Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hallway Monitor

(Washington High School’65, St. Paul, Minnesota)

The girl, Gayle Johnson, was one of the sophomore cheerleaders at Washington High School.  A nice girl, usual dress for that time; she was fifteen; I was seventeen at the time, a senior, and a hallway monitor during the lunch periods.  It was the summer of ’65. She was lean, but shapely, and feminine; smart looking; not real tall, shorter than she was taller, with big eyes, and wavy soft blond hair; an eye catcher. Every day of school, five days a week she’d come walking down that hallway with two or so of her girlfriends. It took all of a few minutes.  She never said more than hello, along with giving me a big smile. She appeared to be popular with everybody in school. I’d actually waited for her to come along, and if she didn’t: darn if I didn’t miss seeing her.
       She looked like a soft rabbit, and those big eyes, a little beauty, without a name. I hadn’t thought positive about any girl in particular at Washington High, except I could have thought positive about her, and I was dating a girl from Johnson High School on the East Side of town.
       It looked to me, the day that girl started school, and passed my area, turning right to enter the lunchroom, we connected eye to eye, once and forevermore, never to forget—; at least halfway down the hallway  this eye contact started if not sooner, as if we were both connected, attached: like white on rice.
       She appeared to be shy, but was she, perhaps I was?  She was never by herself. Her head was always clumped with other heads. Not looking towards the lunchroom door at all, but at me, as if I was a window, and she was looking out, as I was looking in. It was as if I would kind of drift, towards her, but I never moved from the chair.
       I never talked much back then, and didn’t realize she knew more about me than I knew about her. But then, I wasn’t that much of a talking man—as I said, and therefore, hadn’t made the time to learn much about anything but fighting and drinking, and less about words, although I like poetry and art.
       I gave someone my yearbook, because some girl wanted to write in it, someone who had no name for me to recognize her with. And had I known it was Gayle, I would have said, she wasn’t shy anymore, she wrote in the book: “I love you!” I think I read it too fast, not knowing the name, and she signed it properly, but it wasn’t that. Boys are different than girls, and I thought: who is this, and a few friends said: a sophomore, yet I couldn’t put two and two together, had I, we could have made a good hoot together, and who knows what from there; I would have taken my pushchair in the hallway and there might have been a romance in the makings—who’s to say; but I didn’t bat an eye. It’s not that she wasn’t worth the time to investigate; the thing is I didn’t take it serious, and to be frank I didn’t think she paid any real attention to me, other than the hallway romance.  But in 1994, evidently she reached the point where the boldness came to a head, and she called me up, at work. And I still didn’t put two and two together.
       No; it was Gayle Johnson, but nobody told me her name, that it was the big eyed girl. How I found her name out wasn’t even in 1994, when she called me.  I was not a married man at the time, and she wanted to meet, and I had a few bad experiences in meeting with old female friends, so I declined. Hence, there she was, and I say that with all sincerity, and respect. She couldn’t have been more than two years younger than I, and I thought and thought, trying to picture her, and couldn’t.

       ((I had learned in life—although I think I even knew back then, back in Washington High School, at the age of seventeen, in that hallway, knew what I know now, just I got to know it better, from decade to decade, my discernment got sharper, or perhaps one might say, ‘hogwash,’ should they look back on my life, I had picked out quite a lot of losers, and it gets worse, but I did noticed those girls coming down that hallway to the lunch room, their hips under their dresses, leaving the smell of perfume as they opened the lunchroom doors, as they passed, I just didn’t give them much attention, if indeed that is what they wanted, and they gave me the impression they were just female-dandies.
       On the other hand, I suppose I was hard to read. And perhaps they saw in me, something scary, who’s to say, I was a little on the wild side, or rough side of life.
       Anyhow, I think a man, or boy, only knows what a woman wants him to know about her: a woman, if she is honest and forbearing and willing to disclose, to a  man, the secrets of being a girl or woman—womanhood—is  great: because he  will never find out in any other way, not even in books, because they’ll never believe it, or understand it, or for that matter, should you learn what little you may learn, she’ll write her own new chapter. I knew that then, and I know that now, I just know it better now. It is not that a woman is good or bad, they just get their PH.D., free of charge in psychology, methodology, philosophy,  the day they come out of their mother’s womb, yes, it is as if they’ve been studying nine months in advance, in that cocoon, nine months that will never ever be made up by boys or men, they are born with it, born with their own view points of life, even nature has no control over female systems, because women, and girls for the most part, pay little to no attention to nature.
       When those high school girls approached me in the hallway, they’d stop the giggling and laughing, and then as they moseyed on past me, in their simple gingham dresses and silks, and crepe and such, they’d start back up, but Gayle was different, it was like she couldn’t help herself. It wasn’t even her fault—she just didn’t fuss, rather she focused.
       I never did talk about her to anyone, so no one could have known my attraction to her—save her: with her face so watchful and bold and discreet, all at the same time.
       I never had to look at my watch at all to tell when five minutes after twelve came, or twenty-five minutes after twelve came, because I could tell by Gayle’s lunch routine.
       During this time it was like I would be drifting up the hallway without watching myself do it. And be looking out for her: it was the time she’d begin to turn the corner where the stairs were to the lunch hallway.
       Boys are different than girls—I know I already said that, but they are: we all know that, but don’t digest it properly: girls get discouraged, boys never do, even at 60 or 70, men are taking a double take on every skirt, and nowadays it more pants than skirts, that has a decent pair of legs under it. Perhaps, Gayle got discouraged, I never made a move, which’s to say: especially when she wrote that line in my yearbook: “I love you,” and never got a response: I think she really meant it. And she was a doll.)(—But there was still something, perhaps that intangible thing: in part, something in her air, her face, those eyes—and there she was dancing with me at the last high school dance of the institute’s year: before this, she was walking and talking in her amicable way, with her girlfriends, whom were surely saying, “Who can know this guy’s thoughts, least of all us, who…” And it was only one dance to be, if I remember, and it was a slow dance, and my face kind of went absolutely impenetrable, and then Mr. Turner, turned up as if out of the blue, and approached me, said, “I hear you got booze on your breath!” I was ready to curse Mr. Turner—with his proprietor tone—with not a word but a sentence or paragraph, but I told myself why start now, I was bad in many ways but any man can swear; he was fifty or so, my height, thinning hair, eyebrows a tinge bushy: he scolded me and my friends with immediate Anglo-Saxon classic dialect, whom at other times appeared to be involved with school activities, of no certain sort, but all of them. “Yes, yes, I wasn’t drinking 7-Up; beer!” The unpardonable sin at seventeen   —I wanted to say, but didn’t say; and I too wanted to say and didn’t say: “…who’s the troublemaker, the scalawag?” It wasn’t a question really, rather a statement-question he asked, and I wasn’t used to lying, so I said, “Yaw, a few beers,” and he asked me to leave, lest I force him to call the police because he saw my mouth tighten, and I started to grind my teeth, those back molars,  mashers, and mashing and mashing, and the Irish blood in me was getting hot: my face perhaps crimson color, and I didn’t have the words, but I had the fighting spirit, and some skills in that area, and there wasn’t much fear in me in those far-off days, if indeed it turned physical, but I left well enough alone: another misbegotten something, opportunity. It was as though there were some intangible and invisible forces working against her and me. Gayle knew for sure I suppose: right then and there: if not known should have known: I was interested, attracted to her! With that inscrutable female foreknowledge, which is born in, and every woman possess even if she doesn’t us it, which is usable at birth…intuition that says the fish is on the hook.))  

       And then the year, 2003 came, the year my mother passed on, and I did some housecleaning, I found my High School 1965-yearbook, looked up her name, went to the page her picture was on, and lo and behold, it was the pretty petite, big eyed blond with the wavy hair. Had I known in 1994, or even in 1965, I would have—most likely would have: packed up my suitcase and…well: let’s leave it at that.
       It wasn’t her fault. And it wasn’t my fault that we never met again. And it wasn’t being lucky or unlucky; it’s just how it was.  

Short Story No: 1000 (January 4, 5, 6, and 2014) / First Short Story for 2014 / For: Gayle Johnson
By Dennis L. Siluk, Dr. H.c. © 2014 “The Hallway Monitor”