Tuesday, March 27, 2007

outside the classrooms

Monday; March 26, 2007 9:16 PM

Why do I have these fragments of memories of Liceo Luis Espelozin bathed in electric light, at night, with me lurking in corridors, going up and down stairways. I lurk, indeed, and look for something I don't know what...

Maybe I was looking for B. I was still in love with her. She was as far away from me as a star in a distant galaxy and was just as out of my reach. And yet I still pined for her...

But some things don't match. I very, very seldom went to that place at night. It was not even the same high school. In the evenings it was Liceo Jose Gregorio Hernandez and was an adult education secondary school. with much older pupils than the daytime constituency. A couple of my friends attended it, though, as they were working in the day.

Why am I here tonight? I should be many miles away. It can't be 1970 all over again. Please tell me this isn't so. I check in my pocket for my mobile phone: these gadgets did not exist then, if it stilll is in my pocket I'll be ok. It isn't. But then I remember having left it behind when I changed clothes earlier. It is a vague memory, though. I was in a rush, somebody was speaking to me while I was fetching my things, changing my clothes. Did Ireally leave it behind? And, in any case, where is that? I think it was my room in Catia -but we sold that house over twenty years ago. Someone crosses my path in the stairs, cannot clearly see them in the shadow. "Excuse me, what year is this?" I feel compelled to ask and immediately realise the absurdity of asking such a question. "W-what? what?" is the only answer I get before the person whose face I could not see disappears downstairs.

I walk down the corridors and look in the classrooms. The rooms have the daytime class labels on the doors: "3A", "4B'. That was my class. I peer into that room, half expecting to see myself sitting there, in that odious khaki uniform. There is a class, they look pretty much like daytime students to me, rather than adults, but their uniform is different, the girls don't wear the green and white uniform of the Ezpelosin liceo but a blue and white blazer. The boys wear white shirts and blue jeans. Blue jeans, imagine.

I stand on the corridor and look into the distance, remembering the gigantic flames and the plume of fat black smoke coming up when the petrol station down in Avenida Sucre caught fire. People used to smoke even in gas station courtyards, in those days.

Walk down the second floor corridor, down some unlit stairs -there's small piles of rubbish under the stairs, chunks of granite missing from the steps, stains. I nearly trip up over a cleaner's trolley. Had forgotten about these. I can see the car park now. Is my car there? Hold on, my car would be four thousand miles away, parked in Bartholomew Road, not here in Gato Negro. But I'm seeing a dark green Peugeot 405 in the car park which can only be my current car. I strain to try and see the plate number but cannot from this angle. Why am I in this place, anyway?

Sometimes my father would drive me to school. That was pretty embarrassing as he had an old car, a bottom of the range Chevrolet Biscayne which looked far much older than its six years. Well, in those days cars changed much more from year to year. My dad wasn't very good at keeping cars spic-and-span, something that everyone who's been in my car will agree I have inherited. So the car had a collection of scrapes, scratches and grazes, the wheel lids were missing on a couple of tyres, it was quite dirty. And I would leave the car without saying thanks or pretty much anything, mortified, and join the group of my classmates even though I felt myself an outsider and so did they, me in silence while they would go about their coarse teen-age joking and bragging.

The place would have been full of people.. not so tonight. There is something ghostly about this place. But then I don't know whether I am really here or even what this place really is. Mind you, I didn't know then either, when I used to be the outsider kid who didn't quite fit in....

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