Dream of: 24 March 1997 "Yes, I Like Poetry"
I was in Portsmouth, enrolling in school. But this time was a little different. This little class room, in a school close to my old high school, was set apart from the normal high school, reserved for some kind of special student, I didn't know what. However it was immediately clear that these students were all either retarded or insane, almost autistic.
Maybe 30 students were in the room. I walked to the back and took a seat, until someone told me to move up front, and I did. But when the teacher arrived – a fetching young dear (I immediately liked her looks) – she directed me to return to the back of the room. She said something about not wanting me to sit in front because I might "break the curve." I protested that someone had just told me to move up front. But I moved to the back anyway, thinking about what she had said. I rather had an idea what she had meant by "breaking the curve." I was smarter than these other retards, mentally defective monkeys. My being so much more intelligent than the others could throw off the intelligence average of the students. Actually I didn't even belong here and I knew it; I supposed the teacher knew it too. But I would stick around for a while. I had nothing better to do, and I didn't want to go back to the regular high school.
I sat down at a round table with four or five of these other defects sitting around me. I couldn't figure out yet if they were retarded or insane; but I was clearly in a room full of rejects. And they were all sitting so close to me; I finally had to insist that they move farther apart at the table and give me more room. A fellow remained sitting on my right and a girl, gray-eyed, remained on my left.
Like the rest of us, the girl was somewhere in her late teens. She was dressed in a simple gray and white print dress which fell below her knees. Obviously she was as loony as the rest of these nuts – but I couldn't seem to help myself: I liked her.
By now we were on a bus, passing the regular high school. The comely teacher was driving, and the rest of us happy hearts were riding along, still sitting in the same seats in the same room. I looked outside and saw that we were passing the regular high school, the only real high school in Portsmouth. I could see the other normal students going to the school, and it occurred to me that I could get off this bus right now and go to the regular school. No one would stop me. It was all up to me. I didn't have to stay with these loony tunes. But – and this was the strange part – I really didn't want to get off the bus. I had different reasons. First I hated that high school; I had never liked going there, learning the stupid trash they taught. But there was something else. I didn't know if I could learn that stuff anymore. It was like a big rock in my head that couldn't be moved. Such a strange thing to think that I couldn't learn anymore. At least not in that school. But maybe here in this school was still something different and strange that I could learn. For whatever reason, I, on my own, decided to stay on the bus.
We were traveling west on Eighth Street. Three more blocks and we reached Gay Street, and passed the Gay Street House. I slunk back a little in my seat, hoping no one at the House would see me. I certainly didn't want anyone to know I was in this group. One thing strange I did notice: the little green house next door to the Gay Street House was gone (the little green house where my grandmother Mabel had lived until her death on March 9th). Instead, a red and white brick building had been erected. Looked as if it was still under construction.
The bus moved on, and I turned my interest back to the girl, the gray-eyed one with the dark velvet pupils sitting next to me. I was more and more drawn to her. Having sex with her even began to seem an option. But even I knew that was crazy. I didn't know anything about her. She might try to attach herself to me and I might never be able to get rid of her. Suddenly she spoke to me, "Do you like poetry?" I gulped at the question, a knot in my throat. Why did this hit me so hard? A swirling sensation in my mind. Such a serious matter. "Yes," I solemnly spoke, "I like poetry." And yes I thought, I would like to read poetry to you. I would like to have a book of poems and sit in a green glade and read and read. And I knew many poems by heart. I could recite to you right now T.S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Not the kind of thing I would normally do, but this was obviously not a normal girl. Still it might be going too far to start reciting poetry. Instead I simply asked her where she lived. "By the junior ice house," she answered. Oh yes, I knew where she was talking about. It was down on the west end of town, the old section where only the poorest people lived. Yes I could see, now that I looked more closely at her, that she was poor. Maybe all the people on this bus came from the poor west end. But that didn't make sense either because I knew that students from the west end went to the normal high school. What was the solution? And back to the other point again, what was I doing on this bus? And then the strangest thought hit me: could it somehow be possible that I was as crazy as these others? I certainly didn't think so. I imagined myself as a strong young blonde-haired swashbuckling type, completely in control of my senses. But was there not a small crack in my theory? After all, I was on this bus, and I didn't know why. Could I be as crazy as the others?
By now my imagination had the best of me. I somewhat liked the idea of being crazy. I saw that the bus had reached the west end of town. We were on front street where the seven meter high flood wall stretched along one side of the street, protecting the sleepy town from the Ohio River. We had just passed through one of the sections of the wall, headed toward the river, when my feral imagination broke loose. Now in my mind I was standing, looking down a precipitous eerily rusty-red road that plummeted before me. I was going down into this chasmic depth, holding on to something like a rope with my left hand, with my legs spread apart, rather like a skier behind a boat will hold onto a rope. I should have been afraid, but more, I was exhilarated. I screamed wildly, not in fear, but just pure wildness, like an animal howling. I held to my rope like a rider holds to the reins of a bucking bronco. I was out of control but I was in control. I was crazy but I was sane. I headed down and down. And suddenly – snap.
I was standing on the ground, right beside the flood wall. Apparently I had fallen out of the back of the bus. I was still holding onto some rope-like thing in my left hand, which I looked at and recognized as a metal tape ruler. It was stretched out in front of me, and I saw that it was stretching to the inside of the back of the bus. But I wasn't prepared for what I saw next. The rocky red road which I had seen in my mind – it was real. And the bus with all the other students, had gone over the edge. And it was about to fall into the chasm below. The only thing keeping the bus from falling was the metal tape measure, which I was holding, attached to the bus.
Another woman who looked somewhat like the teacher, maybe a second teacher, was standing on the road and hollering to me, giving me directions about how to pull the tape measure. She called, "Downset button puts it on hold!" I knew she was talking about the lock button on the tape measure. But I didn't want her directions, I thought I could manage. I began backing up, with the tape locked, and the bus began coming back up the side of the cliff. It was as light as an atom. But soon I backed into the floodwall, and I could retreat no farther. I had to press the button so the metal tape would automatically start pulling back without my having to back up. And slowly I could see the bus coming back up to the road. Who would have thought it? I was going to save all the people in the bus and be a hero. Imagine me, a hero. Couldn't believe it myself.
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