January 31, 2009

In my school district they had summer school, not for kids who fucked up at school (although I'm assuming they had that too) but for kids whose parents wanted to give them something to do during the summer. I think it was called Summer Academy. And the greatest thing that ever happened in Summer Academy, where my best friend Trevor and I took several summers' worth of drama classes (this is in, I think, the sixth and seventh grades), is that myself, and Trevor, and a girl named Katie who was older than us and wore a ton of flannel, and a guy whose name is lost to history but I remember looked a bunch like Matthew Lillard and often wore a work-shirt from the post office, we found a secret passageway.

Calling it a secret passageway is extremely, extremely generous. We didn't have cafeterias in our school district, we had "Multi-Purpose Rooms." This was a cafeteria, in that it was the place where you ate lunch and it always smelled like sour chocolate milk, but it was also the place where they had recitals and assemblies and school plays (there was a stage at one end, with a proscenium and a curtain and everything), and a bunch of sports stuff took place there as well. The secret passageway Katie and Lillard-kid and Trevor and I discovered was a dark, dusty space underneath the stage, leading nowhere, that wasn't more than two feet in height. You accessed it through the little doors on either side of the stage where they kept the wrestling mats. You couldn't stand up inside of it, you had to crawl around. The Multi-Purpose Room had lots of purposes. This room had none. It wasn't even a room, just an architectural accident. It was pointless and probably disgusting. It also felt dangerous and a lot like adventure.

Katie seemed really cool and I'm pretty sure I had a crush on her. I remember hearing her sing some song I didn't know and then a couple years later hearing the Offspring's "Come Out And Play" and realizing that was the song she'd been singing. She said we should start a band and I remember looking in the classified ads to see how much bass guitars cost. I talked to her on the telephone at least once.

Matthew Lillard kid definitely existed but he might not have been involved in the secret passage escapade, I might be transposing him from a different summer. But his shirt and Katie's flannel and that little bit of Offspring song and a whole bunch of dust come to mind when I think of that weird non-room we were so excited to find.

It was not gonna work as a clubhouse, and there probably would not have been time to sneak away during our demanding summer-school drama itinerary without attracting attention. But at least for me, in finding it, and crawling around inside of it until our teacher told us to stop, and thinking about it the whole night afterwards, I probably burned through as much excitement as I would've had we actually done anything with it. It meant that this school contained things we didn't understand. Weird, unintentional, unplanned things. We could find stuff out about it that no one else knew. Granted, what we found out about it was useless. It was only a secret because it was a thing no one would need or want to know. But a secret is a secret when you're a well-protected, well-fed kid being raised in a warm, bright environment.

The second most exciting thing I did that summer was staging a version of Monty Python's "Fish License" sketch after the main play in our end-of-summer performance. I think the cast was me and the secret-passage kids and a few others. All the parents were leaving and we had to ask them to sit down again and they half-complied. To an audience of confused, ready-to-leave adults, a couple of middle-school kids doing bad British accents performed a really strange sketch they only understood about forty percent of, and then they performed the strange bit after it which in the actual "Flying Circus" show would've segued into the next bit, but what it segued into in this performance was all the other kids meeting up with their parents and their parents saying, "You were very good in the play...What was that thing at the end?"

And their kids saying, "I don't know. No one talks to those kids. They spend most of their time underneath the stage."

Posted by DC at January 31, 2009 01:39 AM
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