Brett Bender is a 36-year-old native Atlantan. He is finishing his thesis for an M.A. in fiction at Georgia State University, and has begun work on his first novel.
I unearthed the box yesterday. It's against the law to dig in a state park, and it felt good to be against the law. Like old times. Alone on that windy hilltop with my shovel, a passerby would have thought I was burying the evidence, not digging it up. The box was buried deeper than I remembered. I broke a sweat, endured a panic -- This is the wrong place. Even after I hit plastic it took a lot of excavating to pry it free and lift it into the light. My fingers were frozen and there was blood smeared along the splintered handle. I left the hole standing open in the ground, drove home feeling like I had a body stuffed in the trunk. Down in my basement I set it on the workbench and had a good look, and let me tell you, those black Hefty garbage bags have preserved our thing beautifully. The outside, anyway; I won't know about the rest until tonight. But those black bags did the trick like magic.
On These Days:
I wake up at five in the morning to go to work, would you ever have believed it Erin? Or that -- don't laugh -- I teach Senior English at good old Bishop Hembry High? I said not to laugh. Of course I'm "cool." I'm a "cool teacher," a role model even, and I can even say so without vomiting all over everything. The kids are alright, for the most part, they get great joy out of taking advantage of me. As we would have, you and me at seventeen. On days like today I relish the long drive out to East Cobb through the morning darkness. It's best to take the back roads, avoid traffic. Ash my cigarettes out the moon roof and play the perfect music over an absurd six speaker stereo that seemed like a good idea on the lot. Sometimes I even sing along, but not today. Today I'm playing your old all-time favorite, Pornography, and it's never been easy singing along to that one.
Today is Halloween.
On That Special High School Sweetheart:
That Special High School Sweetheart remains in the heart forever. In one of the works among her many important works, adolescent psychologist Hannah Rugby remarks: The first high school sweetheart will remain in the heart forever as a sort of touchstone of the possibilities, as well as the limitations of, romantic love, etc. Some mysterious colleague leaves Psychology Today in the science hall toilet. The thrust of Rugby's research being the heart spends its fifth wedding anniversary smoking cloves beside a bonfire, beating quickly for its touchstone. You've gone out for seafood, hired a sitter, but the heart doesn't want seafood. The heart wants eyeliner.
On The First Time That I Saw You:
I'll ask my heart: You were passing by my locker. Long black bangs hanging over your chin. Black shirt, red skirt, black shoes. Clenched fists, black eyeliner. A smart ensemble, not pinning yourself down, not giving too much away. Keep 'em guessing. For instance: I guessed. I guessed the moon, the stars, the sky ... That's enough for now, heart. Jesus.
It's a bond meant to last forever or so one hears. Remember our solemn oath to never marry and grow boring? Well, but marriage is a wonderful thing, and love changes faces as a person gathers years. That's Hannah Rugby's take on it anyway. It broadens, drops, runs deeper, stretches further, love does, and before you can say "boo" it's all empty gesture and resentment. Remembering the good times. Lots of resentment, which Hannah doesn't much touch upon, but it's all good Hannah. We can't have our role models surrendering to despair in science hallway toilets all across the land. But our child is almost five and her name is Eleanor, and I'm confident, we're confident, we can keep the ship afloat until she's old enough to run away or go to college. A parent hopes but never knows. And maybe we'll hold off divorcing for good, who can tell? We may be too tired from so much waking up to walk away by then. You'd never believe this Erin, but there's a cap on experience, a quota beyond which there is nothing new, under sun or between the sheets. That's why our parents acted that way, they had the whole game riding on us, and we didn't give them much besides shot nerves and hypertension. Life fades and spins, like the song says, but it's only romantic when you're only singing along.
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