Where are you tonight, Peggy Sue?
By Anthony Buccino
But here I am, in striped bell-bottom slacks, a tie-dyed shirt, and long hair hiding any kind of collar Ė leaving the seeming safety of an institutional green homeroom for some unknown class.
It was like getting hit in the face with a frozen sock.
Or finding my geometry book had been pierced by a ten-penny nail into the workbench by my pals in woodshop and being in desperate need of a crowbar to pry it loose to be on my way.
Donít say youíve never had that feeling. Weíve all had that feeling. This morning I woke up from 20 winks and realized I was in homeroom again.
This time I didnít know which homeroom, only that the bell had just rung and I was due in my first period class in less than three minutes.
Trouble this morning was, well, I didnít know what my first class was or where I was supposed to be.
You see, the last thing I remembered was that I was a 40-something fossil trying to explain to some 20-somethings who Dr. Kildare was.
Forget about Ben Casey . . . these kids didnít know what television was like before Sesame Street Ė or that the only show on TV in color was Walt Disney on Sunday night.
Just to see it, we had to visit a rich relative who had a color TV. Then weíd all watch in wide-eyed amazement a the simulated fireworks display when Tinkerbell was shot out of a cannon.
But here I am, in striped bell-bottom slacks, a tie-dyed shirt, and long hair hiding any kind of collar Ė leaving the seeming safety of an institutional green homeroom for some unknown first period class.
If only I could find my books, that might tell me what year it is. From the year I might be able to do the math to figure what grade Iím in and where I should be.
Oh, please donít let it be algebra. Save that for Peggy Sue.
Perhaps I should be headed for gym.
No way would I ever remember the combination to my lock.
Was it 14-right, 26-left, 36-right? Iíd never be able to fake it. All those gym lockers look the same. Might as well take the zero instead of facing climbing the rope to the ceiling. What kind of torture is that to subject a kid to, anyway?
If not gym, then what class am I on my way to?
Perhaps it is a long-forgotten English class and I have to give an oral book report. Iíd rather be in the Navy chipping paint on the side of a battleship than do an oral book report.
But am I 16 years old? Or have I already written my first or second book? Would it be possible to give a book report on a book I havenít yet written?
Oh, no fate could be worse than an oral book report.
Maybe itís that sophomore English class with the blond teacher with the hoop earrings and modern rap?
And do I have to read Dylan Thomasí ďFern HillĒ again? How could that teacher have ever heard of Dylan Thomas Ė of all the poets in that anthology Mary Ellen loaned me!
Please donít tell me Iím in junior high school with that battle-ax who taught me seventh and eighth grade Social Studies.
There we had to write with cartridge pens! ďYes, Maíam, Iíll have that report on Our Town in the Revolution by tomorrow.Ē Or kill myself, instead.
No. Life canít be that cruel.
But where am I headed in this high school hallway?
To the senior lounge? If only this apparition would bring me back to one good day in school, I might be able to figure out the rest of life from there.
There must have been one good day in all of high school . . . now when might that have been?
As the crowds pale in these hallowed halls, I seek an ambiguous cathartic epiphany Ė thatís what it would take to find my place among the cinder blocks and chalkboards.
But who would believe me dressed as I am?
ďPardon me, sir, Iím seeking an ambiguous cathartic epiphany. Could you direct me to the Guidance Office . . . or the nurse?Ē
Oh, the trepidation of being a teenager and having to ask an adult for something, anything, even directions, is the pinnacle of humility.
And, anyway, what grown-up would take seriously a smart-mouthed teenager using such big words in a public building?
Ah, Iíve got it! Itís French again, and my line of dialogue is ďCinq minutes, ma-ma.Ē
ďTres bien, Antoine. Cíest bonne.Ē
Next time I rise from a waking dream that tells me I am late for class, Iím going back to sleep.
My poor 40-something body canít take the shock of an algebra test. Wake me when itís over, or in cinq minutes, ma-ma.
© 1998 by Anthony Buccino
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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
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