“WAKE UP, STUPID!!!”
What I feel is a hand slapping my face, and leaving a pain that is itself bright red, quite apart from the color one might see on the cheek.
But there’s dripping, and my shirt is wet. It’s water. Someone has thrown water in my face. Why did I think it was a slap?
I open my eyes, and it’s one of my sixth grade teachers. He has a mustache that almost covers his mouth, and when he speaks (if he’s not yelling), it sometimes comes out a bit mushy. He has bushy eyebrows too. Am I remembering that part right? Probably not. Who knows? Let’s say his name is Cole.
He’s holding a wooden pointer in one hand. For a second, it’s the pointer that he had hit me in the face with. Then I see the small pitcher in his other hand (his left), the size pitcher I’ve seen used for baptism by pouring in Mennonite churches, only this one is stainless steel rather than ceramic. Now it’s the water again. The water came from that.
“Are you gonna frickin’ wake up now?” Not yelling, so a bit mushy.
“I’m awake.” I thought my voice would be croaky, but it’s clear and pretty strong. “How long have I been asleep?”
“Hell if I know. I was just told to wake you up. I thought I was done with you years ago, and now I have to wake you the hell up.” He’s smiling now, but it looks like he’s in pain. I remember that this is how he smiled when he was my teacher.
“Why any of this make-believy bullshit?” The smile is gone, but not the pain. “You’re supposed to pick up on this stupid blog thing again, because you’re supposed to be thinking. And you don’t get as far with your thinking if you aren’t writing. That, along with how to wipe my own ass, is all that I know.”
I don’t remember Cole as being vulgar. But somehow it fits. It fits with sixth grade, which I remember the way one might remember an acid trip. (Not that I’ve ever actually been on one of those myself.)
“Writing. On the blog. Not just to myself.”
“Yup. Don’t ask me why. I really don’t know anything more. I gotta go listen to my Beatles records now, so you’d better be all the way awake.”
“Why would you HAVE to go listen to Beatles records?”
The pained smile again. “That’s a device to reinforce my identity for you, since you’re not clear on my appearance.” Right. He played Beatles records in class for us, and discussed their meaning, including the drug references.
I don’t have any response to offer, so I just nod. Cole turns and walks away.
As he leaves, he simply walks out of the light that we’ve been in the whole time. It’s like a large spotlight glow on an otherwise dark stage. But the spotlight isn’t coming from anywhere in particular. I look around and think about where I might be. Sixth grade. That’s why it was Cole. But the important thing is that it was right before middle school. Before the middle.
“Before the middle” is the associative payoff here. I’m supposed to do something with that.
As soon as I realize that, there is a loud click somewhere above, and the spotlight goes dark.