- September 24, 2020
One of the most difficult things I had to contend with this past summer was (bear with me) the poverty of my language, which (bear with me) I might describe as “architectonic.” Like, even after that final “Leave Meeting” button—with post-charette aches as I collapsed onto my bed, where, from the corner of my eye, I could see the afternoon sky swathed with a gently distorted checkerboard of cirrocumulus clouds—still, I thought to myself what a marvelous field condition, an index of the grid and its infinite space.
Even until the last bit of summer, it persisted. I taught a class that I titled “Projection,” and whenever I tried to explain that word, it would seem to waft into the air; I would pause and examine it and wonder which of its many meanings I meant, or if it had any meaning at all. And my students, bless them, trapped somewhere in the space of Zoom, would give me shallow nods, or blank stares, or black rectangles.
By the time I had finished teaching, my high school friends were getting ready to head back to college. It meant that summer was over. So, still dizzy from the computer, I found myself at the neighborhood park one last time, splayed out on the grass, a 9-inch-post-tensioned-concrete-slab-span away from the nearest group (what looked like three guys and one girl savoring the liminal period between high school graduation and the beginning of the end, I thought, with a twinge of nostalgia). My back ached.
How was teaching? They asked. Tiring, I said. What did you teach? Uh, kinda complicated. Projection. Like in the double sense of projection as a way to represent space and as, like, a mindset for ideation. I dunno if that makes sense. Like when you project your unresolved feelings onto someone? Not really, but yeah, I guess, that too.
Zoom-faced nods. So what’s up with them? Someone suddenly wondered, pointing at that group of four recently-graduated high schoolers. One of the guys (A) was on his phone while another guy (B) was fondling the hand of the girl (C), and another guy (D) was trying to grab B’s foot; so much tension! we said, giggling and speculating. We drew closer together; someone’s foot was at the small of my back.
Maybe, I told my friends, it’s as simple as this: Are you actually going back to school? asks B, and A replies with a nod without looking up from his phone. School’s just gonna close, dude. Just stay, says B. A mumbles something. It’s all a bit garbled, because B is laying down with his eyes faraway into the sky, and C is resting her head on his chest. D is somewhere next to B’s feet, reaching up to grab at B or C, just to be a part of it all.
I’d like to think that at some point, A looks up, puts his stupid, goddamn phone in his pocket, and says, Don’t even worry. This sh— we have here slaps. I’m gonna be gone for a while, yeah, but I’ll be back, and we can do this again, even if you, like, if you two keep acting like you’re gonna f— on the grass. Like what do you think D’s thinking. I dunno, it’s not my business. But dude, it’s C. This sh— you’re messing with is like six years in the making. Don’t f— this thing up. But, dude, seriously, I’ll be back. You know, when we all go to college and come back, the best sh— is seeing how we’ve—I don’t f—ing know—grown, or some sh—. That sh—’s, like, living. I’ll be back, ok?
So I get that tight feeling in the back of my throat. I watch them pack up their stuff and shuffle towards their cars; A’s lagging in the back, on his phone. Dude… I say, and I think my friends know what I’m trying to say, finally, and suddenly I’m standing up, lagging behind B, C, and D, with my face looking down on a phone with a bunch of texts that say things like, that’s so architectonic and bruh you’d think clouds were some Postmodernist project and can’t wait to charette with you in the studio.
Before I can scream anything, I feel a nudge from the foot at the small of my back. I turn to my friend and grab his wrist, and then I drop it and collapse onto the grass.
The clouds. They’re…fluffy.