Monday, November 22, 2010

Going back to High School for a Book Speech

He could feel the breath. He could feel the touch. It had not happened quickly. He had come to give a speech. A writers speech. Several writers speeches. He had been distant at first. The teachers had grayed. They had mellowed. Ceased. The rooms still were warm. It was November after all, almost Christmas. The RCA loudspeaker bellowed the announcements of seventeen years since. He watched a clock he had seen with unlined eyes.

The speech was automatic. He had already given enough. He went to the BOYS room. There were no men in this world. Just teachers and BOYS. He went into the tiled museum. Palace of his own pimple forays, kinky hair inspections. The mirror was the same. He looked better than then. He was uglier then. Uglier by comparison, but quite beautiful and gawky for sixteen. The stall was still small and he sat where he had sat for years. Graffiti had vanished of course. But it was his BOYS room and he became again. He had some time and crept around.

 He was able to leave and float back. He could feel him now. He could feel the sixteen year old heart pumping fresh ideas, wounds, voracious pride. He walked past a blue locker. He had pulled on the lock before. Moments of books long gone and papers wasted. Moments of mussed coats and gloves--a scarf. Maybe there was a picture. Maybe. He could feel him now.He walked past athletic pictures of his time. Black and white ghosts long ago. He was not among them he was sure of that. He was never that official, but he was among the faces. A stairwell dimly lit. It was dimly lit with the half light of his time also. He had run down it unthinkingly. He never thought then. He was an expert of emotion, of being. He was Zen master of his short destiny. He was contained.

Yellowed wood of a gymnasium peeked through a door. The smirks and squeaks of young feet and muscles stopping and starting with abandon. There were no warm ups. There was no warm downs. There was the moment of motion taken from other moments and replaced just as deftly. There was the fast breaths of hearts barely tested, barely creased. Still he walked on, floating down hallways of a biology class, a french class. They had sat in front of spring windows, dreaming of the outdoors. The sun had played beyond in the fields with real creatures just below. Crickets, cicadas, frogs.

The long light of heat played down the sweet dusty scent of books and papers, pencils and erasers. They held their chalk to the boards he daydreamed too. They held their chalk while he laughed, humoring, encouraging, they laughed too. He could smell the lunches. They were indescribably brown and warm. They were milk and brownies, potpies and carrots. Trays of them floated down the corridor. He waved through the food of lusty appetites. He waved through the scent of unspent inertia. It was the fuel of little Gods--American high school fare. And he was there too.

Passing on a cold morning across the courtyard. Full of confidence, worried about his hair, his face. To be preoccupied with one's looks again. Oh this would be a luxury. He was talking with friends, cracking jokes, laughing at nothing. Cold breath as he passed back into a corridor, passing pictures and trophies again. Dead matter of his time.Then suddenly he was back in the old wing again. Back to the window he began from. There were the uprights of the field. The snow fence was up and the field browned. A coach he met didn't remember him. He shook his hand and walked on. But he remembered him. He remembered him as a God of his time. He was a naysayer, a maker of destiny. He had told him once he looked like an All American. How could anyone forget that?

He would have to speak again soon. He would have to become who he was. He stared at the goal posts. They were tinged with cold again. They were tinged with his cold of days waiting for breaks. There would be a Christmas break and he would be free. There would be a spring break and he would be free. There would be a summer break and he would be free. Absolutist, all of them. Free from their luxurious drudgery.

Still the uprights gleamed and he lingered. He looked for him coming from the parking lot. He looked for him bouncing with abandon. He would bounce with a scant dearth of years lived. He could not have thought he would look again at forty eight. There are no such parallels. Sixteen year olds are not required. The bell rang and he braced himself. He touched the old wood of the windowsill. He touched the cold of the glass. He had touched these before he knew that. The field was fading with the day. He was leaving. A glance again--winters gold, youths maiden, life's opium, a necklace of unlined moments from his alma mater days.
Rocket Man will be out in January

Books by William Hazelgrove