I stood in front of a building at my high school, the same place I signed up for E2 some eighteen years ago.

It was the technology building back at school. I didn’t spend time in most classrooms here; never bothered to learn German or Spanish back then, only had a stray math class here and there. But there was one classroom I spent hours in every day.

Man was a navy reservist, and sometimes I swear he was studying the day’s course material the night before. His name was Greg Aldred, but we just called him Aldred with an optional mister. Aldred’s classroom was lined with these white towers and chunky CRT monitors everywhere, and the few friends I’d had back then would rush our simple little basic programming assignments, slip in a clandestine floppy disk, and play Super Nintendo games under the fluorescent lights overhead, quick on the alt-tab if something came up.

Now why this girl showed up in the class, I’ll never know. She had the makings of Aesthetics with a capital ay, and I remember sitting there, looking at her for brief moments. Over a year, my thoughts distinctly went from “oh man, she’s beautiful and she’s got a great look,” as she was sitting in class in an actual pleated tartan skirt, her hair in a dark blue bob, a black fuzzy sweater on. In retrospect, she was pioneering the late ‘10s trans girl fashion of the day. Eventually, my thoughts moved to “what’s she doing here?” Same as the rest of us, it turns out: half-heartedly working on a networking certificate or programming language skill, and playing secret emulator games. But she did seem more focused than most.

Eventually my thoughts about her turned to jealousy—“why do girls get to look like that, but not me?” And that was my first distinct awakening, sometime in March of that year; I could look like that, maybe. Lots of circumstances in the way though. I’d be excited to get dressed in the morning.

I remember talking with her a few times, the details of what I can’t quite remember, but I also was working really hard on a badly coded tiny little JRPG in C++ which went far and above any of the class requirements. I wasn’t really doing it to impress her, but hey, what if I could be a girl programmer?

Eventually, everyone went their own separate ways. I remember her first name, not her last. I’m sure she dropped that fashion sense, and I picked most of it up where she left it. I never saw her again after that, and wouldn’t recognize her if I did, but in creating ourselves, we borrow bits and pieces from each other.

Thirteen years previously:

It was 1990, maybe 1991, and I was 11 years old, and I was standing in the courtyard of the same high school, presumably. At the time, I was going to a free school with a few dozen students in the Portland area. The school started with good intentions, perhaps, but it would, in the course of the year that I went there, devolve into mere anarchy. Sometime toward the beginning, when we were all full of optimism, someone arranged a trip for us to participate in some type of science fair. It was held at a gigantic suburban high school, or at least it seemed like it was gigantic when I was 12. Brutalist architecture, although prettier than most, with a courtyard full of mezzanines. It felt like being on the Starship Enterprise, helped by so many people running around, doing important things. It was quite a contrast to our threadbare little experimental school.

I only remember one event I went to that day: a map challenge. We were given a road atlas, a series of hazy directions, and had to pretend we were navigating our way across some weird tangle of highways someplace immeasurable far eastward, like Indiana. I was still very awkward and unsure of myself, so I didn't think my participation would come to anything, but apparently I could figure out the maps better than most, because at the end of the competition, I was awarded a second place ribbon. It seems that even at an early age, my innate fascination with maps and geography was working. I only remember one fellow student that went with me, and even his presence there was an assumption. He was a chubby little kid a few years younger than me, even more scatterbrained and childish than myself. He was of South Asian descent, Mizrahi and Parsee.

I met him again a dozen years later, the same time as the above writeup happened, due to the graces of Livejournal and Portland's scene. In a dozen years, the age difference between us had disappeared, and his weirdness had turned into the cool type of weirdness. He was still a dork, but he had a college radio show and his disheveled self was now spending time with rock stars, or what passed for rock stars in Portland. We saw Richie Havens perform at a record store. We went to art films. We hung out. He would appear and disappear from my life. Last spring, during the height of the pandemic, he had Zoom Parties, where we would sit around and drink White Claws with his other record store clerk friends. We would exchange grand e-Mail threads about gossip and the Portland Trailblazers, and then disappear. I wrote him this morning to say that I found an Errol Garner record at a thrift store. He responded with a single word: "cool".

I can't think of an epiphany to this story, and maybe that is the epiphany. For thirty years, ever since we were chubby kids, to our 40s, where we are chubby adults, I have had a relationship with him that travel in bending parallels, off and on.

So this is actually a counterpoint. Through my life, I haven't dealt with images. What I see around me isn't a flicker or flair, something that disappears. For people and places, they are all mud on my boots, parts of a story that aren't going away. Shadows are not very viscous but every memory I have is, pulling at connections that go down to the present moment.

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