I left high school in the eleventh grade. What now seems like a series of bad jokes is actually the truth. My truth.
I remember standing in the bathroom on the first floor near the side entrance of the building. There was no security. No one to stop me from leaving. I guess that was a perk of going to school on the upper east side. No security.
I would stand near the window although the windows were placed far above my head. Which always puzzled me. The windows in the bathroom were placed so high above all of the students. As if they wanted to keep us from climbing out. Or others from climbing in. But my sixteen year old self didn’t think that way. I was being kept inside. I was a prisoner.
I would stand beneath the windows and call my mom. Her answers were always at first concerned and confused. But they soon became routine. She began to expect my calls.
Sometimes all I would say to her.
Sometimes all she would respond.
Years later I’ve realized something. Something my sixteen year old self would have never put together. Something that resonates deep within the parent I promise myself to one day become.
My mother never told me to leave. Just as she never told me to stay.
And i’ve realized today, in my twenties, why I do most of the things I do.
There I was standing in an empty bathroom on the phone with my mother. The one person most kids my age would have avoided while contemplating leaving school.
But although there was no security outside. There was no one to physically stop me from leaving - I would still call her. What at sixteen seemed like frustration and a need to be away from school, was really a cry for help. A cry for direction from my mom. I needed to be parented.
I wanted her to tell me to stay put. To go back upstairs. To tough it out.
I wanted her to tell me to come home. To forget school. To give up.
I wanted her to tell me something.
But instead she listened to me.
And so one afternoon I didn’t stop to make the call. I kept walking. I kept walking right through that side exit. and I never went back.
That day is my earliest memory of making a decision on my own, without the help or advice of my mother.
Since then it’s been a series of decisions without her. Some of them extremely poor.
I’ve realized now in my twenties that you never stop needing your parents. Just as you never stop wanting their help.
Even if they aren’t particularly helpful.
It isn’t true what they say about kids needing their parents most in High School. Sure I needed her then. But that was years ago. And I need her today too. Kids need their parents forever.
They need them always.
is what happens when you go to bed on the hottest night of the summer, a night so hot you can’t even wear a tee-shirt and you sleep on top of the sheets instead of under them, although try to sleep is probably more accurate. And then at some point late, late, late at night, say just a bit before dawn, the heat finally breaks and the night turns into cool and when you briefly wake up, you notice that you’re almost chilly, and in your groggy, half-consciousness, you reach over and pull the sheet around you and just that flimsy sheet makes it warm enough and you drift back off into a deep sleep. And it’s that reaching, that gesture, that reflex we have to pull what’s warm - whether it’s something or someone - toward us, that feeling we get when we do that, that feeling of being safe in the world and ready for sleep, that’s happiness.
You know what I think?” she says. “That people’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed ‘em to the fire, they’re all just paper. The fire isn’t thinking ‘Oh, this is Kant,’ or ‘Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,’ or ‘Nice tits,’ while it burns. To the fire, they’re nothing but scraps of paper. It’s the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there’s no distinction—they’re all just fuel.