Sunday, February 13, 2011


It was called the music room, mostly because it was the only available space left in the whole school for the band and choir to rehearse.  No one was fooled, though.  The awful acoustics and overhead door on the north side marked it for what it originally was--a garage.

It was, therefore, the only sheltered area in the entire building that could temporarily house a pickup, and so that was where we gathered: seventh and eighth graders being allowed for the first time in school history to build a float for the homecoming parade.  This honor had previously only been bestowed on freshman and up, and the significance wasn't lost on us.  It meant we were practically in high school, which meant we were practically adults.

Normally we would have been outside working on this, but a furious rain pounded the ground, as it had the whole previous night, as it was scheduled to do all day.  If it continued, the parade and all related events scheduled for that afternoon would be canceled, but none of the twelve and thirteen-year-olds gathered inside the music room were thinking of that.

Most concentrated on the papier-mache figure taking shape on the back of the pickup, some sort of angry bird wearing a YJB Raiders helmet.  Others, less ambitious, hung on the periphery, happy just to have been granted a period full of extended goof-off time, free from the burdens of the classroom.  I was one of those, though I wasn't all that celebratory about my freedom.  I hated gatherings like this, feeling perpetually isolated from most of my classmates, so non-social it hurt.

Still, somehow I found myself leaning against the driver's side door of the pickup when Dale, one of my classmates, and Marty, a grade ahead, slid into the cab from the other side.  They motioned me inside, handed me the key--how had they gotten hold of it?--and Marty said, "We need some music."

I turned it to auxiliary.  Dale punched buttons on the radio until he came to KIOA, the local Top Forty station, the one station everyone listened to.  We suffered through some commercials and the top of the hour newscast, then, finally, music.

Well I was sixteen, sick of school
Didn't know what I wanted to do
I bought a guitar
I got the fever
That's rock & roll

I was twelve, and I already knew Shaun Cassidy was nothing but a TV pretty boy, that this song, this product, had nothing to do with real rock & roll.  But Dale and Marty were bopping their heads in time to the music, and damned if I didn't start pounding out the beat on the steering wheel.  By the chorus, we were all three singing along.

Come on everybody, get down and get with it
Come on everybody, get down and get with it
Come on everybody, get down--that's rock & roll

We kept swinging our bodies back and forth in time to the rhythm, and pantomimed playing along to the cheesy sax solo.  For three minutes, we freed ourselves to wild abandon.

That song ended, some Neil Diamond crap came on, we emerged from the pickup.  Dale and Marty went off to do something else, and since I wasn't explicitly invited to join them, I crept back to the periphery.  I had briefly glimpsed something new and different, a kinship with people I barely even knew, but now I stood in the corner by the big windows, watching the rain, falling, falling.