I walk across the fallow field of my former high school. The signs are faded, the grass stripped by neglect and thirty-four years of footsteps. I am performing reconnaissance for my engagement photos, checking angles and light and color and locations for romantic poses. Once upon a seventeen year old, I shuffled across this same playing field feeling sorry for myself that I didn't have a girlfriend, much less any hope of getting married some future day.
Now I cross the same field on a uncharacteristically hot January day. I hear young girls sitting on the bleaches chatting, "I told him I loved him but he's like what's that mean, don't get so serious. I mean, shit, what's the matter with you, you know. I mean I was serious but he's like what did she say..." while their small children cavort on a track that still encircles the old football field. The goal posts still stand, the old score board waits for Home or Visitors to make a touch-down.
I take a photo of the bleachers with the score box in the frame and imagine my fiancee and I sitting together, and hope our photographer can capture our essence.
I check out the quad for other potential photo possibilities, re-imagining a past on these empty school grounds, a past of dandruff, heavy books, clanking lockers, corduroy pants, tube tops, cigarettes, McDonald's lunch, Farrah Faucet feather, World War III, Disco, my pencil thin mustache so I won't look twelve, the shrill class bell, the smell of hot asphalt, the rumble of a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, the putter of a Datsun 280zx, the echoing bounce of a basket ball, the electric hum of a passing BART train, and the deep drop in my stomach every time I feel like a failure with girls.
Today, my wedding to my fellow alumni is four months away. A wedding undreamt of in my high school years. A love unimagined in those distant days.
So I'm happy. The ghost is gone. Romantic Justice has prevailed. Why should I write YA anymore? The story is done. Love triumphs and, as the song goes, "We've only just begun."
Without going into a detailed thesis of time-travel paradoxes, that kid with the greasy hair, sarcastic mouth, skinny arms and terrible clarinet skills still walks the hallways to the noise of clanging lockers and voices of girls whom he wishes he could ask out on a date. He sits silent in Science Fiction class when the English teacher asks "what is the theme in the Time Machine" and he's dying to raise his hand. He dreams of becoming a mission specialist on the newly launched Space Shuttle and fails calculus, chemistry and physics and hates P.E.. He graduates and can't wait to leave town and is bitter that there's no one to hold him there - he's haunts the hallways and classroom listening to the babble of students, he sits in the cafeteria listening to screech of metal benches and the chatter of lunch trays.
The old high school is aptly renamed an Adult Continuation School.
As an adult, I move forward. The teenager remains. He dreams of being famous in show-business, though he has no idea how.
And he fantasizes, "What if?"
So the work continues.
Photo recon done. I walk to my car parked outside the gym. A red truck blares a song by The Hollies. I strut to the opening guitar licks of Long Cool Women in a Black Dress and flash the guys a thumbs up.
The past is present.