~*COME HERE TO BE PEACEFUL BE RESTFUL AND REMEMBER*~
‘COME HERE TO BE PEACEFUL BE RESTFUL AND REMEMBER'
This was the inscription on the stone monument of the Cook City War Memorial Park. Below the imposing black caps of this grammatical fallacy was inscribed the name of every Cook County resident who had died in service to the United States Armed Forces. Even one poor bastard who had died in peacetime. I never knew our little town was so involved in the military-industrial complex, but then, I never knew I was so emotionally affected by the idea. Every time I looked at those names I had to swallow a tear or two.
It was a special place. I often met him here. Now it was going to be special forever, to everyone. Not my decision of course, but his. I couldn't care less what everyone thought of the Cook City War Memorial Park. But, I thought, whatever, if this is where it has to happen this is where it's going to happen.
But now I had no time to look at the monument, no time to cry, and I doubted that I could force a tear even if I envisioned a GI lying helpless in a Vietnamese jungle screaming for his mother as a snake crawled over the gaping hole where his left arm had once been attached to his body. A plane delivering Napalm screeching overhead.
Nothing fazed me. I was rather intent on keeping my attention focused on the situation at hand. The private war of my fucked-up life. I wondered for a moment (because I knew it was going to happen) if my name would be chiseled on that monument when he finally up and killed me.
My mind wandered from this possibility to the slightly less far-fetched, and actually very probable, contention that my classmates would set up a little memorial in the school courtyard and discuss the nature of my death in frightened lunchroom whispers as two or three blubbering cheerleaders gave speeches about what a beautiful, talented girl I was.
I laughed out loud.
"What are you laughing at!" He shouted. A tremor shot through his arm and the gun rattled violently. He wrapped both hands around the thing and still he couldn't stop shaking. He didn't have the nerve required to adequately handle a firearm. Me, on the other hand...
But then I remembered I didn't have the gun and there wasn't much of a chance that he'd blow his own hand off. Damn. It didn't matter how steady he was. A gun makes you larger than life, better than ability.
"Nothing. So do it."
He talked almost exclusively with his eyebrows. His forehead was lined far too liberally for someone his age. A few drops of sweat were moving like slinkies down the ridges of confusion, and I had a hard time pinpointing the expression.
Anger. Resolution. Intimidation? Love. Ha. Sudden regret. Terror. Revelation? Epiphany is a better word.
He let out a shaky breath.
"What happened to you?" he asked softly, with a tone that made me pause. It threw my concentration off balance and for a moment I thought it was that same lackadaisical puppy-love tone he had used....never mind, it sure as hell wasn't. A vague patina of anger glazed this tone, and I returned to my regularly scheduled stony indifference.
"You can't remember anything, can you? Can't you even read?" I asked playfully, with a happy-go-lucky smile that made the gun shake faster. I gestured to the monument. He looked over.
"Come here to be peaceful be restful and remember..." he mumbled, and looked right back at me as if his neck had been jerked into place, "what bullshit."
"You know exactly what happened, Harrison."
Resting in peace, not even dead yet (but calm in the knowledge that we would be), we took the time to remember...each of us in our turn...
~*THE ABODE OF ALL*~
An obsession, being in essence nothing more than a passion which has somehow crossed the breadth of reality, has the power to overthrow, confound, and nullify a person's mind. The autonomy of obsession lies beyond the dominion of the tangible, and in little time, before you even realize it, it can cause detachment, insanity, death of the former self.
His presence coursed through my veins, too painfully beautiful to be anything besides sudden death, the day after I decided that I loved him. A smile, baited with fundamental patience, quieted an anguish which screamed inside as I greeted him. I love you, I wanted to immediately say, casting myself at his feet and surrendering myself to the unearthly possibility that he might notice, but I rethought my strategy. My role was not an easy one to comprehend, after all. Nothing, however, not even the undeniable reality of the situation, was enough to beat back my obsession, as ravenous as it was. Only nothing could tear me from my determination that I was meant for him.
That he was meant for me, rather. I throw the qualifying titles of ownership too easily here. He was not married; that would almost certainly have been a deterrent. My mind chooses its obsessions with all the tactical consideration of a military strategist, and though my worship was presently scheduled only to be one of distance punctuated by the occasional one-sided flirtation, I would not have risked the all-consuming jealousy which a marriage on his part would have doubtless brought to the equation. Young he was not either–at least not by the standards set for the attentions of a seventeen-year-old girl. He was little more than Mr. Harrison, greenest of the Cook High School English teachers, marked by a permanently confused countenance and an outward youthful sarcasm which for some reason or another made me think of his first name, ‘Frank', as completely inapplicable. He walked lazily for a man of 31, his eyes as keen as hazel glass when he talked our class through its daily assignments. Those eyes always had a way of falling to rest on me, as I sat with an expression of outward nonchalance permeating my humble face. He never wanted to play favorites. I said he wasn't allowed to make it known that an ‘us' existed. I was a manipulative, calculating strategist from the beginning. Plotting his demise. Plotting my conquest.
Don't get me wrong, I beg you. I was not so unscrupulous as I seem here on the printed page. But I was, if anything, a conqueror. My romantic pursuits were few, but my thoughts of passion and desire were so much that when I laid my claim on an interest, my follow-through was liable to seem so impunitous and rash as to label me a corruptor of romance itself, one who turned wholesome courtship into a war of strategy. The tactics I implemented in my research and planning were often not applicable in life and love, but remained strongly advocated by my lovesick brain.
He saw this in my eyes–cynical Harrison who had never heard me speak a word in his class that was not calculated, edited, and second-guessed a million times by my own plotting brain–I knew he did. The subtle way my brow would knit and the piercing black gaze which followed his every step. My love was decided and I would challenge any who thought it untrue. Such was the true nature of my consciousness–I had felt this way before. But the moment, the drive, the obsession would never give in to the evidence of my past failings. The obsession was just too vicious.
A man, normal in his romantic intuition, will instinctively feel that youth is what makes a girl vulnerable. Therefore they assume that to seduce a girl is to take advantage of this innocence... an unheard of atrocity. And very true. A man can never seduce a girl, for a man, in rational thought, is incapable of realizing the truth. The great silent blessing of modern society. The great unspoken truth that the young woman has all the power of the world in her hands if she chooses to wield it. If she finds a man unwise enough to ignore the taboos and completely disregard the actual truths...if she holds herself with a stratagem so cunning that she is able to distinguish the romantics from the perverts....if she finds a man who will truly fall in love with her...then a girl is promised the power. The laws have a brilliance I never imagined before I put them to use. Were such laws not written by foolish old men and lobbied by foolish old mothers, I would swear that they were created by the girl for the girl, formulated for the cunning mind in order to keep men in subservience and fear.
A plotting, calculating little vixen from the very beginning was I
The beginning happened without suggestion, actually. I remember it grandly now, embellished over time by legend and discourse of a wandering subconscious obsessed with vague memories.
In my junior year of high school (as I was still 16, making this memory a year old) I first encountered Franklin Harrison, ducking into my homeroom. He was coming in for a stapler. Simply, innocently, he would rather, I know, have never done such a thing. I can't imagine what would have happened had he decided not to do so. My life (and therefore his) may have gone on as usual. I may have bypassed the obsession and fallen into the normal mode of teenage social interaction. He may have become one of the everyday, overlooked, udnerappreciated teachers at Cook High. Or maybe not. Why dwell on the possibilities of a reality which never happened, and never will.
I sat in the back of the class, just inside the room, directly to the right of the door. I engineered my position with the vainest of intentions; to not be cursed by the images of students behind me snickering and talking (to observe, or to guard my own pride), to be the last inside the classroom door, and to be the first out. Homeroom was a hellish nightmare of high school at its worst; a dozen people with nothing in common but the letters of their last name, thrust into a room and forced to interact for an hour or so each month. Pointless surveys, troublesome report cards, heinous schedules....and every time I wondered why a punishment like homeroom was necessary, whether I had gotten a D in Calculus or not.
That day in September (the exact date escapes me...you'll pardon my obsession for not being as complete and eerie as expected in the early days), the group had been issued a standard information pamphlet for all parents concerning drugs in school, and was forced to wait the remainder of fifty minutes in complete misery.
My left leg languished out in the aisle, my foot sliding in and out of my platform sandal as a barometer for my boredom and discomfort. I doodled a nondescript collection of swirls and curly-q's on my notebook, and only a moment after I began doing so did I relaize that I had promised mysefl not to vandalize that year's school supplies with my own pointless drawings. I shrugged the self-depreciation off and blamed homeroom, swinging my knee back and forth in the aisle.
I heard the door open, and, with a sigh, pulled my leg beneath the desk. I would rather have conceded to a moment's conformity rather than draw extra attention to myself by having the unwelcome visitor stumble over my potruding limb. As I settled in my desk as well as I could, I heard a rapt, crisp knock at the now-opened door. It resonated with a bright rhythm despite the melancholy echo, and the homeroom teacher lifted her head. A smile broke out on her face.
"What now?" she asked.
Seconds later, I had my first glimpse of the angelic, perfect, real-life projection of my innermost fantasies known as Franklin Harrison.
I am not one, usually, to remember such things in detail, but I was struck breathless, beside myself as he entered, and had no choice but to concentrate all my senses on the figure of my Love, standing six foot one in the flourescent classroom light. The New Guy wearing khaki slacks and a white dress shirt, stopped next to my desk as he addressed the teacher. He faced away from me. It was a lovely view, as I remember it. His slim waist and strongly arched masculine back. Raven hair, and beautiful hands.
He spoke at last, and I'll say that three seconds was much too long for me to wait for his voice. "A stapler." He pronounced, the casually energetic tone causing me to lose grip on my pencil. It fell quietly onto my notebook as I folded my arms across my desk, knowing in that instant that I was infatuated. The voice was deep, as any man's voice should be, but not so deep that a misleading facade of machismo and superiority would be projected. His confidence was evident, though. A loose, upright carriage, that lazy walk I have spoken of coupled with a voice of pure vivacity. An aura of quiet preeminence, all this and I hadn't even seen the man's face yet!
The two, teacher and Demigod, continued their discussion, he retrieved a stapler, laughed a penetrating, exalting laugh, and turned to exit.
I will not dwell on the details of the most beautiful face I have ever seen; I am sure that as my memoir progresses the bits and pieces which made him flawless will become evident. All I will say is that his eyes, the color of milk chocolate, met my unwavering stare for only a moment, took my breath and my heart, and walked out of the room with only a boyish, indelible smile that spoke volumes of a future he still did not realize.
I watched him as he left, and who knows how many times the teacher called my name before I actually responded.
Helen. As in ‘of Troy'. The face that launched a thousand ships. Helen. Easy, breathy, barely two syllables. The connotation solid but elegant. Unsuggestive, plain Helen. Not to be ignored is the inclusion of that first syllable. HEL-en. Hell. En. It was a devellish, unloved, unlovable name. Helen with no surname, as I preferred it. Every now and again I would be referred to as Miss Bartness by the adults who knew no better, but the more knowledgeable of the world at large knew me as cold, vicious Helen.
"Yes?" I replied, snapping into full consciousness. It turned out only to be an attendance call. But I would never be as fully present as I had been only two minutes before. A sliver of my mind would forever belong to the young educator who had breezed in and out, a man whose name I still did not know.
I was able to witness two girls in front of me conversing...one leaned over the aisle, smacking gum as she tossed her bleached-blonde hair over one shoulder. The second, a brunette, gave a flashy smile and spoke. Serruptitiously I pretended to continue my doodles as I eavesdropped. I was talented at doing such things, and the information I collected was often quite useful. This incident would prove that.
"Was that him?" the brunette asked.
"Mmm-hmm. I have him fourth period."
"I know. He's not as fun to have as you'd think...I mean, he's not that strict but he's really smart and stuff...but you have no choice but to pay attention."
They exchanged a few giggles.
"Mr. Harrison, huh?" the brunette continued as the blonde nodded, "I'll remember that. I'll try to transfer out of Mrs. Roland's to take his class."
"It's Advanced Placement."
"I'm smart enough."
The bell rang.
I did not make the effort to cover up the section of my notebook where I had fused the name ‘Harrison' into my curly-q doodles. I smiled inwardly as I gathered my books, and the school year began to look a whole lot brighter.
I took him home with me...that Mr. Franklin Harrison, teacher of first and fourth period Advanced Placement English, third period teacher of Creative Writing, aged 31, five year veteran of the education profession, formerly a resident of a large university town up north....all information I had gotten from fellow classmates, friends, teachers, and school faculty rosters. I took him home with me not in body, but in unwavering memory and interest that filled that night's thoughts with an intense, surreal pleasure. I was mystified by my own infatuation....and yet I knew that I had felt such things before. But Harrison, his name forever drawn in twisting, spiralling letters on my Physics notebook, was destined to be different. This I could feel in my heart, in my mind, and in other places on which the mind tends to play tricks and to which the heart constantly makes false promises. I knew upon waking that I would have to make an extra effort to accelerate destiny in the correct direction. I promptly decided to reserve a place in next semester's creative writing course, and though I knew the four-month wait would be insufferable, I was left that time to imagine the rewards of my effort.
During those months I took every opportunity to become acquainted with him. We exchanged smiles, I saw that our paths crossed before and after lunch each day, and I even made it my duty to pull out of the parking lot directly after him each afternoon at 3:15. Between all of these chores which may have seemed like a great effort to those unacquainted with the process of passion, I memorized his face. In conversation with my friends (and, it is true, I had them) I found it difficult to supress the mention of his name at every lull, every suggestion of any subject even remotely associated with him. I hated myself for this. Not for resisting the temptation to mention him, mind you, but for not resisting. The nature of my psyche is the desire to keep things hidden, but the reality of my bright, social, open personality was to say things as I thought them. Well, perhaps then I had made admirable work of my covert lust...had I said what I was thinking, well....
You can't know the deepest haunting nuances of frustration and obsession unless you've been in the exact position, at the exact time, over a period of days and days, sometimes years and years, even the entire lifetime it takes to understand the torture. Even in retrospect I cannot fully put into words what I felt. All I knew, even then, was that it was not right. Something was uneasy about my newest craving, something beyond the limits of schoolgirl crush and harmless infatuation. Something cataclysmic was going to happen as a result of Franklin Harrison ducking into my homeroom for a stapler, I knew it from the surge of heat in my groin to the deep, unblinking, fixated stare that crept up with no notice and remained for minutes at a time. A beginning? Or an end? Only time would tell, but the course was before me and I would have to play through.
They write love songs...all the fools in the world. But the fools are really writing about obsession. Love is nothing more than a deep-rooted respect transcending description (and that, you pleabian mortals, is why the word ‘love' must exist), but obsession is what the radio plays. Obsession is what newlyweds dance to at their wedding reception. Obsession is the underlying melody that plays in supermarkets and in elevators. It exists in everyone; in the insane most intensely. Love songs tend to cease making sense once you've fallen in true love. The period of infatuation, during which you could be asked your final wish in life and the answer would be decided wthout hesitation, is the period during which the other insane people in the world will prey upon the obsessor.
But the perpetually insane....the one who spends her life in a constant waking state of clear purpose and dilluded reality...yours truly, I clarify.....is the constant predator.