July 30th, 2005

(no subject)

On the 4th of July, we went to Williston to watch the traditional 4th of July parade that marches route 2 outside my old house every year. Every year it is the same. The old guy on the microphone who’s old-folk commentary almost makes the whole show worth it. The army dudes that start it off who never so much as smile, no matter how much money my mother bets us that we can make them laugh. The lawn chair brigade that shows up only once in a while to do a choreographed dance around their checkered lawn chairs. The Jazzersize idiots. The “Throw Candy” signs. The old fire engines with loud horns. And of course, the approximated guess of how much weight Mary Syphill, the fattest woman in all of Vermont, has lost this year as she rides by on her infamous tractor and showcases massive flabs of skin dangling from her arms.

I could write about the Williston Village parade any damn day of my life, but it just dawned on me that our choice of activities following had been rather adventurous. Escapades came so naturally to me now. I wasn’t ever afraid to do the first thing that came to my mind. After spending that month with you and your crew, I learned how to spit in fear’s eye, and I guess that’s why we decided to go to the elementary school when the parade had finished.

Immediately we were trouble, browsing the never-ending stock of old cassette tapes and paperback books in the new gym. Dick Tracy Soundtracks and Hardy Boys series’. Everywhere we looked was a gold mine of treasures you find in a grandmother’s house. It even smelled of it. So we took our business elsewhere and began to explore the hallways of the school we hadn’t blessed with our presence in far too many years. We explored the classrooms we had once spent our days in, and the Kivas we had once made our butts numb from sitting in for extended periods of time. We hit all the houses, surveying all the things that used to make up our daily lives when we lived as carefree children of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. Those days seemed so long passed as we looked at them now as raging adolescents and young adults. It was a parallel universe to me. I remembered my old teacher’s massive mole, and how staring at it was almost hypnotic, and you could drown out anything she was saying if you could just manage to focus on the three hairs sticking straight from her mole when she spoke. I remembered the acting teacher’s handlebar mustache, and the smelly teacher’s long beard in which he would store things like pencils and paperclips and various other school supplies. I felt as if I might collapse from all the random and absolutely ineffectual memories I was remembering, so we moved on in our private tour and began treating it as it was just another place at the mercy of three merciless teenagers.

We took our party upstairs, dodging locked doors by our knowledge of where the staircases were and what halls lead where and how we could get to one place by going to another. We did all the things we’d always wanted to do. We did all the things that we’d only thought to explore as little kids but were aware of the rules and regulations and dared not break them. We did everything we’d always wanted to do at a time when doing it mattered, at a time when it no longer did. I explored the boy’s locker room in the old gym while you explored the girls, as we’d always had minor curiosities of what the other had looked like. W explored a range of other bathrooms designed for the opposite sex, just to satisfy our inquisitiveness as much as possible, indulging in a few moments of rebel popularity by smoking a cigarette in the bathroom the cool kids had supposedly smoked in when my young mind had told me that one cigarette would probably kill me. We picked up the little things that appealed to us – magic markers and supplies of sorts – and stuck them in our pocket without question; we had taken things that weren’t ours plenty of times before. We explored the cupboards of the project rooms that only teachers were allowed in before for fear of students taking more than the school had budgeted for. We tampered with all the things that the school had always tried to ration to us before, not caring for restrictions or consequences because we were in control now. There was no one around us, and even if there was, what authority did they have? We were assholes that had not lurked these parts in nearly ten years and we had no plans of coming back after seeing all the things we’d always wondered about. So we took our affairs to the back rooms and granted ourselves each a golden ticket with which we could explore any damn thing we fancied exploring. There was not a voice in the room nor a voice in our heads that could tell us we were not allowed.

In the back room of that classroom, we found curiosity’s heaven. I walked in the door to discover an entire wall of shelves filled with plastic tubs that were all labeled. “Pipe cleaners,” “Toy cars,” “Snacks,” “Felt paper,” “Games,” “Dinosaurs,” “Arts and Crafts supplies.” There was so much, and it was everywhere; towering over my head in a massive display of school supplies I’d always wanted to wallow in but had never been “allowed.” And we did not hold back our prepubescent desires. We tore through that wall of containers in search of anything and everything that brought us the happiness of youth. We covered the doors in neon silly string from the box labeled “Party.” We each served ourselves to our favorite package of Pez from a container we found completely filled and overflowing with Pez dispensers. We played quick children’s card games and opened up packages of random fun accessories like hand cuffs and slinky-eyed glasses. We played with their toys – their Tonka trucks and rubber dinosaurs – and wondered why it was we didn’t get such goodies when we were this young. We opened their packages of animal crackers and helped ourselves, noting the convenient carrying string and asking ourselves why we had to come and take such pleasures on our own time instead of being granted them at a time when we wanted them most. Had we been jipped out of elementary school? Why did it seem so much better now than it had when we were actually in it? Why did we get this feeling of absolute no mercy, and a complete lack of care for whatever it was we were screwing up? Why could we wreak havoc so easily all of a sudden without caring about the damage? It was as if something had possessed us when we found that room that stripped us of all our rationale and threw all our reason out the window and into the courtyard where it couldn’t find its way back inside. Our found treasures were the things we had felt should’ve been ours so many years ago. We had no care to hold back. We did not fear the same things we had feared all those years ago.

And after we felt we had satisfied our cravings and answered the questions that had gone unrequited for so long, we left. We picked up our judgment at the courtyard door, and we left. We were still hungover from the night before, and as we walked through the front door and became just another small group in the swarm of silent auctioneers and 4th of July barbecuers, the sun warmed my face and arms and I drifted back into age 18 in the 802. We left feeling satisfied, validated, and successful. All the while we’d tied a roll of fishing wire to the door knob at the beginning of our venture and booby-trapped every single path behind us. Without looking back as I walked away, I smiled as I remembered Ms. Longchamp’s mole and the silly string on the door. I could’ve wondered how old I really was, but it didn’t matter at that moment.