had fun hanging out as pals. I always appreciated that Mr. Cool Upperclassman Guy gave the typical high school hierarchy a big “fuck you” and kicked it with my freshman/sophomore nerdy ass.
Chris went to college in Colorado, and I was obviously bummed when he moved, but when he was home for summers and holidays we still hung out and went to shows and stuff, and have continued to keep in touch all these years. He’s among my oldest and dearest friends, and I’m so grateful to him for helping make my high school experience a shockingly great one. (I know, I know, I’m weird.)
This song came on in the car today, and I thought of him, thought of how, given the rigid high school social code, he absolutely did not have to be kind to me, much less be my friend — but he was, and he did, and I still appreciate it.
I was handed down a bike with a crooked old wheel
but I rode it down a million lanes the way that you made me feel
you didn’t have to love me
where others got rid
you didn’t have to treat me like a very good friend
but I’m glad that you did