A brilliant and exquisite examination of the tender sensitivities of an adolescent’s psyche.
Summoned to the Dean:
“ How strange that when the summons came I always felt good. The blood would rush through my body, warming me with its cheerful lively heat. If there was a slight dryness in my mouth there was also a comfortable tingling of the nerves, a sharpening of hte reflexes, and a sense of heightened awareness. The call produced a mild euphoria, not out of any perverse desire to be punished but in anticipation of a meeting with fate, in expectation of plunging deeper into life. The Dean was less the Dean and more my dead father than either of us suspected at the time. I sustained a fantastic belief that the mechanical cliches of our disciplinary interviews were only the prelude to evenutal mutual recognition. His threats seemed of no more importance than the how-do-you do’s and so-nice-to-meet-yous one mouthed to any new person, and in my eagerness to begin a real exchange I hardly heard them. I misread the boredom and irritation in his face, thinking it came from frustration at the slow pace of love, investing his dry soul with juices that had doubtless drained before I was born. The truth, that among the thousands of students, I was no more than a number to him, that he was so overworked he couldn’t possibly have remembered me form one time to the next without his records, that in fact everything between us was totally procedural–that truth was unthinkable.
Getting kicked out of Stuyvesant would be a catastrophe surpassing anything in my experience, perhaps becasue it seemed to eliminate the possibility of turning over a new leaf. I disbelieved in self-betterment. By turning over a new leaf, I meant no more than avoiding the more obvious forms of trouble.
Secretly, I did hope that things would get better. That I didn’t know how they’d get better was balanced by my inability to to understand why they were bad in the first place. It was a delicate world in which one had to move carefully, dealing with elements one understood vaguely if at all, knowing only that some elements seemed to sustain life and some to threaten it. Getting thrown out of school would disrupt things profoundly. I would no longer be able to experiment with those balanced elements, probing them gingerly here and there, adding some, taking away some, trying, in the least dangerous way, to find out what they were. In a trade school, my bridges burned behind me, I imagined myself in total isolation and darkness, unable to re-organize, unable to make the slightest adjustments in the course of my life, finally and irrevocably in the hands of a disinterested fate.