In the dark heart of night time is suddenly frozen, the clock’s hands stalactites and stalagmites, unyielding denying the approach of morning, leaving the sun imprisoned under the watchful gaze of its celestial wardens.
It is then you appear, call out to me, beg me be silent, not asking the lifetime of questions I have accreted, providing my own hopes and imagination for answers, but you have faces, not those of that weekend but of other days, she younger, in college, he in a college yearbook at a school he never attended save as part of the ROTC contingent of the Air Force.
I bid you farewell, finally, and time again takes motion and morning welcomes the sun.
Just outside town in the old dump is a slab of concrete its twisted edges pierced by rusting rebar once the floor of the gazebo in the commons. Etched into its surface Jim + Marie Janet Loves Eddie. Their loves were undying cast into stone to wear slowly through the ages not to fall victim to the jackhammer. Jim lies under the simple stone “Sgt. U. S. Army Served Vietnam,” Marie left for college but came home, a nurse at the Community Hospital now divorced with two daughters. Eddied married Sue, three times runner up for homecoming queen and lives in a trailer by the county line. Janet waits tables in the coffee shop at Caesar’s Palace while her husband, whom she met at the truck stop, deals blackjack in the casino. Their son lives in San Francisco with his lover, but they haven’t spoken to him in more years than they can remember. The old gazebo was replaced years ago by the giant steel play gym.
you can drink bad beer when it’s free, you can’t cram for finals on caffeine alone, you can watch Star Trek episodes for the nth time, you can make spaghetti sauce out of ketchup, Naval ROTC cadets make great radio engineers, even the news director gets free LPs, mescaline is not advised for exam pep, 0.98 GPA requires negotiation to remain, English can be an accidental major.
A short list of my college missed learning:
fail calculus if you never go to class formal organic chemistry, not self-applied, not reading any Chaucer before writing the final paper grad schools look at GPA, not just GRE, sleeping through morning classes not a good strategy, Medieval history is boring, Symbolic logic is anything but.
Conclusion: Got the diploma so parents money well invested.classes
Aunt Tzipporah hated her name, detested it really, came closer to the truth. “What the hell were my parents thinking?” she said, “like being Jewish in West Virginia isn’t going to be hard enough. On a good day I got away with being Zippy, but you try spending your Junior year in high school hearing “Hey Zipper” or having some jerk come up to you, cigarette dangling from his lip and saying, “hey, Zippo, got a light?” and you can guess why getting out of state to college, any college, was something I wanted so badly.” I told my aunt I fully understood, and she smiled, “I guess you do. It couldn’t be a party going through life with the name Shadrach Shamnansky.
For three days I was
a short order cook
a change from my table duties
when the regular guy decided
that a night of drinking didn’t end
when the bar closed
and broke back in
through the rotting back door
that was always next
on the list of things to be fixed.
The owner, my boss, said he’d wait
three days for the cook
to dry out in his cell,
but my cooking made him reconsider.
Yet the customer still came, paid
Were patient, and after
the three days past,
and the old cook couldn’t make
even his nominal bail
the boss hired a new cook
and I went back to dishes
and filling coffee, and looking lovingly
at my dishwasher, my friend
for a too long too long summer
until I went back to college.
There was a great deal I wanted to say, after all when you end the broadcast career that spanned forty-three years you want to be entitled to a farewell address. She said, “you’ve been on the air here for two years, and reading the news to the blind once a week for half an hour hardly constitutes a career. And as for the three years you did on the college station, forty years before this, I’m surprised even you can remember anything you said.” Somewhere in the herbal fog of memory I knew she was right.