Thursday, February 24, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 31 (Chris McCreary)

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
McCreary, Chris

Sent to me by the author after he graciously published one of my poems in the ixnay reader in 2009.

Friendship is still on my mind this morning. I am thinking about the way the forms of friendship change over time, of how much friendships depend on geography and circumstance, and of how seldom they spring from something else, love, say, or mutual admiration.

Moving around as often as I did as a child, I was always having to make new friends. Each time I moved or changed schools I left my old friends behind. As I got older, this separation became painful and I tried to hold to my friends long after "the flowers of friendship faded," to borrow a phrase from Stein.

My first friends were sisters, Kathleen and Meghan, who lived across the street in California. They used to come over to our house to play in the sandbox with me. We only stayed in that house for a couple of years and then we moved to another part of town and I never saw them again. I still have a photo of the three of us sitting in the sandbox.

I started montessori school, where I made new friends. I only remember one specifically, a boy named Thor. He used to wear a T-Shirt with a drawing of the eponymous cartoon character emblazoned across the front. We moved once more in California and I began first grade at the local elementary school. Thor went there, too. I think he was the only kid from kindergarten to end up at the same school as me. About halfway through the year my father told me we were moving to the suburbs of Washington D.C. That was the last I ever heard of Thor.

I entered third grade the following year. My father signed me up for soccer right away. I'd played one season in California and liked it, so he signed me up again. Most of my friends for the next few years came from my soccer team. I think my closest friend was a guy named Steve. He lived about a mile away in a development that was slightly older than the one I grew up in, which was brand new at the time. He lived with his mother and father, a housewife and a dentist, respectively, and a sister named Lisa.

We used to sleep over at each other's houses often. I always preferred his house because his parents paid us less mind than my own and we could stay up all night watching scary movies. I remember once staying up late watching "Night of the Living Dead." Steve had long since dozed off in his sleeping bag. I tossed and turned and had nightmares all night long. I can also remember lying on our backs in the driveway in front of his house counting the shooting stars in the sky.

We remained close all the way through grammar school. We changed schools for middle school, but both of us ended up in the same place, Henry David Thoreau Junior High. That was when things started to change. Puberty had struck and Steve's face broke out with severe acne. He suddenly became obsessed with his appearance. We'd walk down the street and he would stop in front of every car to check his hair in the side view mirror.

I didn't really care what I looked like and I wasn't all that concerned with what other people thought. At least not yet. Puberty hit me later and slower and I think my childhood self perhaps extended a little further than did those of most of my friends. Junior high was also when I started drinking and smoking and taking drugs. I began to make a few friends among the "freaks."

Our school's simplified social hierarchy began with a division between the "jocks" and the "freaks." The jocks, as ever, stood atop the social hierarchy. One didn't need to actually be a jock to fit into this group. One needed only believe that the social hierarchy existed for a reason and that to question it was to question the very existence of life itself.

Freaks, on the other hand, tended to be outcasts of one sort or another. Among the freaks there was a general sense that the hierarchy was a fraud. In general it was believed (by the jocks) that all the freaks were on drugs and were inclined toward criminality. This was not entirely untrue.

Anyhow, the freaks and the jocks were supposed to hate each other and there were always rumors about fights planned at the community center or after school. They rarely occurred. But these social formations changed drastically the way everyone related to each other.

As we progressed through middle school, Steve came to identify more and more with the jocks and I more and more with the freaks. Our friendship began to founder when we began to judge one another based on what we perceived to be the rules of our different social sets.

It never really recovered from this, although the friendship extended a couple of years into high school. Steve went to one of the local public high schools and I was sent to an all boys jesuit high school in the city. The fact that we were now operating in different social orbits made it easier to maintain our friendship without sacrificing social status. We remained friends through early high school, when Steve's idea of fun turned increasingly criminal.

Friday night sleepovers, which had already turned into excuses to get drunk in each other's basements, became staging grounds for all kinds of mayhem. Steve was always the instigator and the stakes got higher and higher each time we went out. It started with egging houses and throwing toilet paper into trees. Then it escalated to vandalism of cars -- sometimes letting the emergency brake loose on hills or graded driveways. Before long he wanted to have contests to see who could steal the most from unlocked cars and garages.

Eventually, I got too scared to take part in these hijinks, and he didn't seem to sorry that I stopped coming around. I heard through my parents that they eventually got arrested, not for stealing but for vandalizing shrubbery. They developed a technique called "bush-jumping." Two or more kids would get into someone's front yard garden and start jumping up and down on their flowers, shrubs, bushes, etc., until they had destroyed everything. They got caught one night and were sentenced to a year of payback by rebuilding all the gardens they'd destroyed.

By my junior year in high school we had lost touch completely. I've looked for him on Facebook, but he doesn't seem to exist there.

from Dismembers

from False Correspondences

Aggressions grey with the weather
as victors again begin to overwrite history.

One is only noticed as bones show through,
as veins vine blue and bulging.

Blink and the landscape is suddenly gone lush,
blink again and it begins to wither inward.

Everyone here says hello.
Note that the enclosed photos glow in the dark.

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