Jeffrey Gordon shouldered his way into the hot auditorium at Walt Whitman Jr-Sr High with his sneering friends in tow. He wore a black AC/DC t-shirt, long black hair slicked back into a mullet, and across his chiseled face a smirk as sharp as the knife I could have sworn I saw glinting in his back pocket. I had already been seated in Row L, craning my barbered head back, watching him and his posse of seventh grade goons being herded into separate aisles by Mr. Sandberg, the Driver's Ed. Teacher, who knew trouble when he saw it coming.
So when you yanked that rib
from me, I think I mentioned
that I felt myself a tad
imbalanced, listing as it were,
and that I feared, not that I am a fearful man,
that I would soon be walking in
circles. But you, knowing all—or so you said—
assured me that we’d see murder and mayhem,
screaming childbirth, babbling incoherence,
floods and boils, before that came to pass.
Stepped out on the sun-streaked deck early
this morning, glasses fogging, thick north wind
riffling down from the pier. So I headed up
Route 12 to New Inlet, seven miles
of hard stepping, shirt off, thighs burning, head down,
sweat dripping under my shades into my beard.
At the turn, six kayaks off in the Sound,
I stopped gritting my teeth,
got off the bike and stretched my hams, more
Here is what I do: I scan weeklies all over the state and hone in on some good family that for one reason or another catches my eye; it could be a photograph or a headline on the sports page or a couple of kids with the same last name on school honor rolls. Or none of those. The only thing that connects them is that they are complete strangers to me.
I drive to their town and observe them for several weeks; I see the kids waiting for the school bus in the morning. Some days I follow mom to work. Some days, dad. I go along with them to restaurants and movies. I mark down who mows the lawn--and when. I note when the lights go out each night. Eventually I discern who is happy and who is putting up a front. I am only interested in the happy ones.