6. Being Careful
If you’re stuck in one group in high school, whether you’re in college courses, trade, home ec or whatever, the people in the group you’re in are the only people you really get to know. Except in gym class, where for better or worse, everyone is mixed together.
Gym was where I met Ed Paladino. Every Monday morning as we changed in the locker room, Ed continued the tradition he started in junior year of telling me about his weekend. He told me fantastic stories involving drugs and sex and the police and the train yards, and there was no one like him in my college-bound courses.
It was while we were changing for that Thursday’s gym class when instead of bragging loudly he spoke to me quietly as if he were telling me a secret.
“Do you know that stairway behind the gym that goes to the gym balcony?”
“Yes, the one that no one ever uses?”
He was speaking in a whisper, “Me and a couple of friends always use it. We usually go up there to light up, but last period when we were up there we found a pocketbook ripped to shreds. All the stuff that was inside was all over the ground.”
He smiled, “We decided to leave ’cause we didn’t want to get caught up there with pot and a ripped-off pocketbook. Anyway, out of all the crap that was on the floor I noticed there was a picture of you. If you want to check it out and find out whose pocketbook it is and just get it off the stairway, you’d really help me out. I would do it myself, but I don’t want anyone asking me what I was doing on that stairway to begin with, y’know?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
How eerie is that? The only thing I could think of was that the pocketbook probably belonged to a mass murderess who kept pictures of her intended victims and marked their faces with an X after she killed them.
Besides that, I couldn’t think of anyone who would want to keep a picture of me in her pocketbook.
I told him I would check it out.
Down a hallway that wasn’t used very much there was a stairway, a landing, another stairway going the other direction and a landing which led to a locked door. I knew what was there from my explorations of the school in my freshman year.
I walked down the empty hallway and turned a corner to see the first stairway. On the fifth step I found a roll of lipstick. I picked it up, studied it and proceeded to the first landing, from there I discovered the mess on the second stairway.
Scattered from step to step were more rolls of lipstick, a half- full bottle of perfume, a note pad, several pens and pencils, loose change, a small plastic case for tampons and some facial tissues.
I gathered everything as I made my ascent and laid all of it down in one neat pile on the top landing. At the center of the landing was a hollow, seemingly lifeless brown leather pocketbook. Next to that was a wallet.
I sat down on the top landing and leaned against the solid wooden door. I picked up the wallet and opened the inner fold with my thumbs. As expected, any money that was there, was taken.
Flipping through the plastic dividers I saw a picture of me, one that I had never seen before. It was a picture of me shouting my lungs out at the previous year’s Jamboree. The Jamboree is where the entire school gets together in the gym to get drunk, carry on and have silly events like three-legged races, egg tosses and cattle sacrifices.
But there I was, in the center of 11 stoned friends, screaming so much I lost my voice at the end of the night and I didn’t realize someone was taking my picture.
I really had no business looking through this girl’s wallet but since my picture was in there, I told myself that I had a small right to be nosey. Besides, examining the wallet was the only way I had of finding out whose it was
Flipping through the plastic dividers, I saw three pictures of girls wearing graduation caps and gowns, a picture of a boy standing in front of a Christmas tree and a picture of a guy in a Harding football uniform. I flipped that picture over and found a driver’s license which put the mystery to a surprising end.
Not wanting to risk being seen in the hallways carrying a pocketbook, I replaced all the contents in the bag and wrapped it up in my jacket. Then I took to the hallways to the school’s lost and found who would return the pocketbook because I wouldn’t.
Walking through the hallways. I knew that answering the question of whose pocketbook it was, introduced a new question; why was my picture in there? My thoughts went back to the photographs of Ann Marie Dodge Ron gave me. Ann Marie didn’t know I kept her picture in my locker just as I didn’t know this girl kept a picture of me in her wallet.
If I kept a picture of a girl I idolized in my locker I wondered if a girl I knew a little would keep a picture of me in her wallet for the same reason: long distance lust.
I wasn’t about to jump to conclusions, or compliment myself in such a matter, but on the other hand, I still didn’t want to risk embarrassing the girl by returning the pocketbook directly to her. I didn’t want her to know that I saw my picture in her wallet, so when I went to the lost and found I told them her name but I didn’t give them mine.
You have to be careful when you get involved with a girl like Carol Martino.
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