I guess it started when I was still in high school.
I can see it now. Public schooling, mid-size classroom, Professor Yates on the right, gesturing wildly to show us exactly why the Civil War was so interesting. In the front row, Cathy and Robert frantically writing down every word he says. Cathy showed me a callus on her middle finger one time from all the scribbling she did. Held it up like an obscene badge of courage to my face. “Look at this, John,” she declared, “Look at what this class is doing to me.”
I think she liked my eyes. She told me once that they reminded her of amber and molten chocolate. Girls can be silly like that. They’ll glance at you sideways in class and think the world is ending because you caught them staring. “Your eyes are beautiful, John,” she said.
“I’ll bet you get all the girls.”
Robert always sat next to her. He’d arrive early to first period and put his bag down in that chair as if he was afraid someone else would want to steal the hot seat. The same day Cathy showed me her finger, he cornered me after school.
“Your eyes look like molten pools of shit, John.”
I preferred the corner row. Best seats in the room, right next to these big glass windows that must’ve cost the PTA about 50 charity drives and bake sales. On good days, I got to watch the girls from volleyball practice for the championship game. We had a stellar team, they worked so hard. Three out of five school days a week and you’d think there was a uniform shortage with how tight those skirts were getting.
On better days, it rained and the fog made the landscape barely recognizable. I breathed on the windows and pretended I was on a train. That I wasn’t looking out on a school field but at an ocean, a forest, at farmland rushing past on its way back where I came from.
On better days, I wasn’t John and I wasn’t “here.”