In 8th grade my science teacher made an analogy in chapel about human connections and why it is smart to only date one person, then to stay with that person your entire life. Being a science teacher, he didn’t seem overly qualified to speak to the nuances of interpersonal relations, but I liked the man so I listened to what he had to say. He was, tentatively, an authority on the subject.
He likened people to pieces of duct tape. He stuck two squares of the tape to another, sticky sides intermingling and fusing. He illustrated how difficult it was to pull those two pieces apart. He was very dramatic, he put on one goddamned-hell-of-a-show. “These sure are… hurk… difficult to break apart… errf!” he’d say, to which we looked at each other and laughed uncomfortably.
Then he got two more pieces of tape. We fell silent, awaiting a sinful example. He stuck them on his sweater. Then he stuck them to each of his pant legs. Then he stuck them on his sweater again. We all knew what was going to happen next. They wouldn’t be as sticky that way! Lint and bits of dead skin would block the adhesion! Fuck!
At long last he stuck the two pieces together. He pulled them away from one another.
But they still wouldn’t come apart. He seemed really mad at his analogy at that point, and gave up.
Those were days that were bereft of clarity.
I remember another time, when we were about to graduate from junior high. We were going to take part in a commencement ceremony that was not for anyone’s benefit but our parents’, and my parents thought the whole idea was retarded right alongside me. So I didn’t want to be there, and nobody wanted to be there, and nobody’s parents stayed any longer than they had to.
During the rehearsal we young, hormone-charged 8th grade boys began to get a little crazier. We’d swear in class and shrug off any punishments like they “ain’t no thang”, we’d wear t-shirts and jeans that violated dress code. We’d make fun of each other. We’d make fun of the school we were about to leave.
There was a boy named Jay R Neel. He was called Jay R Neel and nothing but Jay R Neel. Nobody called him Jay, or J-Man or any of that garbage. First name, Middle Initial, Last name. Three syllables.
On the day of the rehearsal he made a crack about jesus just getting off the cross, cause he was supposed to be God an everything, and how he could have thought it through a little more completely. He was being absurd on purpose. He did this in front of the principal of the school. The joke fell a little flat. Everyone got really quiet to await the principal’s response. The principal’s name was Scott Bostick. Everyone called him Mister Bostick. I had been on his bad side before. I knew what was coming.
After calling Jay R Neel up to the front of the sanctuary, where chapel was held, Mister Bostick said to Jay R Neel “If you say something like that in front of everyone’s parents tomorrow night, you will be expelled and you will repeat your eighth grade year somewhere other than Trader’s Point Christian Academy. Don’t be an idiot, because if you want me to dress you down theologically in front of everyone, you just tell me. Do you want that?” Terror was within and amongst us. Jay R Neel could hardly speak.
“n-No” he replied.
“That’s what I thought, Jay, that’s what I thought. Get to my office now and wait for me there.”
When I was a senior in high school Scott Bostick died in a car crash. He somehow went over the median of interstate 65 and ran into a truck of some kind, head-on. I was able, if I wanted to, to get the day off from school for his funeral. I took the opportunity, as I was nearing my graduation from high school. School wasn’t nothin’ but a thang. I went and sat through it. I did not see Jay R Neel in attendance.