In The Days Leading Up To

by
Dan Ericsson

I was once told that life is a book that can never be reread. Once you’ve turned the page, all you can do is remember. You have to hope that someone else is reading the same book, so you can reminisce. We are, in a way, reading the same plot, but no one puts the same stress on the same syllables and everybody has different main characters. For me, in my book, I watched the story happen, but still wound up being a lot of people’s main character.

There are too many books about the travails and exploits of young, disassociated boys, fidgeting their way through high school. In a way, that’s all I can say about myself. I never had the confidence I was pressured into thinking or saying I had. I never felt quite at ease being either the center of attention or a spectator. I guess it all boils down to crowds.

I’m most at home when I am alone, and I can imagine my company. Looking back, I realize I must have been somewhat claustrophobic, afraid of being fenced in by talking and people who expected me to talk. I can’t maintain a conversation, even one I instigated, for more than 20 minutes before I look for a way out. 20 minutes and another ruined dialogue later, I’m wishing I was back, saying everything I was afraid to say the first time.

In all reality, I would probably tell a nervous, darting joke, poke someone in the ribs and shuffle away. As I walked, I would regret having gone back, afraid to ever do it again.

I’m told that your whole life is spent packing a suitcase. When you are young, your parents pack it for you. As you grow older, you can take more and more control of what goes in. When you graduate, you throw your diploma in, close it up and head for college.

I’ve been given a lot of pointless metaphors for graduation. Suitcases, rocking chairs, the Spanish Inquisition, and nothing seemed to work, except for reading a book. Perhaps because it’s the only one I can identify with.

Or maybe because I’m doing it now, or will be shortly. Writing down what I remember, without the help of any fellow readers. But whatever I write, I hope it translates into a good book.

I don’t think that I was adequately prepared for high school. Oh, I know my multiplication tables and who wrote the “Oddessy”. And it didn’t matter.

I think I was a sophomore the first time that I heard someone say that you can only write what you know. I don’t think that means that if you know something really well, you can write about it really well.

There’s nothing I know better than myself, but if I don’t know where to put my commas, the written translation will suffer. I suppose that style and talent will ultimately determine how well you write, and your intelligence and experience will determine how much you know. It would take genius that I don’t have to string them together.

Now that I think about it, I don’t know myself that well. I have so many fantastic, detailed dreams and tell so many exotic lies that I’m not sure which world I live in is real. I lie to myself, so maybe my subconscious and my mind are fake. But, since I lie to everyone around my, maybe I actually am what I say I am. Or I yam what I yam, Popeye. I don’t know.

I do know that you can oversimplify anything (anything can be oversimplified). Almost every movie can be boiled down to a love story, plus subplots. Almost every song can be pared down to its refrain, and every book to its theme and moral. I’m sure it’s been said before, but details are what make life worth living. So why would you want to look past them to the often boring, big picture. In a way, that’s the problem with metaphors. If you think about it, graduation isn’t at all like a suitcase. I was sent to Mr. Nathan, the guidance counselor, because I had trouble deciding what prospective occupation to sign up for on career day.

He greeted me cordially, automatically, and bade me sit down. It seemed as though he wanted to get started quickly.

“I guess we’ll get right to the point,” Mr. Nathan said to me, his desk creating a comfortable wall between us. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Caucasian,” I replied quickly, before Mr. Nathan could respond, I continued. “I’m not a racist or anything. I just know that Caucasians do get higher wages and better promotions. Its all statistics.”

“I know what you meant. It’s just that they’re doing such wonderful things with genetics nowadays, I mean, you never know.”

“What,” began Mr. Nathan again, “do you like to do?”

I supposed, depending on what I say, Mr. Nathan would suggest some possible career options. “Well, I like to win. I like to be better than everybody else.”

“But what do you like to win at?”

“Anything, I guess.”

“Do you have any hobbies?”

“Antiques.” I don’t think I’ll ever know where I was going, or what I was going to say, but now I’m forever stuck with “Antiques”. I guess I blanked, and couldn’t think of anything to say. Or maybe its because I don’t actually have any hobbies and I was covering up. Maybe saying random words is my hobby, because I know it isn’t antiques. Although, that isn’t a very viable hobby, but, I don’t know.

I was once told that static electricity is pretty cool. Told very enthusiastically, in fact. I think that if you are the type of person who is very excited by static electricity, as this person obviously was, you could chose a better way to describe your feelings towards static. Something like: “I am very excited by static electricity, as you can probably tell.” or, “Static electricity is greatly appreciated by me, as is duly appreciated the passive voice”. Of course, I’m not an expert. I could be wrong.

If you know me, you know that I have a very short temper. I don’t think that’s a big surprise. Negotiations with me can be very heated if they’re not swinging my way. I’ll yell at anyone, sarcasm included amply.

I would make a horrible police negotiator. I don’t know, I’m just not any good at making conversation, especially with strangers. “I’m bored”, I say.

“I’ll give you something to do”, says whoever is near me, brandishing a broom.

“Well, not that bored”, I shy away from the bristled spear.

“Why don’t you go write a book?”, asks the last person I want telling me what to do. Here I am, though. Writing. I’m bored. Bored, frustrated with life. Bored because nothing happens. Frustrated because everything happens to me, not for me. Bored with cliches. Frustrated because I have to use them, because they fit so well. Somebody once told me to find the silver lining in each cloud. Then melt it down and hide it in your basement, so nobody else can take it. I guess in this case, I could say’ “you have to be alive to be bored with life”.

I’ll bet death is pretty boring. No parties, no friends, nothing. Then again, you can’t contemplate death the same way a book club can “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. Dead people can’t be expected to recognize McMurphy’s impact on all the men in the ward, and even Nurse Ratched, and especially Chief Bromden.Someone once told me that McMurphy represents Jesus, the fisher of men. I didn’t want to believe him, but I could see it myself. I don’t want to believe that I’ll die someday, but I’ve seen it before.

Sometimes I wonder how many more inventions there can be. Maybe Edison and Da Vinci thought the same thing. What if they had? I suppose the world would go on. What if I decided, “No, I’ll watch TV today”? Can any one person be better than any other person? Dire circumstances breed great men. If World War II had happened in 1845, would Polk have decided to enter? Does every question have two answers? The definitive answer, and an evasive question?

Q: Why is the sky blue?

A: Why does it matter? What do you care?

Why do you ask that pondering existence is a bleak, boring job. I’m bored. “Once upon a time”. Not that bored.

I’ve heard that everybody wants to be famous. Except fugitives. Number Five on the Ten Most Wanted List is never on Oprah, or releases a funk album.

I don’t know. Edison was never on Oprah and never released a funk album. He was also never on the Ten Most Wanted List. Sometimes I wonder what the future will be like. Page B-5; sunny, warm, high mid 80’s. The future will be the same as today, as the past. Somebody will solve the abortion issue, the losing side will clandestinely practice their beliefs regardless, and life will go on. People will argue about something. States rights, nature vs. nurture, Rolling Stones vs. Beatles, Jaywalking, life will go on.

I have dreams. I dreamt that I was walking down a dark street with my
brother. We both entered a bakery; a clock on the wall told us it was 11:48 PM. My brother asked for a glazed donut, and, after receiving it, went outside and fell asleep in a big glass box. I asked for a donut.

“I’m sorry”, said the cashier, “We’re all out. We do”, he said, furrowing his brow and pointing just past twenty some odd donuts, “have an onion”. He gestured toward one of the largest onions I had ever seen in captivity. What this means, I don’t know. I don’t even like onions. Someone once told me you are what you eat. I want to be a donut. Someone once told me that cannibalism is illegal, so none of us can be people.

I realize that I get on people’s nerves. Mr. Nathan swore that I was “unfixable” and recommended that everyone ignore any “problems”. That’s good. Isolate and seclude what you don’t want to see. You’re making good money, Mr. Nathan. You’re on my list.

I should make a list of my priorities. Alas, all I have is a list of enemies.

I listed all of the people I didn’t like for weeks before I finally took a gun to school with me. I knew what I would do. Well, maybe not. But I do it nonchalantly.

Some one once told me “Stop, put down the gun”. That was the principal
when I strode into his office and took the pistol out of my pocket. I backed out of his office, waving the barrel listlessly. Somebody, possibly Mr. Nathan, had pulled the fire alarm. No doubt Mr. Nathan was anxious to beat the students to the door, pushing the slower ones out of the way.

I wheeled on the principal and trained the gun on him. I held it steady for a second, then bowed my head and sighed deeply. The principal sensed I was giving up. I wasn’t.

Someone once asked me if I was serious. I said “no”, and he told me that he wasn’t either, that he was cumulonimbus.

The principal dove behind a desk as I squeezed the trigger. He stood up and dusted himself off and walked over to me. “Bang”, he said, reading the banner that had unfurled from the business end of my plastic novelty weapon.

“Bang” doesn’t make for a very long story, but it can be interesting if used correctly, or so I am told.

I am told a lot of things now. And not by Mr. Nathan. By people who still think they can help. They tell me things, I reflect, nod back to them and reply: “Bang”.

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