October 21, 2020:

One day in twelfth grade beautiful Cynthia approached me to say, "You'd better start going to English class."

She was a kind person, always generous. She's the person who went out of her way to tell me of tetracycline, which cleared my virulent cystic acne, which made it possible to meet three older girls by the taco truck at the beach, who brought me to UCSD and introduced me to adulthood and feminism and effective modes of organizing rebellion. Cynthia was kind to everyone, but her kindness to me stands out in my memory because it was always she who initiated it. I never approached her, not even once. I liked her very much, but I felt so false and so angry and so deeply depressed that I couldn't imagine having anything to say to her she might possibly want to hear.

She was lovely, and she radiated beautiful golden light. This was not me being high on LSD, although I frequently was. Many, many years later I mentioned this to someone who also knew her at the time, who agreed without hesitation. She had a golden glow, which I presume was the color of her skin and hair and the way the sunlight reflected off her. Although it was present as much indoors as out.

By twelfth grade I'd stopped lying, stopped hiding my rapidly evolving identity, where as the year progressed I more and more dared the authorities to confront me in some way. I went to school visibly drunk, carrying a can of Coke which was half rum. I stopped calling in my absences and simply failed to turn up. I shoved a prominent jock over a bench when he bullied a kid who couldn't defend himself, and I ignored English class, even though the teacher was nice and beautiful Cynthia sat near me.

So that when Cynthia approached me that day with her kindly-intended warning I was first of all surprised she'd talk to me, but perhaps even more taken aback by the advice itself. By that point in my trajectory it made no kindsa sense, not even a little. If the boogie man was gonna get me he already would have, and he'd certainly have more flagrant opportunities than merely absences from English class. What difference does dumb English class make? So I thoughtlessly blurted my genuine first reaction, an unintentionally vehement "Why?!?"

I don't remember her answering. What could she say? I think she probably gathered herself together, recognized a lost cause, and went on to be equally kind to the next person she encountered.

In all my ubiquitous wishes for do-overs, now much later in life, I always ask for the chance to know her better. She helped me. She helped everybody, and in my do-over fantasies I spend more time with her, in part to learn to be more like her. In reality it was a long time before I became able to make that attempt.