The things that I see during my time in summer session leave me feeling confused about my current relationship with my optical nerves. Do I love them for their warnings regarding the coming danger, or do I hate them for the vile social interactions that, through them, I am forced to bear witness? The other day I was left loving them for the hilarious dramady they treated me to.
Eric Grassman is not a bad person. Not really. Something tells me that he is straining to clamp down on an indefinable fear inside himself. The world is too much for Eric, and it makes him lash out in ways far too creative for a securely tightened person. He has pulled some of the most outlandish stunts I have ever seen, and that’s saying quite a lot when you take into account the town/state/country where I live. I myself have made some pretty questionable moves, but Eric…
Eric is tall, like 6 foot and an inch or two, and he sports longish blond hair that on many days cries for the attention of a human hand. His face is eternally affronted, with sad eyes that constantly plead with you to tell him why. A splash of boyish freckles upon his small nose gives him an overall look of innocence, allowing us around him to forgive him his grandstanding. But the question always remains: How the fuck did he THINK of that?
And now an example: Mrs. Conway is a twit who runs a joke of an English class. Old, dry, used, and frail, her simple disconnectedness is a detriment to her students. First of all, she’s a freak and she’s losing it. I don’t know how Alzheimer’s is supposed to smell, but this woman fucking REEKS of it. Only two weeks ago the woman wore one red pump and one purple pump (in a blue dress), and as if this wasn’t bad enough, they had different sized fucking HEELS for Christ’s sake. I swear it’s true. How do you DO that? The moment you put them on in the morning—I mean truly, the fucking INSTANT the second shoe slips onto your foot—you know you’ve fucked up, right? Even if you ARE color blind, just the feel of things…doesn’t she have that sense anymore? Fuck, what a dingy broad. Eric Grassman hates her, and can’t tolerate even the sight of her. He visibly shakes the entire forty-five minutes we sit in class, mute and stupid. His fists balled, he glares her in the eye, calculating his next disruptive move. Often times during attendance, she’ll call his name and sparks fly like a dragging muffler: “Eric Grassman?”
“Eric Grassman, are you here?” She is, for the record, staring right at him.
“Are you here?”
The snort of his disgust is enough to break glass. “Are you fucking kidding me?!”
Conway is unflappable in her senility. “No, Eric. I’m not.”
“YES. I AM HERE, IDIOT.”
“Thank you, Eric. Tonya Gelfy?”
Conway’s class is on the second floor of the high school. Eric sits by the window. The windows are not sealed, they can open. Can you hear the train coming? On this morning, Eric had something very special planned for roll-call. I was dreaming of a life with no sorrow when several audible gasps roused me and made me turn in my seat, just in time to see Eric’s feet as he climbed out the window. I wasn’t shocked—this is Eric we’re talking about, after all—but my curiosity was highly peaked and I was delighted to see where this insanity was careening. Eric sat down on the ledge with a decent amount of grace, and began to swing his feet, smiling into the sun, as if it were Sunday and he was on the docks or a remote vacation island. Immediately following, Conway entered the room wordlessly and closed the door behind her. And as always, without uttering one word of greeting to any of us, she walked slowly to her desk, opened her attendance book, and began to read the names, completely unaware of the tense and expectant air. Eventually, inevitably, she came to Eric. “Eric Grassman?” Soft and whiney, like an old, airless cow. “Eric?” We all looked around at each other, our smiles wary. None of us palled around with Eric—he was simply too bizarre for even the likes of us—but none of us wanted to give him up by glancing out the window at his swinging feet. “…Eric…? Does anybody know if Eric has been in school today, or where he might be?”
How do you answer that question? You don’t. You let it lie. You watch with a pale smile as life unravels around you.
Soon after role was over, Conway put her prissy little fucking book away and turned to the chalk board, making meaningless scratches upon it with yellow chalk as she blathered on about someone long dead. As she did, Eric climbed stealthily yet casually back in the window, took his seat, and folded his hands in front of him. He looked at no one, he smiled at none of us, he made no gestures of conquest or victory. Eric does what he does for himself. The other members of the strained class faced forward again, filled with good humor and confusion, pleasantly apprehensive to follow the coming fallout. I couldn’t help but let my gaze stray. I really admired what this young man was doing; I wanted to see if there was a clue in his eyes. Finally he glanced at me and gave a wink, nodding his head slightly, indicating that I should face forward now.
Conway turned back around to face the class. I hadn’t been listening to her prattling one iota, so even the mundane quality of her question, wrapped in the odd actions of the last ten minutes, made my head spin just a touch. “Does anybody have any idea what followed?” Huh. The answers seemed endless, and since no one had been paying Conway any attention, none were willing to try and respond.
No one, that is, except Eric. He raised his hand. “Yes, Eric. You have an answer?”
“He drank himself to death. He died in a gutter.”
“Well, no, Eric. Not at all. No, that’s not right at all. He lived for years after.”
“I thought he died.”
“No, he didn’t. Not then.”
“Okay, so he didn’t.”
“Don’t get angry, Eric. It’s not my fault he didn’t die.”
“I’M NOT ANGRY.”
Conway gave up the conversation and turned back to the board. I was dying from joy inside. The whole scenario was playing out perfectly. Conway wrote half a letter and then froze. She remained stiff for what seemed like a fantastic eternity, and then pivoted slowly back to the class. “Eric, what’s going on?”
Eric jerked his head back, slighted. “What do you mean by that?”
“What are you up to?”
“Nothing! I’m just sitting here! GOD!”
“Eric, don’t think you can pull the wool over my eyes. You weren’t here a second ago, now where were you?”
Eric’s face grew red. He was honestly incensed even though he was in fact guilty. I know the feeling exactly. I think it was fun for him, to play this out. He was in a test of wills with Conway, and this acting was merely part of the struggle. “That’s fucking BULLSHIT. I’ve been sitting here the whole time!”
“No. No you haven’t been.”
“YES I HAVE! GOD! Why are you always AT me?!”
Conway snapped, but only a tad. It was like hearing a twig break in a hurricane. She set her chalk down hard. “I am not always at you, Eric. You were most certainly not at your desk when I called roll, and I want to know where you were.”
“NO. I was HERE. I ANSWERED you!”
“No you didn’t!”
“Yes I DID!”
“Eric you were not at your desk!”
“No, YOU’RE full of bullshit, young man!” Holy fucking crap. Wow. That was big for Conway.
“You can’t say that to me!” Such feigned indignity. I love it. Eric just might be a genius.
“Dammit Eric! The door was SHUT! I closed it myself! You were not at your desk and you did not answer me!”
“You’re crazy. I don’t have to sit here and take this.” And with that, he simply stood up and walked out of the room.
The class sat stunned. Conway didn’t know what hit her. She looked at all of us. There were answers inside our heads. She knew it. As thick as she is, she knew it. She picked up her chalk. She cleared her throat; she pulled at her dress, and left a huge, yellow smudge of chalk down the front. Classic Conway. She blinked. “Ok. So. Does anybody have any idea what followed?” Needless to say, we did not.
Later that day, as I rode my bike home, I thought it might be a fucking GAS to make friends with Eric Grassman, and watch the explosions go off all around him, and to study the craters he left in his wake. I wondered if he had a place to live following the summer session.
I was getting to like Eric Grassman, and I wanted to know what the world looked like to him. It made it all the worse, then, two days later when Dougy the Rhino beat the shit out of Eric right there in Conway’s class.
But more on that later…LATER.