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P. 1
Gone

Gone

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Published by Joe Bonomo
The Normal School (N5 2010)
The Normal School (N5 2010)

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Published by: Joe Bonomo on Jan 06, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/03/2011

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the n
o
rmal school fall 2010
Gone
 Joe Bonomo
Oening:
 
a white suburban house, sharp focus, medium shot, no sound. An establishing shot.Establishing what? e camera over cranks.
Roll focs:
a small child, evidently tossed into the air,slowly rises from the bottom frame. His feet glide upward as his body comes to rest mid-frame.ere is a look on his face you have seen before. His shoelaces stretch toward a clear sky, defyinggravity for the moment. One soft, out-turned pocket oats. Gently, he begins to drop. He disappearsquietly beneath the frame.
Roll focs:
the house, which appears quiet. Several seconds pass.
Rollfocs:
a small girl oats upward from the bottom frame. Her eyes are shut tight, her body fetal. Sheglides upward, softly, as in a dream. Softly, she falls. She disappears beneath the frame. e houseremains unfocused in the background. After several seconds the boy reappears from the bottomframe, gently rising. Just as slowly, he falls.
For years I’ve experienced two recurring images in my mind’seye—not dreams but wakeful phantasms. One image is actually a pairof images: apropos of nothing—I could be reading, driving, listeningto music—I’m faced with the image of a great jet airliner’s tail wingcovered with charcoal-black grati, the precise words obscured. Aftera moment it is replaced by a long shot of an indeterminate black car—sometimes it’s an old Volkswagen bug—half-covered in freshly fallensnow, resting quietly on a frozen lake. Just as quickly the images vanish.Occasionally they switch positions, but always they come paired, twosides of a confounding riddle. Another unbidden image. is one originates from an old dream. Atthe end of this dream—the rest of which I have forgotten—I stand inthe parking lot of Saint Andrew the Apostle Elementary School as my younger brother (who, although three years younger than I am, appearsin my dreams exclusively as a young kid) is being driven away from mein a yellow school bus, his sad, pale round face pressed up against thelast window.My brother and I never rode school busses. Nor have I ever seen agratied jet wing. But these images are now hardwired in me, as integralto my core as DNA, as complex, as mysterious, as oddly necessary. I guessthey will accompany me for the rest of my life, a kind of sign languagethat I blink at like a lost foreigner. Still, they repeat.
 W 
hen I was six years old I had my adenoids removed at Holy CrossHospital. Once, passing by a room, I glanced in to see a smallboy my age sitting in a wheelchair, grinning. His head was shaved and hisskull punctured by a dozen tiny, black holes.He visited again last night. When we are tapped on the shoulder we wheel around but stare at a gaping eld. Longingly, we look to theground for prints.
 J
ackie was an ugly girl. At age twelve, I could see it: the doughy, mot-tled face, the bulbous and hooked nose, the fat legs, the stringy hair. Icondently assumed the general playground condemnation of her, joined in the ranks of those who intuited, somehow, that she was lessfortunate than the rest of us. I posses an image of Jackie jauntily swingingher red backpack as she crosses the blacktop at Saint Andrew’s, dumbly eager to ignore what her stocky body bears all too heavily. My memory fades, or the frame snaps, before Jackie nears anyone on the blacktop who might skip toward her in blithe, giddy friendship, thrusting out a
 
the n
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rmal school fall 2010
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girlish embrace. Were I to somehow unearththis lost footage of my memory, and thread thedusty lm gingerly through a projector, I might watch as Jackie walks alone toward a home Ioften wondered about.She was the predictable brunt of jokes.Once in the cafeteria, Andy asked her toa dance, and we all watched the charade,smothering snorts and giggles behind ourhands. When the reality dawned on her, Jackie’s face drained of color, and her mouthdropped open as if she were puzzling over aproblem that everyone else had solved. ere were no friends for her to dash away with.Instead, she bore it up; I distinctly remem-ber her back stiening beneath her whiteuniform blouse. Whether she turned on herheel and left or stayed and stomached herlunch beneath the hoots, I can’t recall. At anall-school picnic in Rock Creek Park, Jenny,a very pretty blonde girl recently stripped of popular status, and so reduced to makingfriends with the likes of Jackie, told everyoneshe could a sad and juicy truth:
 Jackie told me last night that her dad comes home with liquor on his breath! 
e drama of this public cruelty had a morecomplex timbre for us. is gossip reeked of home, of privacy, of desperate condences.is joke made my small chest go cold. Jackie’shumiliations were dragged from her house,her privacy pawed at and scattered. We hadthoroughly defeated her now.How clichéd this all sounds! e lonely homely girl, the alcoholic father, the unthinking,opportunistic classmates. I hesitate as I writeabout Jackie’s misfortunes: clichés arise fromtruth, of course, though their dailiness obscuresand undermines truth-telling. e sharing of such childish cruelties morphs into a kind of adolescent pornography; sheer repetition of astock narrative numbs us. And yet it lingers,like a mother’s tight grip, leaving a mark. Jackie’s complicated face in the cafeteria, heraudible gasp as Jenny gleefully cried out hersecrets. A bruise remains.
S
o much has changed from my youth. e woods remain fecund, though they havemostly vanished. When I visit my parents’house in Wheaton, Maryland, the house in which I was raised, I remember the alarmingrate at which nearby woods were removed whenI was a kid. Woods wherein I once lost myself in heady darkness were leveled with astonish-ing ease and alacrity, paved for handsome,large, bright houses with forbidding doors andenormous picture windows. Equally curious were the changes going on in the backyard of Dr. and Mrs. Fox, who lived in a house next toour split-level on Amherst Avenue. e househad long since made its presence felt as a chalky  white acid seeping beneath the north fence thatbordered our yard, choking o an increasingly  widening circle of our grass. I remember my mother peering down at the mysterious patchone afternoon with discreet consternation,behaving as the trained nurse she was. To me itseemed as if our neighbors were simply moreadvanced than we were. After all, they had apool in their backyard—we did not, we never would—and surely our creeping glacier was asmall if inevitable price to pay for their subur-ban enhancement. Less wilderness to mow. As the natural world slowly vanished, I losta kind of enchantment. I looked forward tothe end of my daily walk home from Saint Andrew’s: a diversion through Mr. and Mrs.Vengrouskie’s backyard on Arcola Avenue. A tiny creek zigzagged through their property over which they had constructed a small footbridgemade of quartz and mica rocks and concrete.is blessed their yard with a nearly European,Old-World charm to my ten-year-old self, and I would make believe that I was in the Black For-est in Germany, with miles of hills and solitudeand friendly, pie-faced children awaiting me when I emerged. e tiny bridge led me intothe recesses of the Vengrouskie’s yard, perpetu-ally cool even on the most humid of suburban Washington DC afternoons, a darkly drapedmini-forest that, though it was merely a hun-dred or so feet from my own home, transportedme. e Vengrouskie’s modest, landscaped yardbordered larger woods that my friend Mike hadthe great fortune of living next to. In fact, formany years—until they were leveled for a largehouse—these woods
were 
his backyard. We would lose ourselves in the maze of thickly-growing ash, acorn, and maple trees, navigatinga course of fallen limbs and dive-bombingcrows. e moment I entered the trees, my sense of demarcation—the civic parlance of suburbia—lifted. is is where my obsession with innity must have begun.My sensuality began to bloom as well,though dimly. Years after these trees wererazed I kept a pornographic novel hidden inthe moist recesses of a tree stump across thestreet from my house. By the time I’d reach iteach day—and it was all that I could think todo—my heart would be pounding up throughmy neck, my hormonal body trusting to fearand lurid excitement. Lifting the book fromthe stump was a nearly obscene gesture: thenovel was often heavy with the prior evening’srainfall, and I would gently pick away slugsand snails from the cover to reveal the nude,languorous woman pictured there. e dampand crass knowledge inside was ercely eroticand sprang from the fecund wetness all aroundme, the sharp, pungent odor of sopping grassand dank trees. It was a drizzling kind of erotic.My hands literally trembled as I peeled pagesapart like layers of skin. Years earlier, the woods behind Mike’s house was the scene of an event that remains troublingin my imagination. Predictably, details refuse tomarshal themselves: I’m sure of the participantsbut wildly unsure of the particulars. What year? What season? What motives? Mike was alwaysa risky boy, the kind who, when dared, wouldeat gum o the street. His face seemed perpetu-ally smudged with dirt and mischief. He wore
 WHEN I WAS SIx yEARS OLD I HAD My ADENOIDS REMOVED AT HOLy CROSSHOSpITAL. ONCE, pASSING By A ROOM, I GLANCED IN TO SEE A SMALL BOy My AGE SITTING IN A WHEELCHAIR, GRINNING. HIS HEAD WAS SHAVED ANDHIS SKuLL puNCTuRED By A DOZEN TINy, BLACK HOLES. jACKIE WAS AN uGLy GIRL. AT AGE TWELVE, I COuLD SEE IT: THE DOuGHy,MOTTLED FACE, THE BuLBOuS AND HOOKED NOSE, THE FAT LEGS, THESTRINGy HAIR.

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