Saturday, May 10, 2014

Days Gone By

"I'm fucked..." she said, her head lowered.  I saw the bright burgundy side of her carefully shaved head and we hugged each other.  She was crying.

I was surprised the first time I saw her in the teacher's copy room.  We had worked together when I was sixteen years old.  In a hair shop.  I had clamored for the job, being a punk rock kid in the suburbs.  I went to the Metroplex, a wonderful club 'downtown' as we called it, in Atlanta, not in Cobb County.  I had been going there since I was fifteen and it was my livelihood, the only place I wanted to be, except Little Five Points, but that was during the day time.  And this place, this hair shop, they could dye my hair purple and pink and blue and green for free; I had to work there.  And they were awesome.  People saw them everywhere, their hair -  their incredible hair!

I got the job.  My  punk rock, Cobb County classmates were pretty impressed.  I had a car now and was frequenting the Metroplex much less than I had when the only obstacle was getting a ride.  Even though I now had one, it had gotten weirdly boring, not the golden ticket that it was when I had to get rides from older classmates.   The hair shop took me to new places.  Clubs. Gay dance clubs.  Everyone wore outrageous costumes that I adored.  I felt way more adult.  It was a new scene for me.  And I was still in high school.  I walked into school everyday, did what I had to do, and went to work at the salon, and to clubs.

Seeing her in the teacher's workroom gave me a weird sense of deja vu, kind of like looking at a live snapshot of a former life.  She gave me my first fake ID.  I totally idolized her as a teenager, her awesome vintage clothes, funny expressions and wildly cool lifestyle.  We ran into each other frequently at one of the schools I work at after our initial copy room meeting.  I was always glad to see her, hopeful that teaching would work out for her and that her first few years wouldn't be as hard as mine were.  It felt weird to be in a veteran position to her, work-wise.  It felt weird to say that I was finishing my eighth year teaching, that I teach both elementary and high school at the same time, that no, it's not really hard, I've done it before. 

Spring Break passed in strange haze.  Long sunny days lazed by, Lola and I in the yard, her running and playing, then resting on the blanket next to me for a while.  Me, drinking beer and succumbing to the hypnotic atmosphere of "The Goldfinch" for hours at a time, interrupted only by text messages that I reviewed immediately from my mom that described the unimaginable horrors faced by my stepfather in the ICU.  The combination of elements created a weird emotional mix of bliss and extreme depression.

Returning to school was difficult.  I was surprised when I walked up the steps that gray day and to see her burst into tears. 
"They're not going to let me finish my program.  They say I'm no good.  I'm fucked.  I'm fucked.  I have so much riding on this.......".
I could feel the desperation.  I have been in hard positions in life before and have been scared, but I knew her situation.  She really did have everything riding on this.

"They're wrong.....they're wrong....." I repeated over and over.