By Youcef Samaoui (282)
Central’s primary colors are crimson, gold, and the pale whites of sanpaku eyes. These are the eyes that meet you past a humanoid crowd. Past the corridors of ritual corralling and perspiration. Past the corrugation of masonic labors. Past the cool thick diamond terrazzo tiles on the first floor and the TV staticky buzz they elicit, past the neutral cellophane ceiling and unembellished, unfluttering, contextless rectangles of the purest white light in the history of electrification. And they’re looking straight into you. It’s like they’re trying to overcome you with their parents’ expectations. It’s the lesser avatar of academic achievement, conquered by the wailing retreating army of sleep, dug out into the batteries of the eyes of the most boring people you know.
Two freshmen, one granular, the other pulpish, gallop and wallow down the second-floor hall. They are arrested by the vast clotting of other freshmen, like them, learning to walk. Everyone’s hair overlaps, and everyone’s figure casts a shadow from the morning light on the person behind them, walking faster, stumbling to take them over. The freshmen both resemble gnomes. They all do. There’s something in the water making them more of an inkling of a concept of a human, year by year. And right now, they are struggling against the lateral movement of an indecisive walker. The indecisive walker moves too widely, and no one can get around them as a result. Once they break through the frozen steps of this slow stepper, they put an urgency to their pep to spell out the defeat of this awkward lumbering figure so passively-aggressively that it’s like they’re trying to teach them how to walk by how fast they’re reactively moving. No one cares for this telepathic lesson.
The two freshmen are now impishly hopping and skipping, and fate puts you in the chasm between them. Their eyes are closed, so they can’t see you, but you can see that they can’t see you, and also that the hot metallic jangle of their lanyards worn so carefully and habitually around their little ventriloquist-dummy-necks is causing them to continuously flinch into infinite regress. You are about to be the victim of some intensely zealous friction. Until you bear witness to their live reenactment of animated walking physics. They both freeze up, two feet away from collision, so suddenly and haltingly, and without looking at you particularly, with the simple sheer awareness of your presence, they switch hips 90 degrees exactly and then adjust their heads to the direction of their feet. Like drones.
There is a blinding circle rotating in the middle of the hall. They’re unapproachable, imperceptible, vowel-less with the sound of fiery white-hot explosions, and the absolute center of everything. They’re the closest thing to the sun that we have. They’re the next best thing to thousands of years of worship. Worship them. We wouldn’t be able to do anything without them. All you can do is orbit them, and sacrifice precious time, like a slit lamb, in an era of dreary famine. This ring of Central Sun-people are alternating heights; tall by short by tall by short by tall by ridiculously short by inefficiently tall. They are all wearing Jansport and Fjällräven Kånken backpacks. There’s an incredible amount of devious content they get away with because of the furtive unassuming pastel appearance of their Fjällräven Kånken backpacks. A dense unfunny conversation coughs up from somewhere in the center about how ‘they saw someone doing 90 through a school zone, the story everyone that just got their driver’s license seems to have. Another ‘remember the time when?-’ brand of conversation develops out of the totally detached private reality of someone’s second house on the Jersey Shore. Everyone in the circle relates. You don’t, and your very precious offspring Time is bleeding all over you and your pants that you didn’t get off of Depop, looking at you, parsing out ‘Was geometry worth it?’, but the circle can’t see. They can’t feel your agony, sacrifice, or fear of being late in Central High. They’re reliving Springsteenish frat party anthem plots, stuck in the sand of Margate, and watching another car do 90 through a school zone. Maybe it was doing 100. Maybe 95. Definitely 95.
Gravity doesn’t matter until someone is beside you. If you are anybody important, have a warm electric entourage, or are talking to a friend, then the concrete brick shoes of obligation slow you down. If someone steps lightly, it’s because they are away from this sullen down-bearing earth; in a completely different atmosphere. The atmosphere of academic consistency. Of caution. Of an atavistic disposition incomparable to the knick-knack-sized people so claustrophobically around them. Sometimes, this disposition is like a magnet and pulls them closer to the crowd. Sometimes, the atmosphere becomes full of desire.