Friday, May 13, 2005

The Tunnels.

I had a bizarre day today. I'm still rattled. I decided to drive to the town I grew up in. I stopped off at my old grade schools. I remembered the days I spent playing football and tetherball on the playground. I walked over to the spot where I had my first fight. Sat on the steps I often went to when I was sad. Remembered my first crush. I watched kids play baseball and sighed, thinking "If only I could go back." I remembered how hard it was to be the only minority in my school. All the teasing. All the misery.

I bumped into an old science teacher of mine who said, "Yeah, I remember you Vavoom. As I recall you were brilliant but completely lacked dedication. One of those guys that never studied and pulled off great grades. Did you ever learn to apply yourself?" "No", I replied, "I'm just your average middle weight underachiever." My science teacher was right, I never really did try very hard. My old wrestling coach saw me and called me over, "Hey, Vavoom! Good to see you. Boy, you were a hell of a wrestler... too bad you never really put your heart into it. You could've gone to state finals." They were both right. In fact, I often feel like I don't put my heart into my work. Have I changed at all?

By then I had enough bad memories dredged up from my early days in school. I thought I'd drop by the house I grew up in. Yes, it is located on Tedrow Drive. I also visited the preschool I attended, it's just around the corner from the old house. Again, I revisited some very bad memories I had there.

Finally, I stopped off at the old Library. As a child, I spent hours there reading. It was my home away from home. Surely this would bring back the good times. Before I left I saw a group of pictures in the glass exhibit window. There were photos of local soldiers currently serving. I remembered an old friend of mine. We were friends from elementary school till high school. Upon graduation, I headed to Berkeley. He went to West Point. I was angry with him. I wanted him to stay out of the military. Suffice it to say, we had a major falling out. We never reconciled our differences.

I searched for his picture in the glass case. "C'mon, he's got to be in there," I said to myself. Suddenly I saw his picture. I was overjoyed to see him smiling in uniform. Then I looked above the picture. It read, "In Memoriam." I couldn't believe my eyes, "Please God, Please God, Please God," I kept repeating under my breath. I quickly went over to the front desk and said, "That, that, that picture over there. It says 'In Memoriam.' That's a mistake, right? That doesn't mean that he's, like, gone, right?" "I'm afraid it's not a mistake," she replied. "He died about a year ago."

I felt a rush of tears come to my eyes. I held them back and ran outside. I'd never vomited from hearing bad news. Until now.

I ran back to my car and took off. I needed a place to go. Somewhere I could be alone. I remembered a place we went to when I was young. In our city, we had a system of underground water overflow tunnels. They were just beyond the railroad tracks, down a sharp sloping hill that entered into a ditch. The entrance to the tunnels consisted of a massive metal door, held open by a small boulder. I squeezed through the door and entered a frightening world of uncertainty. These underground tunnels formulated a fabulous labyrinth of darkness. As a child I knew them like the back of my hand. Now, I only remembered that they were pitch black.

I thought about my friend. I thought about him dying on some field all alone. I thought about the fact that I didn't support him when he needed me. Suddenly I felt enraged. I began walking. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I didn't care. I was so angry. Angry at myself. I walked faster and faster. Suddenly I broke out into a full sprint, not knowing if I would run into a wall. I screamed out, "FUCK! GOD DAMN IT!" My voice boomed throughout the maze of tunnels. I ran until my lungs couldn't take it anymore. I was lost. Completely lost.

Suddenly I heard a small faint meow. I walked closer and the sound grew louder. There was a small cat somewhere nearby. I couldn't see him, so I knelt down and put my hand out. Still nothing but "meow." I called for him, "here kitty, kitty, kitty." Suddenly I felt his soft body brush up against me. I picked him up and realized that indeed, he was a kitten. I walked a short while when I then heard the echoes of a child crying and someone talking. Now I was scared.

I walked further, using the echoing cries to guide me. As they got louder, I suddenly said, "I can hear you. Stay where you are. I'm coming." In the meantime, my furry friend was meowing his head off. I kept walking and eventually could make out what was being said, "I didn't mean to *sniff* *sniff*, he just fell." "How are we gonna get him out? Maybe we should get some cat food." "*sniff* I think I heard someone *sniff* down there."

The voices came loud and clear. There was a smaller tunnel that projected light into the dark surroundings. These children were somewhere in this lighted area. I turned the corner and entered the smaller tunnel. Lo and behold -- I was in a rain gutter. I saw two little boys peeking their heads into the gutter. "Did you lose your cat?" I asked. "Yes, you found him! He found him, he found him!" "I'll pass him up to you," I said. After having done so, one of the smart ass kids asked, "Hey, what are doing in the sewer?" "This isn't the sewer," I responded, "It's a drainage system. There's no shit sent into this system. It's not a sewer. Besides, I umm... I'm with Southern California Edison. I'm checking the power lines down here." "Thank you for saving him," the other little boy said. "*sniff* I thought he was gone forever." "No problem," I replied.

I went back into the dark tunnel system. It took me a while to get back to the entrance. On my way back, I kept thinking about my poor friend. It'll take a long while before I recover from the news. As I walked through the tunnels, I couldn't help but find a lesson in all of it. Much as is the case with my life, while in the tunnels I felt angry, sad, scared, completely lost, unsure of where I was going next. Yet, I was still able to help someone in need, albeit accidentally. Maybe that's what made my journey through the tunnels worth it. Maybe that's what makes life worth it.


Blogger Kat said...

What a sad and beautiful story. Bless you.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about yuor friend Vavoom, but I have to say that you have applied yourself these last few years and what has happened recently is not a fault of that.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vavoom, that is quite a story. I am so sorry for you loss. Remember...when one door closes another opens!! Just allow yourself to STEP through the new door and ENJOY it!!!!

7:35 PM  
Blogger Rattie said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your friend Vavoom. ))hug((

7:51 PM  
Blogger An80sNut said...

I have to say that you didn't tell your former teachers the truth. You may feel that you don't put passion and drive into a project to be successful but consider your blog. This post alone is amazingly well written and conceived. I am sorry to hear about your friend and do know that we are with you at this time.

12:44 AM  
Blogger dreadcow said...

Vavoom: You kick ass.

2:10 AM  
Blogger Danilo da Silva said...

im sorry to hear these news Vavoom. Reading this brought back some memories I had from last year.

I also new someone who passed away in the military, he was in Iraq. He was a great guy, a bit odd in a funny way, but once you actually stopped to talk to him you found out he was a great person to speak with. And then I left the US and didnt have contact with him. Once I heard the news about his death, I was also very sad, thinking if I had been there enough for him, if I had helped him enough, if I had said anything to offend him.

But... I beleive honestly that in these moments these details are not important, what truly is important is the friendship, the feelings that guided this friendship. Details are details, don't think about the "if"s, actually what you did was thinking about his own safety, which speaks a lot about the relationship. If you had arguments with him about his choice it means a lot, you value his safety over many other things. I think Vavoom you did a lot for him, the rest were things out of your control. Keep the good memories, Im sure you have them.


6:31 AM  
Blogger A Fashionista said...

Oh V, I'm gobsmacked! I don't know what to say but condolences. I'd have freaked out too. I'm also not on speaking terms with a childhood friend for a couple years now. I can't apologize cause I didn't do anything. She just doesn't talk to me cause she supports her brother whose educated with multiple degrees and is mentally sound. He's just a lazy ass and wants to be a leach. So the day I said, "what's up with that, & make him work" she basically told me to mind my own business and never spoke to me again. It's a sick co-dependent thing going on there, but if she dies I'd be really sad and sick. So I feel you man.

11:48 AM  
Blogger RT said...

Vavoom, after reading this post I tried desperately to come up with some comforting words for you, but there are none. I know that the pain of losing a friend is bad, but the pain of losing a friend with unresolved issues is ten times worse. It's just one of those things that you have to try to make right in your own head, in your own time.

Just know that we're here for you if you want to talk it through.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

Thanks all. I'm going to write a letter to his mother this week. I'm hoping that will help me bring closure to the situation.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Mentally Challenged said...

I am extremely sorry to hear of the death of your friend who meant so much to you. You should indeed write the letter to his mother, if you haven't already. I wish that I could visit my mother but sadly, she died last year.

Your post brought back memories of, among other things, my grade school years. I remember two brothers, from my grade school, who were very strong, liked to pick on on people, and fight them.

I remember walking home, down an alley, from school one day, and came across a fight involving the afore mentioned brothers. I have forgotten if the fight involved one brother or both of them,but in any case the opponent was a
Canadian native Indian of approximately the same age, who I suppose as a member of a visible Indian minority which are often hated, was often challenged and virtually forced to fight. However, on that occassion the victim wasn't such easy pickings for the brothers(brother?), as I had seen on another occassion, and the native gave as good as he got.

On another occasion in the grade school yard I had seen the brothers(brother?) Pick a fight with "Joe" I believe his name was. Joe was a big fat kid. He was taller and larger then either brother, but he was extremely weak Phyically and could have been beaten up, as most of us new, by many of the girls at the school. Joe on that occassion was beaten to a pulp, and to this day I still feel sorry for him concerning what happened that day.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Mr. Snitch said...

There is a link between dedication and motivation. If your best motivation is to aid others, it speaks well of you and what you can accomplish.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

I read this a few days ago and wanted to comment but am still a bit speechless (shocking). It's a beautiful story, what a wonderful experience for you to have found the kitten... it somehow balanced the moment.

10:55 AM  

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