John Knowles

Wee hours before Friday.

With a little love from somebody, what might I not be? With an unconditional blessing for who I am, what might I do with my life? Yesterday I got myself a two liter of Coca-Cola and between then and now, drank the whole thing. The experience was rather rejuvenating, and now a few memories detach themselves from the background. I was with a friend on the Downtown Mall during the Christmas season 34 years ago, and I looked for a gift for my mother. One empty building had been converted to a book fair, so we examined some of the titles on display, ranged about on tables. Empty handed, we moved on to the locally owned Book Mark, where I found a modest hardcover of the paintings of Claude Monet and picked it up.

Somewhere that same day I bought the paperback edition of A Separate Peace by John Knowles and began to reread it. The story was about the envy of an intellectual nerd in prep school for his friend who was athletic and charismatic; about the unaccountable irrational in everyday life and how it intrudes on our awareness. Thinking back, were you supposed to like Gene the intellectual or not? At the time, I sympathized with his character, even though he was guilty of a strange crime, while Finny was his innocent victim. I don’t remember the ending very well, except I know that the truth of the incident between them is found out in a mock trial. Envy and jealousy are odd emotions, often destructive. I’ve known a few people consumed by these feelings. They don’t lead to anything good. 

Colin Kelly

Midnight. Had a dream of intrigue about a girl I remember from junior high school named Cindy. Her surname was Germanic. She once was the girlfriend of a certain Bret. But the dream in waking context makes little sense. She was identified in a news article under a pseudonym, as if to remember her had been dangerous. I associate her with a boy named Tim, who in the cafeteria said that Flowers for Algernon was kind of dirty. One time during PE he mistook Cindy for another girl named Kathleen, on whom I had a desperate crush. Maybe being reminded of her was the danger, the intrigue, the cause for the cloak and dagger. I protected myself from the heartache of forty years ago, only to decipher the censorship upon waking up. Just a missed opportunity when I was young and too involved in my Burroughs books, which also are mostly destroyed in the fire. Ninth grade was also the year I read A Separate Peace in the springtime. And again I note that I must make my mission west on N Park to pay my respects to my old school steeped in history. The memories will doubtless be painful— and pleasant. So many regrets for things done and not done. I loved my experience at Kelly. The staff had so much warmth and compassion for us boys and girls, though they ruled us with an iron fist. We were hard to contain. A band of us met in a little glen across N Park before school and smoked pot. When passing them on the right side on my walk to class, I silently judged them for being unserious students. And yet I was the rock and roll drummer guy, sort of caught between academics and music. I survived school by cultivating the image of musician, which my illicit peers understood and respected. It was their language, really, which I parroted on drum kit. The kids thought I was going to be a star, and with my intelligence maybe they were right. But it wasn’t the life I wanted, and I should’ve been more assertive about it then. All I wished for was to be average and in the grayness between black and white. Just to get by and live to tell the tale…