There were days …
The anxiety began immediately,
Oak doors, passing peers,
Strangers smoking in the freak doors,
… and I was the new guy nobody knew
Suddenly walking amongst
New sets of rules,
Similar designs on the same models
Just different names, looks, new shadows
Walk into homeroom,
New guy, sophomore year, a couple of girls,
Friendly right away,
If only they knew the fear I felt inside,
… and never really knew why, just did
If I let any one of these people realize
Just how crazy my thinking really is
I’ll be ostracized right away,
Just smile man, just be kind, just –
Wow, these girls are so cute!
First encounter with a jock,
Turns out I knew him from the Y,
Kids across the city thrown together
Good family fun,
… and then to the freak doors to smoke.
Hang on to your heartbeat man,
The pounding will wake the dead,
Find a place to walk, to hang, a bench,
Walk the wood to the cafeteria, the creaking,
The passageway almost like a rite of …
I can laugh with the best of them,
How about I teach you how to cut class
… and then old habits crept in.
Junior year floating in with promise,
A girlfriend, she walked the halls with me,
I heard her name over the P.A. – I would smile,
A gymnast no less, and I’d glance around homeroom,
Yeah she is my sweetheart, and I think I love her,
… and every now and again I’d remember I’m seventeen.
Grades became important now, I understood,
Knew I could figure out these problems,
I was sort of smarter than I ever realized,
Likeable, trustworthy, part of the scene,
Wrote for the school paper, pounded some nails,
Took my drama to the stage, and watched the stars,
… and I wanted to be on stage, just didn’t have the guts.
New friends, new paths, new ideas,
My girlfriend and I well, we’re eighteen now,
She is probably bored with me by now,
Turns out I was right, alone again mid-semester.
Turns to drugs as a steady fallback,
Suddenly whole, new, set, of friends,
Needy friends, dependent friends, vicious …
Though there were the gems of course,
All of you listening know who you are,
… and the counsel suggested a fifth year.
There were all these options,
Storefront, alternative, THERAPY … GED,
Chose the latter and the diploma didn’t matter,
Stood outside during ceremony,
Proud of that for years,
I never did return, left the freak doors behind.
… and that lost soul continued out into the world.
I won’t be here tonight to celebrate with all of you,
There’s a quiet peace in that, along with certain loss,
But I wanted you to know,
I did, I do remember you – the grace, the integrity, the real,
So now today, I do practice what I so wanted from all of you,
Years ago, I was just too afraid to ask.
Today I try to notice it quickly with my own students,
A classroom filled, a stage of roles, a hallway teeming with teens.
I walk alone with a smile, so they’ll all feel welcome,
The manner by which each of you did try for me …
I do love the beauty in memory.
© Thom Amundsen