This isn’t the “amazing post I didn’t have time to write” I promised yesterday. I was half asleep when I wrote that, and when I remembered what that post was, my brain reminded me it was stupid.
Instead, here’s something that happened to me in kindergarten. I have no idea why this memory suddenly decided to surface.
The last five minutes of the school day were pretty much chaos. The teacher was busy grouping everyone up by Method of Getting Home; bus kids on this side, car kids on this side, rocketship kids on this side… you get the idea. Two or three of us didn’t fit into any group, though. Our fate was to be taken by van to an after-school care center for a few hours until our moms got off work and came to pick us up.
On this particular day I was just milling around in one corner of the classroom while the teacher was trying to figure out who goes where… and I struck gold. She was planning an arts and crafts project the next day, and had all the various pieces laid out on a back table. Nobody had noticed any of this but me. For some reason, I was blown away. I was literally seeing something nobody in the my world had ever seen. I had secret knowledge. If I got caught looking at any of this, I would very certainly be flogged to death, first by my teacher, then by my parents once they were told.
I should emphasize that I’m talking primarily about little copper brads and thin strips of purple construction paper. But still.
I had to take the risk. Reasonably assured the teacher was on the other side of the room, I threw caution to the wind and swiped a piece of purple paper. I was considering taking one of the copper brads instead, but I wasn’t that adventurous. Can you imagine how much more severe my punishment would have been? Can you!?
I didn’t have time to tuck the slip of paper into my backpack, but I didn’t want to crumple or fold it either, so I sidled over by the door to wait for the bell. I was so terrified someone would count the remaining pieces of paper, immediately note that I had taken one, and lock me in a dungeon somewhere. Would this go on my permanent record? I didn’t know what that was, but I’d heard it in a movie and it sounded important.
Once I was safely on the Kinder-Care bus, I was able to let my guard down a bit. I just sat in my seat and pondered over the treasure I had come away with… probably more than a little shocked that I had gotten away with it at all. I didn’t know what it was for, or what I would do with it — but my victory was hard-fought and I had to protect the spoils at any cost.
“Hey, what’s that?”
Crap! Some punk kid on the bus had noticed I had something of value! Roger or Bobby or someone. I don’t know. My first instinct, of course, was just to show him, and revel in the wonderment together. But then, all at once, it must have hit me: it’s just a piece of paper. If I revealed that now, this kid was going to think I was stupid!
So instead I said “Nothing,” and sat on the slip of purple paper until we got to the playground. I made sure to stay on the van until Roger/Bobby was gone so he wouldn’t see what was under my butt when I stood up.
After that I figured I was home free. I could just keep to myself for a few hours, then Mom would come around and the purple paper and I would be safe at home. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have that happy an ending.
I tried to keep to myself by hanging out near the old jungle jim nobody played on… but within ten minutes, Roger/Bobby and one of his friends from another school that I didn’t know came up to me.
“He has something.”
“No I don’t.”
“Come on, let us see.”
And then I got pushed to the ground and started crying. This attracted the attention of pretty much everyone in the my world, including one of the mean Kinder-Care ladies. After a brief investigation consisting mainly of he-started-it/nuh-uh/yes-huh, the three of us were carted off to wherever it was troublemakers went to think about what they’d done.
The mean lady found my purple paper on the ground. “This is what you were fighting over? This here?” Then she crumpled it up and threw it away.
I was heartbroken. I never forgave that bitter old harpy. What a bitch.
The next day at school we made paper clocks out of the materials I had seen. Nobody noticed there was any paper missing; there was plenty for everyone and then some. I took no joy in the construction process. It’s just not the same when the teacher hands you two strips of purple paper. It’s not magical.
I think I threw the paper clock away as soon as I left school that day. I was so disgusted with the whole situation.
And that’s why I’m the bitter, untrusting husk of a man I am today. The end.