As with all hells, they are paved with good intentions and one of mine was a desire to write a novel that would expose some of the nefarious things that are going on in education today. As you can see from the sample pages under “Goodbye the Dream”, I didn’t get far at all! (Boy is that an understatement.) So perhaps if I just keep adding pages here, I will end up with a short story. But it doesn’t look likely. Perhaps it will just be individual “parts” of a long essay. Or maybe a Mosaic?
Jonathan noticed her platform flip flops before he noticed the elegance of the tanned legs that donned such atrocious footwear. Since he had just finished the math portion of the comprehensive test, his bruised, war-torn mind had time to wander through the universe of adolescent discovery. It wasn’t the first time he had wondered what delights were at the intersection of the bronzed beauties, or had wondered what she sported under the slogan: “Don’t just stand there” on the front of her torn tee. She seemed a lot more serious than he about the testing riguer - but then so had most of his classmates. He took time to take a look in the mixer and took note of a beautiful creme de cocoa colored face, lying dead horizontal on the tiny 20th century platform they call a desk, and a set of pigtails (yes they still have them in the corn-row world of the inner-city school he attends) framing Sara's innocent face. Ms. Sara Pure, by the way, sports rainbow bands binding her tails, probably a gift from her girl. There is a lot of that at his school of choice. There is a lot of life at his school. He spends a second wondering if he has the patience today to see Joey in his bra or the hoodboys at lunch? Does he really have the fortitude to put up with Ms. Dodd who will spend much of third period today discussing witchcraft-ery? Maybe today she will be absent for the 23rd time this year. Which birthed a question far more relevant than any test question: “Why hasn't the bitch been fired?” She doesn't teach, or control the wild ones, or inspire anyone to do anything - except maybe Joey who found another witch fascinating. Would Ma Bell or even Old Mac Donald have kept her on the payroll this long? The old woman has been teaching and milking the system for 20 years now, prompting many Jonathans-past to ask the same question.
Mostly he felt a tired electricity in this three hour space. Worn circuits emit a kind of ozone only sensitive souls understand. Tagged at birth as one, he had long dreamed of finding a nurturing place for his kind of exceptionality. He had hopes that, at this school, the cruelness of the life of an young artist would be reversed. Maybe here the pep rallies would be for the ballet class, the Bach player, the poet maker. Here they might hold up placards of student paintings when the oboe team was announced one by one to a cheering crowd of thousands. They themselves might even get a chance to make fun of the jocks strapped with silly looking armor. Wouldn’t that be Justice!
For now though, he wondered whether the TEST was really going to make a difference in his world. Somewhere he heard the lovely Ms. Griffin, to whom he was becoming quite attached; “Five more minutes.” Another line to stay within. The ending test-taking sights and sounds along with the beauty of her voice, brought him back: Holly was swinging her leg nervously; throats were clearing throats that had scarcely taken a breath for an hour; Graham was twisting his thumb ring as he raced against the clock; Pigs was tightening her rainbows, and spent kids everywhere were emerging from the sleep zone of relief.
The test was over but, in Jonathan’s world, he would come to welcome the following lunch time as some kind of dreaded cold front he had to endure. Every day, for at least an hour before lunch, he would hold host to hundreds of butterflies and try with all of his might to keep his strawberry milk and cinnamon roll breakfast from taking wing with the butterflies. "Where would today’s safe haven be?" "Who could he pretend to be intensely relevant with today?" " What could anyone possibly say that could stave off the uncertainty of the half hour front". Just give him his PB&J and let him walkman to the river with Beethoven. He actually had skipped lunch once to look for the quiet and peace that he knew existed somewhere in the universe.
It was Tuesday, October 21, the eighth week of his first year at Aurora School of the Arts. The honeymoon was over and he felt routinely disappointed in his first couple of months of high school. He had already been bullied by the kids in the hood, warned by the non-fine arts students not to walk down their first floor hall, been made sport of for carrying a violin case, been turned in to the Dean for wearing flip flops, and received the first “D” in his illustrious career as a model student. He had already met Joey who, completely enamored with his natural good looks, introduced himself with a hug and a pat on the behind. Most all of his negative indoctrinations happened during the lunch period and did wonders for his love of this time of the day.
He made a conscious decision that when the third-period-first lunch-on-alternate-Monday’s-club-bell rang he would, like a thief, duck behind the first pillar he found, and steal away down the riverside stairwell - casual and non-guilty looking. Maybe if he could just escape for the 30 minutes that was allotted to scarf down the greasy county luncheon, he could make it through another day. Perhaps it was his sensitive nature, maybe it was his strict moral upbringing, maybe it was the thought of disappointing his parents (he still had two!), but he noted that it was awfully difficult for him to look non-guilty. He had learned, from what other students had said, that he would probably not be stopped by a faculty member but, if he did, he just needed to keep walking like the 'hood' students do. Almost no faculty will chase after a hood. He was actually going to skip for the first time in his life! Yes, maybe it was only lunch, but it was skipping all the same.
He did pass two teachers after the tardy bell, but in keeping with the word on the street, they just looked the other way. Thank God, he thought to himself, if one of them had called for him to stop it would probably have been his heart that did the stopping. He knew that he could never just ignore authority. His whole head throbbing with panic, he cleared the open gate of the fence to the riverfront, and began the descent to the quiet calm waters of the river. Home free with the noise and the chaos of lunch well behind him, he was just beginning to relax walk when he saw someone lying on the bank. “Please Lord, not another Aurora being”. “Not today.”“Not now.”
He felt like some kind of not-so-brave brave sneaking through the bushes in another time where you could call a brave a brave instead of a young Native American. Only soft, cushiony Minnetonkas could have made it more authentic. “Crouch.” “Watch where you step.” “Act like the Indians that you’ve always seen on the old cowboy shows.” “Sneak up quietly on the enemy and then surprise them with a war cry.” He was at that moment so far beyond the hills and valleys of the Aurora flat lands that he scarcely remembered where he was. It was a fair place somewhere in his heart and mind that few kids ever go. It was that land of imagining, and picturing, and putting yourself there - not just because you can, but because you have to. It was a land he often found himself as one of the sensitive ones. It was his place of escape. Others were at lunch arranging either a drug deal, or a sex deal or dealing cards, but here he was just a few yards from all of of that, arranging an ambush of an Aurora Native American on the shores of the Minnetonka river. What would he do without this kind of escape? Had he not gone to this place, had he not come here, he is quite sure to have severed all nerves from the core of his skull before the 3:00-if-we-don’t-have-homeroom-at-the-end-of the-day-bell released him from his prison.
“Damn, why in the Hell can’t you play the part right?” He had been so far away that he didn’t notice the discarded coke can he stepped on until it was too late. His prey moved at the sound of his dream mistake, but made no attempt to find out who the intruder was. From his vantage point he saw a sight he had never ever seen before or imagined that he would ever again see - a beautiful young lady fully bare breasted lying prone, napping the in pleasant noonday Californian sunshine that you can always find at this time of the day. Either this was the goddess Pochontos, or it was a real gift from the good God Of The Teenage Universe. He found himself once again at the cusp between reality and the stage of his dreams.
“Feet don’t fail me now.” “I’ve to to get a better look.” He dare to act, he dared to move closer because he thought that touching the mirage, he might find out that she didn’t exist. Once more he might have fooled himself by his rich imaginings. He moved another 15 feet down the river bank to a place as close as he usually sat to the TV each evening watching the news with his parents. She didn’t move and neither did his lungs. What a sight for test torn eyes. “Was this the payoff for weeks and weeks of wondering whether he should have committed himself to this school?” Maybe he could stand a few more days if these are the kind of treats that come with the tricks of this school of choice.”
She gently moved her head back toward his bush, looked up, squinted in the bright sunlight, and simply said; “Hi, Jonathan”, “Come on down.” Most curious to him, she made no effort to move or cover herself, or act surprised, or fearful of him. Almost as strange, she knew his name. He thought that absolutely no one knew his name or cared who he was. He always thought of himself as a black hole in the universe, but she knew his name. She, the bare breasted Pocohontos, knew who he was.
“What a fool I am if I run the other direction”. “I will act as nonchalant as she.” “I will act as mature as she.” “I will just simply join her on the bank”. He straightened himself up refilling his clothes with that pimply, insecure, non-Indian person that he saw every morning in the mirror as he looked for whiskers to shave, and moved with the simple awkwardness of his age. It wasn’t a long trip but it seemed as if were to the other side of the world and it seemed to take 80 days to make, but he found his feet carried him next to her where he fired up the courage to sit down and look at the river instead of her nakedness.
In the second following, he had the time to think that he could have come up with something more mature, more suave and debonair than that. “What a fool she must think I am, sitting down hard on my ass, looking at the river, and all I could think of was “Hi””.
It is amazing how much you can think of in the short time it takes for someone to respond with; “Hi, back.” This time it was only a millisecond, but still time to think that “Hi, back”, “wasn’t all that great either!” “Maybe this will be ok after all.”
She surprised him again when she calmly said: “Take your shirt off, enjoy the sun”.
How do you react at times like these? Adults have such an advantage. They have years of half- naked women lying in the sun asking them to take off their shirts to help them judge what would be the best response to this kind of situation. But for the brave who is desperately trying to cover his embarrassment at showing his male chest to a female breast, he opted for diversion.
“How did you know my name.”
“We have Acting I with Fredricks together first period.”
“Then shouldn’t I know you?.”
“No, no one really knows me.” “I feel like that black hole, the thing at the Bermuda Triangle.”
He thinks: “How wonderful is that?” “There is someone else who thinks they are the black hole in the Universe.” “I must have met my soul mate".
He accepted part of her invitation and gently laid down next her and looked up at the beautiful California cumulus and felt the warmth of the sun and the calmness of the breeze slightly spiced with the salt of the nearby Pacific. He began to relax with a contentment that comes only when you are with someone who accepts you for who you are. There are moments in time where you know that all will be well. There are times where nothing can touch you, and you feel safe, truly safe. Usually Jonathan found these times only in his heart and only when he was on a stage somewhere, but today he was just beginning to learn that safety can also be found in the real world.
For a blessed two minutes neither of them spoke and, much to his surprise, he found himself studying her beautiful, scrubbed, soapstone sculptured face instead of scrutinizing the obvious fresh new found details of the female anatomy.
Go to Part 2 - Blood Letting