Jacob Lawrence, "The Children Go to School" (1943)
Jacob Lawrence, The Children go to School (1943)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

July 26, 2012:

Memorize the street names. Make a mental map. Study the journey each morning.

It's my first consciously-remembered symptom of OCD. The streets are alphabetical and easy to recite. "Ingraham, Haines, Gresham, Fanuel, Everts, Dawes, Cass." They sound like family names. No idea who they were or why they rate streets named for them. Perhaps the contractors who developed the place.

Except it's not just some minor mental tick of childhood. It's a countdown, the way a condemned person might count their steps to the gallows, not because it's useful knowledge to store away but simply to try to make the process move as slowly as possible. Now I'm at step 20. Now I'm at step 21. Where for me it was, Now I'm at Everts. Now I'm at Dawes. Until at last it's Cass Street and the downcast blocks trudging sadly to grammar school.

To that school. To that little miniaturized childhood purgatory. With its long sad day ahead of depression and isolation and abuse. While the major thing to look forward to — to watch the clock waiting for — is the bus ride home, reciting the street names climbing the alphabet past Ingraham to Jewell, Kendall, Lamont, to the fork at Balboa leading up the hill to my friends and my home, the life that wasn't that school.