The Proper Place of Place

Reverie on My Back Pages


Flip, flip. Now there's a lifesaver. Brad Bulla. Meanest kid in ninth grade, always in a fight, always getting kicked out of school. However, he liked me for some reason. Ever since 5th grade glee club (where there was not so much glee), when he and I were the only two boys left in the soprano section, he was my shadowy protector. Because of Brad, no one messed with me. Not that we hung out together, because he didn't hang with anyone, but I guess you could say he was my friend. Yeah, he's probably in prison somewhere, serving out time for armed bank robbery.

Flip, flip. Cynthia Jones. I remember her. She had a sneeze that would bring a class to a standstill, kind of like a cross between a sneeze and a scream and a laugh, all at the same time. When she let go, there would be a couple seconds of dead silence, presumably while everyone would draw in breath, followed by peels of laughter. She was probably damaged for life by all the attention. But Cynthia had a good sense of humor, even laughing at herself.

Flip, flip. Now there's an interesting guy. David Raven. It's likely that David is rich and famous somewhere in America, I mused. However, in his fading picture in my high school yearbook he looked like a kinder, gentler Charles Manson, his dark eyelashes and long hair suggesting an older soul in his young body. As I recall, he was a sweet guy, never cross, always willing to share his drugs (though I never took him up on it). He made appearances in class, but mostly I saw him wandering the halls, shuffling along in his ragged jeans, hip and cool but never condescending. He was the only ninth-grader I knew who was reading Karl Marx's Das Kapital or Robrt Persig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , or who listened to jazz played by the likes of Chick Corea. One day in art class David told us he was "expanding his cosmic consciousness," and we had no idea what he was talking about. He was operating on another plane of existence while we languished in the mundane. He disappeared after that year. I think he moved.

Flip, flip. What's this? There's a hole in the page, a neatly cut square right between Drew Slater and Abby Turner. Hmm. An enemy? An old girlfriend who dropped me? There was some girl in Spanish class. . . what was her name? I can't remember.

Flip, flip. Regina Vance. She wrote beside her headshot in neat letters, "For a white dude you're not bad." Hmm.

Flip, flip. Linda Wagoner. Oh. I don't want to talk about her.

Flip, flip. For the life of me I can't remember most of these faces, boys with pimples and longish unkempt hair or buzz cuts (depending on parents' tolerance) staring out at me, girls with long stringy hair and impish smiles. It's not an attractive age. Nope, neither Alan Weatherspoon, Chuck Whitley, or Diane Whitson ring a bell. I take my finger and run it along every row, searching for a familiar face, but there's no one --- no one, that is, except for a youthful me, a faint smile on my face, pained almost, as if it's a prison mug shot. Just for a moment, I muse on what the state of my mind would have been then, what preoccupied me, how small my world was, how seemingly monumental were my problems and deeply important was my appearance.

Then I close my yearbook, reverie over.