The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 

There is a Rubbermaid trash can of rags in the forepeak. It is kept stocked with a stash of tightly packed plastic wrapped bricks filled with bright splashes of color that are neatly stowed on the shelves.

Finishing up on the deck, I was dirty, covered in grime and more than a little sweaty. I reached in for a rag to clean up.

*pwoof*

I fell head first into the bin and instead of tipping over and tumbling to the ground, bruising my backside for the millionth time, I floated gracefully; suspended like a sweaty Alice tumbling after a white rabbit. The bottom had fallen away and I found myself not so much falling but more swimming. Instead of water, I was dog paddling through an endless swirling cloud composed of colored cotton bits.

It was old t-shirts mostly. Sometimes shreds of jersey maxi skirts would brush my face. Occasionally a trim of lace or the elastic waistband of well-loved pajamas. There was fabric scraps in every color of the rainbow and then some.

Most drifted past uneventfully. But occasionally they would hum and vibrate. But not with energy, they vibrated with a story that threatened to burst them.

I reached out to the one nearest me, bright burn-the-retinas pink vibrating through my fingers...

~~~

It was her favorite color. Sleeveless tank style top with a full knee-length skirt. She wore it with sandals and walked very daintily, swinging her hips to see the bell-like skirt swirl around her legs. It's the dress she wears in every photo taken of her that summer. There are a few grass stains around the hem. The day it pinched her armpits and her mother made her take it off, she cried.

~~~

As I let go, I couldn't tell you how I knew about the little blue eyed girl in the pink dress, it was just a part of my conscious and as if it had always been there, I couldn’t remember ever not knowing it.

I grabbed at a floating partial list of cities printed on a heather gray...

~~~

The dance team was incredible that year. Never in their history had they ever been this crisp. Every pop and snap was on point and they were going on tour. Funds had been raised, shirts sold, bus chartered. They would hit every county fair in the state. For the rest of her life, that tour would be her crowning glory. At every office holiday party she told the story of that summer. Whenever she drank she would try to persuade her companions into watching her old routine. After the second divorce and her last move, she couldn't find the heather gray "Jazz Hands" tour t-shirt anywhere. Cursing under her breath she left for Pilates with a "St. Patrick's Day 2010" shirt instead.

~~~

Palm trees and a surfboard hummed ahead of me…

~~~

After high school, he spent a few years in SoCal. There were palm trees there and beaches. The beaches were his favorite part. He bought a surfboard and worked on his tan. In the mornings and evenings he would strap his board to the jeep and head to the water. The sunsets were amazing in California. He would stand his board in the sand and watch the sun disappear beyond the horizon. When he returned to Ohio, his closet was full of surf competition shirts, most of which had been picked up at the secondhand store in San Diego. No one here needed to know he had been too afraid to actually step on a board.

~~~

When I pulled away to look around, a small insignificant scrap of blue pulled my attention and I swam toward it...

~~~

It was a plain old blue t-shirt. One of many. It was unobtrusive, inoffensive, and unremarkable. It was worn to the office, the park, lounging around and playing XBox. She had three identical sisters in the same drawer. She had arrived in a 2-pack and remained essentially unseen until she was tossed in the donation bin during a bout of spring cleaning. The future President of the United States would go through hundreds more just like her.

~~~

I tried to swim back the way I had come when the slashed screen print of a vine, skull, and heart hummed against a dark gray jersey...

~~~

She was afraid to get a tattoo, but she would never tell anyone. On the surface, she wasn't afraid of anything. She could take a punch as well as any of them and throw one a little better. But a needle, no way. That was her secret. She was fascinated by the tattoos that crossed her path. She wondered how long they had sat in the chair, how many millions of times those tiny needles had penetrated the surface of their skin. She wanted to be that brave.

When she met Sarah it was like fear just dissipated. She didn’t feel invincible, it wasn’t an I-can-do-anything feeling. It was just that nothing could destroy her with Sarah’s hand in her own. So when Sarah had proposed matching cactus tattoos on their left forearms, she didn’t even blink. She unbuttoned her flannel revealing her favorite tank top of a vine engulfed skull and heart and her arms bare.

~~~

I began to wonder about the passage of time, how long had I been here…

~~~

Loud. The only word that could describe his style. Pink flamingos and margaritas or bottles of beer were his favorite print combinations. In fact, he prided himself on wearing the most outlandish patterns he could find. His favorite pajamas were no different. Lime green patterned with pink wedge sandals. He had no idea where Charlie had found them, but this was the closet in which they belonged. It was on a business trip to Fresno that they had been lost. When the baggage claim conveyor belt had grinded to a halt he felt sick.

~~~

It was then it dawned on me that I was swimming through a bin of rubbish. And just like that, the spell was broken.

I fell with a loud thump on my butt. Rubbing it, I stood up and righted the rag bin. Throwing all the spilled rags back and shoving it back into place. I pulled out a red scrap which had once had Yoda’s face on it, but was sliced across the right side of his face. I wiped the grease off my hands and shoved it in my back pocket. For just an instant, the face of a small boy with a giant grin on his face and a plastic lightsaber in his hands flashed across my mind. But there was work to finish, and I made my way to the back deck.