The first time K and I became friends, I was 12 years old. He was thirteen, which made him the boss of me, because in that age, age is everything. I was also shorter, and a little skinnier, so even if I ever had decided to go against K’s ideas, he surely would have got me back in line, fast.
But there was never any need for that because we were the best of friends.
“Well-Known Local Orchestra Available for New Year’s Eve due to cancellation.
Dial 5-1595 or 3-4454”
– Reading Eagle, Dec 6, 1952
I wouldn’t say there was panic in the air, but the guys were a little agitated. And understandably so. We had been looking forward to the New Year’s Eve gig for weeks and we had added two new songs onto our set list so that we could play for over an hour.
The world was different in 1964 when Gun opened her little store from what it looked like in 2004 when she decided to retire and sell the tiny store. You may think the city’s always looked the same, especially around her store, because the store is on the ground floor of a big old stone building, and was there even before Gun – but it hasn’t.
On one recent April morning, Risto Pakarinen took a quick glance at a black plastic bowl. Then he grabbed a potato chip out of it, and put it in his mouth.
“I love chips,” he said to no-one in particular.
He was wearing blue jeans and a blue T-shirt that had an image of the DeLorean from the 1980s hit movie Back to the Future, an orange Fitbit bracelet around his right wrist, and a Mickey Mouse watch on his left wrist. No socks.
“My favorite color’s blue. What’s yours?” he said with a chuckle.
“Every time I jump like that, I feel like time slows down a little bit.”
– Son, today, after a hop over a puddle
On the back wall of my elementary school cafeteria, there was a big clock. White background, black hands, no numbers, just the short lines that indicate the five-minute (or second) intervals the hands have to make to travel around the face.
There was also something else I’ve never been able to forget in my school, and that was the rule that you had to finish your plate, because food was never to be wasted. That’s why I sometimes sat alone at a long table and stared at the clock, while trying to chew whatever food was given to me that day.
One time, when I was there alone, trying to make the food go down, I glanced at the clock, and waited for the seconds hand to move, as it did, second by second, not in one smooth motion – but it didn’t.
It’s funny how one’s senses can go into hyper speed in a fraction of a second, he thought. Just a second earlier he had been leaning back in his boat, watching his two buddies pull the fish out of the water, and now he was in the water, his body and brain working overtime trying to figure out what was going on.
The water was cold, they said. It was dark, and he could hardly see anything. The lake didn’t smell, but he heard sounds of struggle behind him. He spat out the water that had got into his mouth when the boat had capsized.
The first day in a classroom was always the worst, he thought. Since they all knew each other already, there was none of that nervousness of meeting a new teacher for the first time to keep the kids in line. So they got out of line.
“This is not rocket science, this is Sex Ed. I’m not trying to teach you rocket science or Einstein’s theory of relativity, I’m trying to teach you people how to use a goddamn condom,” he yelled.
There was snickering. As always. Every year, every goddamn year.
Another March day. The sun is shining, after some light snowfall. The snow in spring is so light it looks fake.
“It’s like the snow in the movies,” said Wife when she took off with Son and Daughter this morning.
I waved to them from the front door, until I saw Son’s red hat disappear behind the garage. I closed the door, packed my bag and went to the gym because while you can make a change any given day, sometimes you have to keep doing the same thing over and over again to really make a change.
It got quiet in the back yard. Suddenly. Almost too quiet, and a little too suddenly so I decided to have a look. As I got around the house, I saw Daughter standing very, very still right at the edge of our lawn, looking out to the other side of the fence our neighbors had set up a couple of months earlier.
She didn’t move one, but she looked happy. And I knew why.
I stopped, too. I didn’t want to spoil her moment.