THE FIRST TIME I EVER MET Will was in the little boys' room. We were about eleven or less, but who can remember such things. Will, for one, looked a hell of a lot more on the side of less.

Wearing his overalls and his hair combed over in the height of sixth-grade fashion, Will had a smile on his face from the moment I opened the door ... probably even before. I was going to walk past and take care of business until he left, but he made the first move.

"Hey, check this out!" he said. I stopped, a bit surprised. Sure, we knew each other's faces and all, but we didn't know each other and in middle school that means you don't talk. Those were the rules. My mistake was thinking that Will played by the rules. Will didn't know the rules, let alone play by them. At eleven, it surprised me. Now it's one of the things about him that I respect and emulate.

Just us and a brand-new bathroom. The sink was one of those basin types. Horse trough kind. Will was standing over it and looking like trouble despite his size. Nothing can last at the disposal of hundreds of hormonal young boys. Damage is to be expected, and if it isn't, they're dumber than I give credit.

"I'm pluggin' up the drains!" Will squeaked out, and I heard his famous laugh for the first time. "Help me, why don't ya?"

Why not! It wasn't my usual style, but fuck it. We gathered scores of those rough brown paper towels and plastered them to the drain holes. The faucets were those push-and-drizzle-then-fade-away kind. So we had to keep rushing back and forth to keep them all going.

The basin was about a foot deep so it took some time, but we eventually won, you can bank on that! It was a slow fill, but as we ran out the door, the spillage ran onto the floor, leaving the flood in our wake for some tired janitor to mop up. It was the highlight of my day.

God, things were so easy in those days! Fun just found you out wherever you were. It wasn't all drugs this and drugs that. Now everything else seems so boring ... so not worth doing.

Plugging up drains and spoiling the bathrooms couldn't do it for us anymore. It's all politics after a while. Not maturity. No, it's fucking politics. It ain't hip to be into the minor destruction these days. These days it would be writing graffiti on the walls and tossing cigarette butts into the paint. That's the level we were on.

The fucking levels! Man, I hated all that shit. You pass through the stages of cool. That's how it is. We done passed through most! Doesn't leave much left for one to do. The worst part is that the levels have a way of getting at you. Will and I and all the rest of us had fallen victim. Following the path for spite, but following nonetheless.

We'd done the early pranks. The backtalk and the smart-ass cracks. We'd done the petty theft. Shoplifting for the cheap thrills. We had the property-damage covered. The harrassment. The public nuisance. It's all the same. You take the next step once you've swum in the lower ranks. We'd grown too cool for this one or that one or whatever. You reach the top and then you do it all over again. High this time around and it's all new fun. But when you reach the top again? Then what? You reach the top on every kind of high and where's there to go?

That was our destination. A goal of sorts. Make the progression on up the line. but we were reaching the end in a flurry of psychedelic episodes. Breaking barriers and such. Hitting the panic stages with smiles and thin lines of drool on our faces. We'd grown too cool! Too cool for everything. Too cool for the whole scene. Too cool to even give a damn. So much of all the bullshit that happens in this school and at this age, we couldn't participate in because we'd done it before and passed through it. It was b-o-r-i-n-g! Worn-out and tired. Yawn, yawn, because we're on to the next big thing.

That's how we knew we were better than all the rest of this world. At least, that's what we thought. But as I stood in the bathroom thinking back on it all, I wasn't so sure. It would be nice if something so stupid as flooding the sinks could hold some semblance of fun for me now. But it doesn't. It just depresses me.

It gets me down if I let it ... if I let my mind drift back to what was then and drift forward to what's ahead. Things drop off. It's hard to find interest in anything after a time. Christ, we couldn't even enjoy the harmless hangout. Everything had to be an adventure ... an asault on the senses. It makes it hard to communicate with people. I mean, they're all about the weather, the nice new sweater and all that small talk. I can't deal with trivialities. Every conversation need to be substantial. Every word! Every fucking gesture! Or forget about it. What's the point? You're not on my level. You're not cool enough for me.

Man, it really gets me down. When everything's exhausted there's nothing left. The rate I was running, it wouldn't be long. Then what? What's next? What's the score? I can't handle the rest of my life suspended in boredom. Such a chore! Gonna burn out because I can't stand to fade away. Get it all in fast and get out. No turning back now. It's just the way it is, the way I need to be.

I dipped my hands under the cold, rusty water. Crumpled up the towel and tossed it. Fuck it, I thought as I pushed through the door and into a million fractions of conversation.