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
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
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.