by Akim Reinhardt
Stuck is a weekly serial appearing at 3QD every Monday through early April. The Prologue is here. The table of contents with links to previous chapters is here.
Forever is a long time.
When I was 8 years old, I vowed that I would never smoke a cigarette. Had my first one when I was 19 and smoked steadily for several years. Camels unfiltered.
At age 10, I made a pact with my best friend: under no circumstances would we ever do drugs. I don’t even know where to begin with that one; it’d be a whole separate book.
Circumstances change. People change. Everything within you changes, as does everything you are within. Oaths are so hard to keep that their ultimate meaning perhaps lies in the breaking. That life is not about our hopes and dreams, but the ways we turn them into lies.
At the alter of a Lutheran church in North Carolina, my paternal grandparents married forever in eyes of God. A couple of decades later, they got divorced. Then they married each other once more. Followed by yet another divorce.
The oath as a sling shot. The oath as a yo-yo.
No less than three times has Sean Connery sworn he was done playing James Bond. Beginning in 1962, he did five films in five years. He burned out, was unhappy with the pay, and worried about typecasting. So he quit the franchise for the first time in 1967 after You Only Live Twice. Read more »
by Akim Reinhardt
Mr. Sabatini? I think that was his name. It’s hard to remember.
Maybe it was a plumb position awarded to him because he had buttered up the right school official. Maybe he was owed a favor by a union representative. But for whatever reason, he was not among us very often. There were a few days early in the year, and after that he reappeared now and again, but for the most part, he wasn’t there.
At that particular stage in my life, however, Mr. Sabatini?’s irregular presence did not distress me. It was the 10th grade, and I too was irregular. I was rounding out my last growth spurt, going from being one of the shortest kids in the class to the tall side of average, at least by New York City standards, where the average male is, well, very average. It’s certainly not Minnesota. There were also the requisite signs of a burgeoning adolescence: pimples, a deeper voice, mysterious frustrations about girls. Or were they now women?
Adding to the irregularity, it was also my first year in high school. Our junior high school had gone through ninth grade. Here I was, amid 6,000 students who circulated through a massive building in a new neighborhood. So to have an irregularly appearing teacher? Sure. It seemed perfectly reasonable at that point. Why ask why?
For whatever reason, Mr. Sabatini? was scarcely seen. Instead, we had a student teacher. Our student teacher was the kind of person you wish you could invent if he didn’t really exist, though you probably couldn’t. Soft-spoken, mid-twenties, and already balding, he had a boyish charm, ready smile, quiet joy, and inner calm that I would later come to associate with the Midwest. He was also a marine (or was it the army?) who specialized in skiing. Down the slopes with a machine gun, like James Bond. And he was also given to wearing pink shirts. This was 1982. Not a lot of men were wearing pink shirts. Especially not ex-Marines.
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