Digital Ischemia

03/08/2018

Eye of the Storm: part 1 of 4

eye of a storm, typhoon, swirling cloud

He stands, trembling, in my rudimentary shower; the rain mixing in to the tears. When did he stop being Jamie?

You can’t go back? Sometimes a perfect storm of events and emotions parallels sometime past. Sometimes, then, all the moment needs is a tune, a snatch of melody, to trigger a momentary wormhole and plunge you back.

Not listening to a badly-tuned radio is a brilliant exercise in exhausting psychology. My brain detects speech and tune among the noise and spools rabidly. Its raison d’être is to recognise pattern, interpret meaning and apply to current events. Take a single phrase about Vladimir Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert. Link to a lyric. Link to a reunion with a companion song from decades ago: The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me. Then comes the plunge.

There I was, then I was, five years back, trying to explain convincingly how I came to be there again, then again. Explain the tortuous convolutions of bureaucracy that had sucked me into a temporary teaching project and spat me out at my old school. But I was enthused, I was inspired, and most of all I was relieved: the guy I had been infatuated with fifteen years earlier, the teacher of course, was not there. I said it out loud. Some of the attitudey teens smirked.

I exited my temporary classroom and birled orientatively in the corridor. The distant rabble of departing students faded. This had been Maths. The toilets were still at the west end—the girls’ anyway; no idea where the guys’ was—so the hangout was… the radiator by… But I wasn’t heading there; I was being an adult. Turn about. Was it still called ‘staff room’? I managed only three paces. Less than a second of sound arrested me completely.

That companion tune, recognised in three-quarters of a bar, consumed my attention. After the first chorus, a friendly colleague battered out through the staircase door. He recognised my static bewilderment and reoriented me toward a mug of hot dishwater. He reattached me to present reality by gently mocking my confusion to the staff collective. I muttered self-effacingly about my weakness in the face of antique pop music. He seized the bait and blamed “Jamie” for always playing ‘worky tunes’ on local FM at breaks. My heart gave a final massive palpitation and stopped altogether.

‘Jamie’ had been Mr Infatuation. Not that we had ever dared address a teacher by their forename; school culture was not that egalitarian in those days. Their forenames had been for outbursts of resentful venom, well out of earshot. Common enough name anyway. Ridiculous reaction.

As it turned out, there wasn’t time to gently reintroduce myself to that emotional world. Two days later a predicted tropical storm escalated into one of those hurricanes that Britain would have to get used to. A burst river, a burst sewer—I’m still not clear which came first or if one triggered the other—blocked the main road and we were cheerily advised to stay put. The students gave a brilliantly tragic impression of having their human rights trampled, even the ones who were happy not to go home, or happy to have longer in the company of their current/targeted/pipe-dreamed beau. Yeh, I recognised that demeanour.

By the evening, we were camping out in the canteen, nourishing ourselves on tomorrow’s lunch. I was called to disaster summit in the hall. The head was all brisk war effort and relishing every moment. She was already rehearsing her gracious statement to the local press, in which she would downplay her heroic leadership. Thankfully she was literally drowned out by dirty water lapping at the full length windows facing the quadrangle.

Quadrangles don’t usually have watercourses but this one did have a rainwater drain. Which was allowing the water the wrong way. Plus fifty year old concrete architecture was not well insulated from the elements. A more enlightened senior staff member directed us away from moving air about and instead toward moving sandbags.

Between those unromantic heaves and splashes and whumps, a comedy wavering voice registered.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but I remember you.” He gave that non-committed half-smile that always left him an escape route from embarrassment among capricious teens. The one that unravelled us.

continues in part 2

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3 Comments »

  1. […] Follows part 1 […]

    Pingback by Eye of the Storm: part 2 of 4 | Digital Ischemia — 04/08/2018 @ 18:09

  2. […] Series starts at part 1 […]

    Pingback by Eye of the Storm: part 3 of 4 | Digital Ischemia — 05/08/2018 @ 18:05

  3. […] Series starts at part 1 […]

    Pingback by Eye of the Storm: part 4 of 4 | Digital Ischemia — 06/08/2018 @ 18:38


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