Fear changes with age.
In fourth grade, I heard that urban myth about people flushing pet crocodiles that grew up abandoned and angry in the sewers.
Supposedly, one of them, before it was fully grown, crawled up a sewer pipe and bit some kid’s wiener and balls off while he was sitting to take a dump.
This was ’88 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were dominating the toy aisle and cartoon ratings. So in some versions the gator was a mutant. Our sci-fi always taught us that radiation gave you super-strength, rather than monstrous tumors.
That’s the kind of thing I was afraid of in grammar school. Sitting down to take a dump and suffering castration via mutant sewer croc.
In junior high, I saw my first R-rated movie, “Halloween 5: Revenge of Michael Myers.” It was a shit bomb like every Halloween but the first.
So I’m sitting in the theater with my friend Barry and his mom, and all these cool people who are drunk and/or stoned are all around us yelling cool things.
My personal favorite, Myers corners this girl in a barn and impales her with a pitchfork. Some drunk stoner yells, “Ya shoulda fucked ‘er first!”
Barry and I thought that was a real gem. We laughed our asses off through the movie.
But when it was late and I was alone, I saw that white fucking mask in every shadow. I barely slept.
In high school and college we mostly fear failure. Bad grades and sexual rejection specifically. At least my grades were good.
Then we grow up and fear changes. We fear bosses and bills.
Once we get the decent career and relationship and living situation, what’s left to fear?
Just one thing…
How about falling into auto-pilot and waking up lost? How about fear of a life poorly lived?
Scarier than Michael Myers or a cock-eating gator, if you ask me.
This is where I got the idea for “Making June Matter”. Teaching lends itself to auto-pilot, if you aren’t careful.
It was the last day of school, 2009, when I was standing with another teacher watching the kids play volleyball (our last day filler). We let our eighth graders go one day early so they don’t cause anarchy. One eighth grade boy had come in just to see his seventh grade girlfriend.
Their happiness was visceral. You could tell neither of them had been so utterly into another person before. They were in love the way only adolescents can be, with no regard for how shitty it will be when it inevitably crashes.
I turned to my colleague and asked, “Remember feeling like that?”
And he said, “No.”
And my story alarm went off. What’s it like when a teacher hears of a student’s success and he isn’t happy for the student? What do you do when you realize, perhaps too late, that you’ve lived poorly?
What if your greatest fear comes true?
P.S. I still have no idea how to charge anyone so I’m just using this blog to try and generate interest for now. Also, try to keep an open mind with the second person thing. I was trying something new and I fucking loved “Choose your own Adventure” books. Now turn to page 57, where you’ll be impaled.
Making June Matter
You stand where you stood yesterday. You separate the monster S.U.V.s from the toddling elementary school students walking down Learning Lane. At least once a day, you wonder if they were being ironic about that street name.
You stand here all of June. You stood here the June prior.
You sip cooling coffee from a thermos that’s never really empty or clean. The kid in the cartoon shirt is still four car lengths up the road.
When he gets to the intersection, you’ll do your part. You’ll stand in the road: a meat target. You’ll keep the phrase “fatal school accident” out of the papers, off the internet.
You choose not to see the two boys from period three, the ones in the band shirts, the ungrateful recipients of charity D-minuses, spitting on the back of the building.
You think of an old song. Schoo-ool’s… out… for… sum-mah!
Your deodorant fails and the warm drip runs down the new bulge in your side. It settles in the fold, the fat crevasse you developed over this last school year. You think of all those sit-ups, all those years fighting gravity.
You remember a young man who posed before showers, a man who bought a full-length mirror specifically for that purpose – to study all that geometric, sharp-angled flesh, the reward for all that sweat and effort. You remember curve and symmetry, smooth and hard.
You realize, gravity won.
The boy is at the corner, but suddenly you don’t want to be a meat shield anymore.
You run a thickened hand through thinning hair.
You wave the boy forward. On the curb, you turn and face the street to see a small pink-haired woman in a giant white truck. She takes a quick right turn without signaling or dropping her phone, or her large purse, or the small dog in it.
She hits the breaks on time. You step off the curb and take the boy by the hand, the rest of the way across.
You hear the odious drone of a power window lowering.
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