Out of The Closet
Just how wide was your adolescent world, the world of your middle and high school years? Was it as wide as the whole town; everyone knew you for well or ill, and who you were, and where you were going? Was it as wide as the school; success built on grades, or sports, or tradition, or rumor? Was it only as wide as the path to and from school, a narrow world known only to a select few, and answerable to even fewer? Whatever the breadth or bounds of your world back then, from long ago, I believe very few could claim a world more constricted than mine!
I lived my life in high school cloistered in a closet in Gilroy, California. Sure, the closet was in a bedroom, one of four, in a modest tract home. The room itself measured eight by ten feet, less than one hundred square feet, perhaps even counting the closet. I had a four-drawer dresser, pine, a twin bed, a student desk, also pine, stained maple, with a lamp and a wastebasket. With a seven foot ceiling, this represented about 600 cubic feet of garlic-laden, air conditioned atmosphere, not counting when the window was left open and I’d block the vent -- mostly -- or when I’d open the sliding door of the closet to my other world, two and a half feet deep by eight feet wide.
It was in this closet, along with a few shirts and an extra pair of jeans, that I had set up a drafting table and hung a lamp from the hanger bar. I’d lose myself in the closet, becoming a neophyte Frank Lloyd Wright or Eero Saarinen. I’d create to escape; escape the world of an antagonistic stepfather and a drunken mother; escape the world of “you gotta do this in order to . . .” for the world of “I wanna do this because I . . .” I exchanged the “you, you, you” for the “I, I, I.” I drew houses and buildings, cities of the future.
I realize now that what I drew were worlds without people, habitable, but uninhabited. Eventually I came out of the closet, went out of the window, and joined the world of booze and dope and runaways. I’m not sure but what the world in the closet may have been the more real.
We start with chaos and confusion.
Their needs abound --
Paper, pen, ideas.
Slowly they sink to fascination,
Captivated by the creative act of writing.
They need to announce to the world
That their endeavors matter,
That writing matters.
That they matter.
This matters to me.
It should matter to you!
It matters to all those who are prevented from writing --
Prevented by threats, by fears, by lack of education.
It matters to the world.
It matters to you.
It matters to me!
BIO! Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school (i.e. the hormonally-challenged) teacher who lives in Moreno Valley, California, with his wife of thirty-five years (poor soul, her, not him), their disabled daughter, one of their sons and his ex-wife and their two children, and ten cats! Yes, ten. If you must ask, see:. www.clevermag.com
Out of The Closet: I wanted to succinctly capture the pleasant aloneness of my high school years.
Writing Matters: I was an English teacher for 7th graders for seventeen years!