I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Monday, October 08, 2007

High School Drama

When I was a senior in high school, I had the devoted attention of a very brilliant boy. To say that I loved him is almost a tautology, because I don’t know what “I” or “love” meant to me before him. It was forged in our relationship -- he pushing me to be a truer friend, a more honest thinker, a braver adventurer.

A year ahead of me in school, he had preceded me to college and we had the idea that I would follow him there. He was an artist -- showered me with cards and sketches daily. In our little crew, he had been the guy whose house everybody crashed at, and what identity I ever had in school was based largely on being adored by that guy.

Inevitably, when it came time for me to decide on a school, I had done him so powerfully wrong that I couldn’t see being on the same campus as him. He won’t speak to me to this day.

The inevitable was a boy also brilliant, but younger and much less worldly, given to hiding under a dingy hat and scribbling furiously in his notebook. Taking up with him benefited neither of us. I gained an audience for my antics, but lost integrity. He lost the comfort of his “island” and gained only notebook fodder.

Notebooks which, I should note, we turned in weekly to our AP English teacher. That woman never looked at me the same.

One eve, when snow had cancelled the next day's classes, I trudged through the snow to the scribbler's house. His family must never have known the likes of me before. All they knew was that their son had been ripped from the bosom of his family and come back saying strange things. "Did you know, Dad, that language is a virus from outer space? Pass the peas."

I had gone with some vague notion of defending my intentions, which were not really all that defensible. "I mean to play with your son's head, if that's all right. No point, really, just idleness."

I was ejected; Scribbler, in a fury, insisted on running me to my friend M's house. The car slid on the ice and into a cement mailbox. It was just a fender-bender, really. It could have happened to anyone in the weather. But it transformed the whole affair into something much more epic. Me, ringing M's doorbell that night. "S. thinks he's James Dean. Tried to kill us both. Can I sleep here?"

I rediscovered him in our high school’s latest round of reunion frenzy. I am pleased to note that he has found happiness in family life and academia, albeit his blogs have a familiar twinge of discontent. That too is comforting. Our lives basically track along the same Bourgeois-Bohemian lines.

I had become very comfortable with the notion that these two lives I had ruined were the great unfinished business of my life. And now I feel that it’s long past time I got over myself. What little I can gleam from cyber-stalking the artist, he seems to be living a glamorous single life, which seems to suit him so well that I can’t see where our relationship would have gone. And the scribbler’s life also suits him. His angst has mellowed to a perfectly sensible melancholia; and he is accomplished, whether he will admit it or no.

And of course deep in the background of this story is the man who would become my husband, off at college, being done wrong by his own high school senior girlfriend.

As unprecedented as our little scandal must have seemed at the time, it was all already written. A cliché, really. And in the end, we all just became who we were.


Dinosaur Mom said...

And so we beat on ... dammit.

Astrodon Johnstoni said...

!#$%$#%^@ boats against the @!#%$#^ current.

Steve said...

Ah, yes ... ruined, the scribbler was!! Such a tragic case.

The scribbler respectfully disagrees that the "whole affair" benefited neither party. Sure, it was probably a terrible idea to begin with. But since when have 16 and 17-year-olds been known to have good ideas?

And sure, the whole affair did confirm the scribbler's suspicion that high school is the Eighth Circle of Hell (middle school being the Ninth).

And sure, the whole affair furthermore confirmed the scribbler's suspicion that earnestness is not widely accepted as a virtue, and that normal, everyday human strangeness is only tolerable when refracted through the cool blue lens of irony (or maybe the television camera).

But at least the scribbler learned how to write a good short story by obsessively writing and rewriting different versions of the story of his experience with astrodon. (These stories will never see the light of day. But there are many good sentences and images in them that will no doubt find their way into the scribbler's scribbles for the rest of his life.) And although the scribbler never did learn how to play it cool, the way astrodon and the artist did so effortlessly, he did learn the great value of acquiring a modicum of sophistication, and managed to do so in his characteristically earnest way. Like most epic mistakes, it was a fruitful one.