Walking to Mr. Blok’s office I thought about clubs.
Why did someone join a club? That was easy: For a sense of belonging. I had never joined a club. I liked being alone. I belonged to the Stark family. I belonged to trees behind my house. I belonged to my books. I belonged to the universe. I didn’t need a club to belong. I belonged fine.
Why start one?
To spread the message?
To participate in a larger community?
I didn’t want to lead, nor spread any message, and I wanted to go away. The entire plan made no sense. Yes, I proposed a club but without Mr. Blok it had no life. It came to me. And this understanding fit in with another idea fermenting in my brain.
I was not sure whether it was good or bad.
It began with space. I could detect subtle changes in space, like school halls. They wobbled. I knew what was happening.
I was falling. Or at least leaving recognizable space.
Along with a physical sensation of instability, I saw differently. I acutely inventoried an entire expanse, everything, from individuals to objects. The walls, and students, the teachers, fire extinguishers, the garbage cans and ceiling lights blended into a whole. I saw colors and, more importantly, patterns.
I had the job of translating them.
The absurd was visiting me, again.
And I needed the absurd.
The certainty of the absurd always accompanied these moments of seeing the world as a whole.
And this combination produced an understanding of how my life worked. I viewed this as a good thing.
I saw, in my waking daylight, a theater set. I passed through this set. Using theater lingo, I walked through scenes. Sometimes I dutifully walked through them, just as I was walking to Mr. Blok’s office. Other times scenes came to me, or I walked in a way that made me intersect with them. For example, my ordinary routine would never have had me encounter Carrie Unser. But other forces created a scene where I did meet up with Carrie Unser. So reality, which was another word for life, was not real. It couldn’t be real, because real things couldn’t be so randomly lame.
That’s what I meant when I said the absurd was closing in on me. It was a scene change.
My sister Emma didn’t like me talking this way. I told her that all scenes, to a greater or lesser extent, were absurd.
She said, “I’m worried about you.”
I said, “You should.”
“It is not healthy.”
“You’re describing things accurately.”
“It makes no sense.”
“For me it does. I can’t take life. What’s there is so unacceptable. I need some other way to make sense of life.”
“Life is not that complicated.”
“That’s part of my point. If life is this simple, and so sad, what’s the point?”
“Do not talk that way.”
“Why not? I’m looking for an option. You think I’m going to kill myself? Emma, my option is to keep living. By seeing life as one theater of the absurd, I can survive. It’s a better place for me.”
Emma had a right to worry. Even I was having a hard time convincing myself of this idea. Still, it was all I had.
Was this condition a sign that my ordinary, conventional, reasonable mind had abandoned me? Should I embrace this idea, or, as Emma hoped, guillotine it on the spot?
Me - making a club. CJ Stark didn’t do clubs.
Me - making a club about death.
Me and Carrie Unser face-to-face for a reason.
Come on. Absurd.
I didn’t resist. I was a bit player. All of my roles were cameos. Yes, it was my life, but since I had no control over it, and I thought it was nuts, I simply waltzed through it, and laughed or cried. Mostly I cried.
I stepped into the scene, Mr. Blok’s office.
I sat. Since this was a new scene, that clear vision I had walking down the hall had evaporated. I looked at the details of the office in order to craft a new whole picture. The office secretary, Mrs. Pedlow, talked on the phone, wrote a pass for a student and looked at me. She stood behind a grey waist high desk. Staplers, tape dispensers and file folders festooned the desk. Two office workers I didn’t know by name sat occupied with paperwork. The clock’s minute hand clicked to indicate the passage of a minute. All was going well.
Carrie Unser stood at the main desk in front of me. She said nothing, but her face said:
“What is wrong with you?”
This without a scintilla of care. How did she get this job? Wasn’t this a place where civil servants work?
And what was up with her wearing sunglasses?
Others, however, did directly ask me that question. At first, when asked this, all I could muster were blank stares. Soon, I realized that to cry, in public, without restraint, seriously bothered people.
I knew I was failing, as a citizen, and that I owed them some more satisfactory response. For their comfort. They needed to know all was okay, despite being in the presence of a crying person. They wanted to hear me say “Nothing is wrong, everything is fine.” Even if it was not.
Before I could do more that stare at Carrie Unser, Mrs. Pedlow ushered me into Mr. Blok’s office. I looked back at Carrie Unser with a pleading look that said “I intend to answer your question to your satisfaction, but as you can see…”
Even with sunglasses, Carrie Unser’s countenance trailed me with malice.
Or was my paranoid style getting the best of me? Who knew – Carrie Unser might like me.
Did I just say that twice since I met her?
“Did you receive my note?”
“And the application?”
“CJ, why are you responding with a question?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t filled it out yet.”
“Don’t worry. Come on, tell us about your club.”
Upon hearing the word ’us’ I saw that another person sat in the rear of Mr. Blok’s office.
“Hi Fabian, Mr. Blok tells you are thinking of starting a club.”
Carrie Unser inspired me with a feeling of weakness that catalyzed a need for violence. Mr. Blok forced me see that I owed something to the larger community that I inhabited. Mrs. Stone made me want to run for the hills.
Had I seen Mr. Blok lock his door?
He must know being in the presence of Mrs. Stone served up a portion of dread within me so large that all the nation’s Ronald McDonalds would frown.
I gripped onto the arms of the chair and firmly made my upper jaw meet my lower.
“Do I need to contact my parents?” I asked.
“Why, oh I see, no, that won’t be necessary. Mrs. Stone was just leaving. Thanks, I’ll get back to you on this.”
Mrs. Stone rose and stepped behind my chair. I felt her bandaged hand touch my right shoulder as she lightly dragged it across my back while heading for the door.
“I hope we can talk about this club sometime. Sounds interesting. Good-bye Fabian. I hope you are doing better.”
I stared at Mr. Blok.
“Sorry about that. Forgot about your time with her.”
“That wasn’t planned?”
“What, Fabian, why would I do that? What do you take me for?”
“I don’t know Mr. Blok. I really don’t know how I should take you.”
“As a friend. Now, your club about death. What’s your plan?”
How to transition from being touched by Vice-Principal Stone to discussions about death.
Actually, that was not too hard, since I tried to kill Mrs. Stone two weeks ago.
So she said.
When all I did was stab her hand with the closest thing I could find on her desk, which was an antique silver letter opener.
Kill her. Right.
But if she wanted to believe that I tried to kill her, fine. I certainly felt inspired to do so. But stabbing a hand? Well, Mrs. Stone did tend to exaggerate.
I had hoped my time with Mrs. Stone would end with my assault, but my new-found degree of clear-sightedness told me otherwise.
First things first.
“I have no plan. Assign me a room and a time and I’ll see what happens.”
“That’s not how it works Fabian. Whom do you think will join?”
“I haven’t the foggiest notion.”
“How about an advisor?”
“Got me there.”
“A purpose statement?”
“It is about death!”
“I want a developed paragraph. Submit that to me by the end of the day. And the name of the club?”
“Club Dead,” Mr. Blok wrote on the application. “Okay CJ, you’ve got your club, Club Dead.”
Mrs. Pedlow appeared below the threshold. I heard someone yelling about the “injustice of this school!”
“Frank giving you a hard time?”
“He’s harmless. You have a meeting with the superintendent.”
“Yes, she’s leaving now.”
Mrs. Pedlow eyed me with curiosity. I walked passed toward the door.
No signs of Carried Unser.
A student wiggled though the door as I was about to cross the threshold. The move forced him to drop a notebook and two textbooks. Papers spread out onto the floor. Unable to pass by I found myself standing in the hall, looking down at him picking up his papers and books. Before I know it I was drawn into a conversation that would greatly affect Club Dead.
And just like that: a new scene.