“It is my sad duty to inform you that the …president… was shot twenty-five minutes ago and has been transported to the hospital.” The children in Frank’s class cheered. It was not an uncommon occurrence. It happened in other classes. The teacher’s face fell. He scowled at the children and started angrily berating them. “That is the president of these United States!” he said.
The lack of unity amongst the children for these United States flustered him. It was unacceptable. Would not be given toleration. When you lose the youth, your society declines. Freedom to choose is the promise of these United States. That was sacred. Could not be deviated from. Not an inch. The flag. Worth defending. The children quieted down, but a certain giddiness remained through-out the day.
The president was not popular in the eighth grade circle. And the breaking up of the monotony of the everyday was not without its part in the festive, circus-like atmosphere. At least the class clowns were respectful; silent, all in the same car. But there were sporadic lectures resulting throughout the day. As a corrective, drained of all meaning. A dark ritual.
But there was one class, and what I tell you now has passed into legend, where, after a stern lecture from the teacher began, a single student, unnamed, but it was a female student, said, “How do you know the cheering was for the shooting of the president and not his transport to a regional hospital?”
And the teacher was struck dumb for answers.
And the girl broke the silence again, “Frankly I’m offended you didn’t ask. The judgmental attitude you hold toward innocent youths is disturbing. I should report you.” And with that she physically moved her desk around to face away from him. A rejection of status. Emboldened, the other students did the same. Anarchy! Rules turned on heads. Silence reigned until the bell.
There was a bathroom in the lower hall where there were no stalls. People didn’t linger. There was no stalling.
Three toilets in a row with no walls. Communal commodes. It is crazy how close the toilets seem without stalls. An illusion. Once Frank sat there with another boy and he didn’t remember who spoke first. They spent an afternoon there, because who wanted to go back to class. But he didn’t catch the other truant’s name, and even if he had seen him in the hall later they would not have made eye contact. Sometimes people drift apart, even when they bonded quite closely initially. Because circumstances change.
And there was also no mirror in that bathroom, being that there was no time for self reflection. Where there had been a place for a mirror, on the far wall, there was a framed piece of plywood. Like it was meant to be a mirror but was going against the grain. On this flat surface people scribbled messages like throwing a bottle into a polluted sea. “I live near campus and I have a waterbed.” (One is identified by what one owns.) “For a good time call #######” but the numbers were cross hatched out. (Mysteries are enticing to the inquisitive mind.)
Sometimes people squinted at the dull polished metal of the paper towel dispenser to see how they looked. A clown funhouse reflection on demand. You don’t need to know what people’s hair looks like. Einstein hardly used his comb. Maybe he never found one to his liking.