BELOW THE WATER LINE
There used to be a mailbox at the top of the hill
by the entrance to Security Steel, which also had
huge hedges all along its front. They were maybe
five feet tall and kept well-trimmed, to a severe and
squared-off shape. One time I remember, my mother
had given me about 5 letters to mail and I decided to
walk the underpass and go to that mailbox. It was a
late afternoon on a very windy and cold November
day. I can remember it well, because, as I've mentioned
previously, that is my favorite time of year and weather.
People under siege, sort of, a covered-up and protected
mentality, all scarves and coats and hats and gloves. The
mailbox was at the underpass side of the entrance. There
was another mailbox at Miller's house, the last house on
Inman Avenue, on the track's side of the street, but I didn't
want that one because I wanted an extended walk in the
wind and weather. Anyway, somehow, in the wailing wind
and without me even knowing it, when I got to the mailbox
I realized the five or six envelopes were down to three.
I'd somehow let loose of the others and they'd taken off
in the wind, because all of my re-tracing never turned
them up. I realized then and there I was entering some
big trouble - so I figured to just 'fess up and get it over
with. I didn't really have to do that, and the problem would
have come up without me being involved, but I knew they
were bills and I felt pretty bad. Anyway, my mother went
nuts on me - first for not going to the first mailbox I could
get, then for losing the letters, then for not finding them, and
then for coming home without solving the problem. She had
no idea what she'd have to do once the payments never showed
up, and to make matters worse I'd not recorded, and couldn't tell
her, which ones I'd lost. So she sent me back out to locate them,;
one of those crazy 'don't come home to you've found them' deals.
It was dark by this time, still cold and windy. I trudged out, not
saying much, just determined to get this whole problem out of
the way. Along the way back, looking everywhere, I started
thinking about the prerogatives of her position - I'd goofed,
she'd gone nutso over it, and was it or was it not a big deal?
I couldn't tell, but once again the unfairness of the situation
came to the forefront - as in 'take care of your own stupid
letters then, and leave me alone.' It began to irk me that
someone would allow themselves to accede to the 'hopeless'
pose over something they really could have controlled.
My mother did not have to have put this onus on me; all
she needed, I thought, was to take responsibility for her
own bills, do it all another time, hand it to the mailman,
or anything. To not have the self-composure to know not
to foist this task on a dumb, distracted kid was - to me -
as big of a problem, on her part, as was the loss of the
notes itself. So, I trudged on, all the while walking
myself through a hundred versions of kid-logic, deep-
thought, about the issue. Glum, and nearly annoyed
to the point of anger at having to be someone's lackey
yet again. But, it all turned out OK, because as I
crested the hill, I actually found the letters - they'd
evidently blown away at the last minute, the final
handling to the mailbox, and the wind had lifted them
and firmly held them in the hedgerow, about head-high
to me - and they almost jumped out at me. I didn't really
even have to search. I had a mind not to tell her, but I
went home and related what occurred and that
everything was safe, and mailed. To this day, I still
think about this and consider the equal stupidity of my
mother then so glibly just taking my word of having
found everything. She had absolutely nothing to go on,
except my dumb word. But, once more, I guess she
didn't think it through to that extent.
So, my lesson learned there - and a good 'Avenel' type
lesson it was - was not to let oneself get pushed into
vulnerable situations. Fight them off. Remain in the
power position whenever possible, because the 'lackey'
position just only brings trouble. Vulnerabilities. Puts
you at the mercy of someone else's foibles. And they at
yours - and these two things should never mix. I would
have been better off, even as a disobedient kid, saying
'no' to my mother initially, and just dealing with that
until a better option for letter-mailing arose. But, whatever.
Too much thought can ruin anything. And anyway, the
hedges are gone now, Security Steel is gone now, and
I am gone now.
I was just thinking of that as a perfect ending for this
series. But, I'm not stopping. There's too much to say, and
I want to keep saying it, changing it around a little, in my
own voice and way. One has to think, when doing
something like writing this, what it is people want to
read - probably details, little episodes of stuff that
happened, names and places and facts. My digressions
can certainly sometimes get me away from all that. It's
like I'm Holden Caulfield here, always bitching about how
I hate digressions (except that I don't) while making a
hundred of them along the way. That's 'Catcher In the
Rye', by the way. Same with movies - he talks and talks
about how he hates movies, and fakery and all that, but
he spends a good portion of his episodes talking about
films, going into movies, portraying scenes and characters.
Go figure. Like talking about how you so much hate driving,
while your on your way along, driving cross-country like
you were Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity together.
The Pete Whitaker story, previously related, now that too has
been in my head for two days : can't shake again that feeling
I had when he came back - big gash and scar across his head,
blind, stumbling, quiet. The transformation was mysterious and
mind-boggling to me. Scary and eerie too. I never wanted to
touch it, the whole situation spooked me. A ton of miles from
home, supposedly having fun, playing around, then climbing
a pool ladder to some exposed high-dive board or something,
and falling back down off the top - not to the water, even,
but just to the hard concrete, which then rips your skull open
and makes you blind, forever? With your parents right there
too, giving you this vacation? How horrible is all that? Right
then and there I knew I'd reached a threshold which presented
way too many questions about this entire 'God' thing; more
than I wished to answer or even ask. How could this even be?
What kind of a lame world is this, and who made this crap
then, if this is the kind of stuff you have to deal with. Unfair.
Wrong. Sorry. All those crappy-assed nuns and teachers then,
trying to tell us that God is fair, and everything's meant to be,
and all is right with God's clock and we should accept and
realize free will and original sin and all that stuff was behind
this and behind it more was God's hand reaching out to give
us appeal to prayer and his wisdom. Listen, people, I'm eleven
years old and even I know that you're making this crap up.
Don't waste your breath. Let me just walk away and cry.
I never dealt with Peter again. Poor sucker. I could still
cry for him. But I had to just walk away.