It’s 1993. Kurt Cobain is going to “kill himself”. Courtney Love is perfecting the babydoll/doc marten combo and Alicia Silverstone is about to jump off a building. Meatloaf is a lovesong hero.

I’ve just spent a month at home with a freezing Puerto Rican in a town(ship) halted by a teacher strike. School’s finally in session, and now I’m staring at the squatting, slightly penal Fort Couch–a middle school in a land far, far away–checking to make sure that I’ve unhooked one strap of my overalls and that my training bra is showing. Because these chumps don’t know that I went to a private Jewish school. I’m from Miami, bitches.

So in I go, into a homeroom full of WHITE folk. Not just white, but whiiiiite. Like, pegged jeans and D.A.R.E bracelets white. A frantic glance-around soothes my nerves a bit–there, lounging at her mini-desk with a captivating self-awareness: a brown girl. Cuban Jew? No. Peruvian Jew? I don’t know, maybe. She meets my stare and gives a little smile when I notice she’s wearing an ankle cast.

I sit, in the front, because I’m late on my first day and that’s where there’s an empty seat. Everyone’s silent, waiting for the teacher. I start to feel my tourettes bubble and I know that I’m about to either make an ass out of myself or win them over forever. Fuck it, I think.

“This seems like a fun group,” I say, with a sarcastic chucklesnort like I’m on the cast of Dangerous Minds. It gets a few giggles.

So the teacher comes and goes and we get up to leave. Up to me hobbles Brown Girl with a few smiling faces in tow.

“I’m Stephanie,” she says, wiggling a blue card in my face. “I get to ride the elevator because I broke my ankle. Want to come?”

And I have friends, just like that. It turns out Stephanie’s Greek. Not a Greek Jew, just Greek, and a total mystery to me.

People look at me funny all day, and I assume it’s because I’m darkly interesting and beautiful. I’m approached by all sorts of Pittsburghers, a breed you must witness firsthand to understand the distinction. There’s an unresolved beauty to them, almost impossible to place. It’s not the exotica of Florida culture, but an All American grace that quickly outlives its saccharine first impression.

Case in point: Jesse O’neil. Who, the fuck, is this girl? Straight, sandy blonde hair and slim figure, flannel shirt and plain jeans. A cute girl that maybe would make it in Florida, if she had a salty Latina best friend and a black boyfriend. But here she is, working the hallway like an untouched Lolita, a vision of exploding inner light. I’m INSTANTLY enamored. And completely jealous.