Some of my earliest memories are of school. They are hazy and colored like an old 3d. The images mix with my emotions, the emotions mix with my narrative, some stories are my own some are stories I saw or learned that I have melded with my own. I relate them to you as they come to me to give you a sense of what is normal for me, so that we are on the same page when I attempt to explain how my life has since turned on it’s head.
Standing on the roof of a flat brick terrace I watch the bridge joining the five buildings that hang 50 kms above terra surface in the high stratosphere. A legion of young men and women are clearing into the innards of the north-most facility. Around the edges of the building I can see clouds hanging below around the massive floating block that makes up the north quadrant. When there is no transport, the skyports are peaceful and empty and you can see down to the hazy orange smog that obscures the earth many miles below. Sunrise.
K has his arms spread wide standing dangerously close to the tunnel mouth, where it drops away into the atmosphere where the spacehunks in their space hulks haul god-knows-what through the galaxy.
“Welcome –“ He says reverently, “To Sky-dumb.” He draws out the last word like an opera singer.
“It’s sky-dom. As in dominion, dom-ass.” I laugh. It’s euphoric being out on the deck. “What are you in anyways, fashion camp?”
Me, I was computer camp, but there was such thing as fashion camp.
I look at my shoes. If I let go of the railing I will lift right off the platform with the updraft.
Sky-Dom is an ambiguous term anyways, so we just call it ‘The Centre’. It is computer camp, it is fashion camp. It is students in all their glory. In the prime hall, the young people convene daily, the tables are set up and the tables are cleared.
The dorms are idyllic, geeks and popular kids, bad boys and japs. Leading the care free live winning, competing, high energy, hormone charged. The Centre itself is a massive building with no expenses spared, their are thousands of youth, in different groups and different functions and structures, interacting in shared common spaced. It is a macro-cosmic microcosm, all youth of the same age. The relationships between boy and girl, in a group where image is everything, and self awareness is not yet an issue to be internalized and mulled over. Everybody has their role, they are who they appear to be, they shine through in their Darwinian colors, everybody has so much and so much excitement for life. children growing into adolescents into adults becoming themselves and learning to live communally.
But it is also the little tensions, the disputes, the sparks between people. In the mess hall it is always crowded, too crowded. As a group of boys passes a group of girls everyone is pressed hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, the noise is an irremediable cacophony of excited chatter of girls, roll-calling of boys, everyone talking all at once expressing the happenings in their life, the excitements, their wants their needs, laughing, taunting, catcalling. A sound rings out like a slap across the face, all attention turns. There has been a commotion, the group of girls is escorting one of their own, sailing their way through the crowd in a tight formation. The boys are heading down the stairs, backs shackling like dogs for action. The girl is offended, distressed, the boy in the other group is looking back justifying himself with a taunt.
I ask: “Did he just slap her?”
Someone answered: “He grabbed her coochie.”
Things are getting out of hand. The girl is whisked away by her friends to gossip the drama in private, to work it through amongst themselves.
When I think back to it, I am like two different people, myself who wanders through the memory making observations peering this way and that, and myself who is a character in the story and takes on roles and narratives: Our protagonist is tall, dark, soft and introspective with cropped black hair. He is good looking and should rightly be with the cool group but his peculiar introspection keeps him with a small group of side-liners or with a few friends. Sometimes when things like this happen, these little rifts in the idyllic fabric of the shared conscious image of the community, he will see bugs. Big blackish-red, greasy looking cockroaches. Suddenly: There in the clean red expanse of carpeted hallway, or in his dorm strewn youthfully with brand new gifted comforters from his parents and the latest in personal music listening technology and tossed clothes. Looking up from his book he might see a few reddish bugs sitting at the foot of the bed waving their antennae.
Sometimes there are dark clouds of tears amidst the community, or someone who has spent the whole season laughing and playing is suddenly becoming dark and withdrawn, outcast by the fun-seekers.
“How’s your senior year?” Didn’t you hear, his brother got discharged.”
“Discharged, for what?
“Preggo, he had an unplanned, he’s leaving.”
Sometimes the dramas between the students are more intense.
“He’s going groundside” he heard it being whispered by his friends in the hall.
And while his friends are droning on in his ear, everything turns into a solid wall of sound far away, because he would look up and be focusing on the crawling beetles a few feet away from him on an empty chair or under a piece of furniture.
There is a basket and a counter of baked delicacies in the luxurious bakery adjoining the Centre. Sometimes when no one is around I take a delicious looking baked cookie from the basket, it is assorted with goods. There are row upon row of long plain tables set up in the conference hall. We bring our computers to the expo, but we also set up here to work and study sometimes, a microcosmic platonic staircase of lounging intellects and the everlasting sunny days of spent youth. Our protagonist is running his fingers through his cropped black hair, he is happy to discuss technology or philosophy or politics with his geek friends, and the girls think he is weird that he does not chase after them the ways the other boys do. After the expo I have left my desktop computer tower on the tables, they are empty barring the belongings strewn across the scene, we are all out now.
But it is starting to rain, and there is a frantic retreat, the guys are all coming back in their mixed brand sportswear, holding their techy back-packs over their heads to avoid the rain … It has barely started, but rain is taboo; it is an un-comfortability that is not tolerated.
“Who in their right minds wants to be left out in the rain?”
They leave me standing to feel it on my face, it almost quenches my thirst. Then I am swept up with the herd, streaming together in through the large entrance beside the Centre, The same fish, different schools, tribes with a subtly different culture. The Centre is massive, glass walls, modern turrets, huge expanses of carpeted common areas like perfectly clean red football fields. I am worried that my computer could get damaged by the rain, and when I see the people streaming in luck and confusion, I am worried it might get stolen, so I hurry back.
Time passes, the rain has left, but the confusion has not. Things are in disarray, people in positions of authority have left their posts at the camp and it is being filled by little eddies of anarchy. Everyone is stealing cookies now, the small chocolate chip cookies from the basket, then from the counter. One day I pass through the bakery and the basket is empty but for crumbs.
There is a war starting somewhere.