if time were deeper, not wider, we would never die
with your past and the future precisely divided,
am I at that moment? I haven’t decided.
My cousin’s memory remains strong. He remembers my graduation from high school. He remembers the morning, when I read my graduation speech to him, my mother, and my brother, and then he went with us to graduation, early, and he had nothing to do, while we got ready — I remember none of this, really — I remember flashes only — I remember general nervousness — I remember being on the stage, and starting the speech — I remember one line —
Amos once said I am neither the prophet, nor the son of the prophet. Which was sort of ironic, because he was a prophet. That crazy Bible.
That got a big laugh, I remember the line, I remember general laughter, and I remember how I delivered the line, the pause I took.
I remember how I got that speech, how I reminded everybody that I was a great writer, which was our Senior Shabbaton, where we went to some camp in the woods, Ramah, or something, it was fun, and Harold Messenger was there, with his guitar, and we had a campfire, and he played the Joker, by Steve Miller, and the fire reflected in the wood of the guitar, and I wrote a little thing about Lech Lecha, about the reflexive tense of the Hebrew that we were taught meant Go for Yourself, and how we were getting pretty close to that time when we would all Go For Ourselves, out of the cradle, as it were.
I remember that, and the fire in the guitar, and probably if I had to guess, something about holding on to these moments as they pass. Though that’s just conjecture, because I obviously didn’t, my memory of high school is poor. Those moments, I let go of.
And then we took a vote on who would give our graduation speech, and I won it, my first election (that I won), and I worked with Mrs. Weisgrau on it, and my first theme was how Graduation was like death, but I was rightly talked out of that one, and then decided to use as a theme Life is Like A Box of Chocolates.
The speech was something about the uncertainty of the future, but the certainty that we were leaving our old lives behind, and those times, with those friends, was deeply important, that we had journeyed together for years — and five or six jokes. Some of us, I said, will write our names in the history books. I said it, and I meant me. Others will — and I forget the phrase, but it was something about living a quiet life of equal and great happiness.
And it seems I’ve chosen the second, not the first. Because the first is vanity, it happens to someone else, while personal happiness, that — that matters. That’s real.
I didn’t know much about reality back then. Like DFW says, what’s water?
I was going to get a crash course right around Days 7022-7100, but back then, around Days 6300-6600, who knew about such things. I had gone to Israel, first time leaving home, around Day 5900, came back around Day 6050, in the Year of Our Lord 1999, and began to drive, and go to parties, and then that Summer what did I do, I think I worked at the library, with Fred, dearly departed, and had some money in my pocket, and hanging out at Z’s house, smoked grass for the first time that Summer, maybe not, first time I really got high was down the shore, with Z and F.S. and her boyfriend Scott, and we went to see American Beauty, and I got pop tarts and I was both faking my high and wasn’t faking my high, but that movie came out in September 1999, and it was coldish, Fall of Senior year —
I remember a party at K.G.’s house, where I got sick and vomited, and A.L., who may or may not have liked me just a little (I never wanted to be part of any club that would have me is one way of putting it, but another way is by saying that I thought myself too good for the girls who were at a similar level of social capital as myself), was nearby, but I’m like, take a hike, I got this — was that in the winter? Or was that Adrianne’s house? I remember the basement, and smoking outside, and leaving with Farrah or someone to get a bong from a car and then smoking said bong out back — that must have been the winter — after the new year? For NYE 1999-2000, Senior Year, I went with many people to J.A.’s cabin in the Pocono’s. I believe. Unless that was after high school. But doubtful. Matt and Claire were together, Claire kissed me on the cheek. Y.B. was there. Knowledge.
I was a jerk sometimes, for sure. Jerk to Y.B. as we passed the Afikoman that spring — who knows what I said — but the punch line — So I gave it back to Chaim – was hilarious but horrible — unexpected — delivery. It is all about the delivery.
After graduation, we went down the shore and stayed at F.S.’s beach house for a few days. Our graduation trip sucked — we went to the Shining Hotel in the Catskills, where there was, literally, nothing to do. I don’t remember anything from that trip except getting Elly to sign my yearbook — Elly was the girl I pined for that year, and the year before — and she liked someone else — who was dating someone else — etc. etc.
Classes, do I remember classes? I had some writing class with Weisgrau, called Voice — and there was some thing I did that she liked, some poem about I wants — some def comedy jam type thing — I want, I want, I want — I forget what it is that I wanted — probably to be famous — and there was AP Government, which I liked. And AP Environmental Science, where we learned about Global Warming from Phil Patelmo, now gone.
Other classes? Not really. I think we read Jane Eyre first semester in English. What’d we learn in History? Not sure. Modern American History?
I was in a play with my sister in the winter. Arsenic and Old Lace. Got a crush on J.L., sort of from a time I gave her a flower and she put it in her hair. Sophomore year, maybe? Or Freshman I think. I was mad, mad, mad. That was Ninth Grade, I think. Embarrassing. Never spoke about that ever. That was my mother’s idea.
But asked J.L. to promenade senior year. Prom was at Rittenhouse Square, in a hotel that no longer exists and is now Parc. Then went to J.Jaffe’s house for postprom, maybe? Strange choice, out in Northern Boondocks. Did not get drunk. Did not dance with El. Let that one go. I was angry. I was mad.
That summer, worked at camp, and had a crush on some girl, but her friend, who was larger, liked me, and I went along with it, to get some experience, etc., but didn’t like it, didn’t like the whole thing, she was fine, fine, but I was not attracted to her — we saw American Pie, we played pool one time, I kissed her in my car, she leaned over and unlocked my car door, which I hate and think is stupid — AG does that every now and again — do not like it —
and then went off to Penn, where I hoped for everything to be different and amazing and it was, but not in the way I expected — and made friends with Jay early on, and Jacob, and Evan, and Christy, and Barrie, and Regi, and flirted with a girl like night one or two who had a boyfriend but never followed up and damn it, I was a child, I was smoking more and more, which made me more and more childish, I was cutting class, Jay and I went down to Baltimore in the fall to see the String Cheese Incident, and I think I did nothing that New Years, and then second semester, I uncomfortably rushed frats with Jay, and vomited and peaced out, and that was that, and I didn’t get it, and Jay didn’t really want to do it either, and I wasn’t that sure about it regardless // but that was that // and others did their own thing and we saw music, hung with Jay and George and Evan and Jacob and second semester, Mitch —
and then summer came, and I went to Memphis to visit Jay, and worked at camp, and did not have friends, really, but hung out with Zach, and went to shows, and smoked pot, and thought about the future, and philosophy, and time, and Phish, and Gamehendge, and Power, and the Power to see clearly, to move quicker, to act upon the world, to fill a cognitive niche, to see what others wanted, and the way that this Power was Truth, and the way that Drugs might make us feel like we see the Truth, but leaves us dependent, about how we are in a City, constrained, but with Power, we can bring ourselves to Leave the City —
And thought about death, and what it might be, and how to escape it, and wondered if I could sink sideways into a deeper experience of the present — this was upon returning to school my second year — free, wonderful, fun, Zach and I ate mushrooms, and saw visions early that Fall, right when school was starting, in August — and I practiced wearing my sane face versus my insane face, and I sat on a tree outside HRN like Buddha did, and talked with George, and George had brought his square friend, and we walked around campus, but I had no visuals, and I looked at the wood, and said I liked it, but it is not moving or anything,
and Sarah was dating Mitch, and we were going out to goodbye dinner at White Dog Cafe, in the back, and I told them this at that dinner, that if life were deeper and not longer we would never die and then later that night, Sarah called Mitch and told him my Uncle Michael had Cancer — that was Saturday or Sunday maybe, and then Monday was Screenwriting class, maybe 1st Screenwriting class, maybe 2nd, and Monday night I went home thinking maybe I could use my uncle’s story somehow (and I did) and talked to my mother that night, and she told me that Michael was going to fly to the Mayo Clinic the next day, and college was still pretty happy go-lucky, and I went to bed thinking HOW CAN THE WORLD BE SO HAPPY AND ME BE SO SAD? and the next morning of course was 9/11, Day 7022 in my life till then.