The Writing

23 December, 2016

flashing back

Skugga and Louhi are havin' none of your toadshit

Leggings. Half-shirts. Shiny spandex worn in public. I mean, it's so totally the 80s, like, omg! I'm just waiting for the Aquanet hair sculptures to return.Except wait, that's right! Climate change. No more Aquanet.

I understand that folks sometimes get nostalgic for their high school years, and I say that in the same way I'd say 'I understand that some people like brussels sprouts.' I don't get it. It's a phenomena that just doesn't grab me. I occasionally substitute teach at a high school. They're great kids. Artsy and smart and engaged and all that. And I remember, being around them, what high school was like.

(No way in hell would I want to go back to that. No, no. Nonononono.)

I think part of the reason people feel nostalgic for those teenage years is everything seemed, oh, so new. Fresh. First love! First sex! No taxes! No mortgage! It's that teetering point of adulthood without all the adult responsibility (and I recognize here the privilege I assume, but I also don't think people pine for high school who weren't privileged). I met my best friend in high school. Played my first D&D. Still play with that same best friend every other week or so, 1200 miles from where we started. High school kinda marks out who we're going to become. Maybe who we don't want to be. I think there's comfort to be had in going back to that place: with music, with movies, whatever. (With clothes, too, evidently, but never mind that.)

And okay, fine. Look backwards, if that's your thing, and walk butt-first into the future.

But. (Butt! Okay, stop.) Here's the thing about high school. We can't be that person again. We can't go back there, and recreate who we were, and relive all that newness or whatever the hell it was. We can only remember, with all of the imperfection inherent in memories.

The people I do judge are the ones who try to recreate who they were. Like, jesus, just stop already. You can't roll back 25 years of living and reset How Things Were. You don't get a second chance to win the championship or ace the test or be popular or make everyone love you. Whatever anxiety you think being young again's going to solve--well, it's not. Listen to your Def Leppard and put the hair spray down and do not, repeat, not, start singing the school fight song.

I went to high school during Cold War. My dad was military. I spent chunks of my childhood on nuclear missile bases. My dad took my brownie troop on a tour of, among other things, a B-52 bomber. I knew that, should there be a launch, we'd die early. The bases were targets. My mother told me once that dying immediately would be better than surviving a nuclear winter. She meant, I think, to be comforting. She and my father also assured me, as I got old enough to start figuring out what was actually at stake in this nuclear stand-off between NATO and the USSR, that WWIII would be conventional. No way, they said, that the Soviets want to destroy the world. The US doesn't either.

That, too, was meant to be a comfort. It wasn't. I imagined international politics like a pair of cats circling each other, arched and fluffed and stiff-tailed and snarling. Mostly noise. Mostly posturing. But maybe not. There could be blood and fur left in swaths on the carpet. Upended furniture. Because who knows, with cats?

This morning, I got out Dream of the Blue Turtles and played "Russians" and "We Work the Black Seam." I felt that old anxiety again. I wondered what jacked-up memory someone must have to want to go back to that. Or what massive, gaping hole of anxiety would be filled by rebuilding a nuclear arsenal.

I watched my cats posture and fluff and circle each other.

And then something happened--some twitch, some signal to which I was not privy--and Louhi bolted. Skugga charged after her. Landed on her. There was rolling, and flying fur, and some snarling on Louhi's part. No blood. Skugga let her go, responding again to some cue or whim invisible to me.

Because who knows, with cats?