To my knowledge, I did not fall in love with anyone while I was in preschool. Admittedly, I don’t remember a lot about those days. I remember making art with paint-colored marbles inside of a shoebox. I remember some girl bringing in her mom’s copy of "Dirty Dancing" for show and tell. I remember spending a lot time by myself pretending.
I once spent hours quietly imagining I ran a dog orphanage on a T.V. show I’d invented, appropriately called “Dog Orphanage.” I remember becoming totally mortified when, just before a climactic scene involving a particularly cute puppy, I loudly announced, “MORE DOG ORPHANAGE AFTER THIS MESSAGE,” and all of the pre-school teachers burst out laughing. I had no idea anyone was watching. “Philistines,” I probably did not mutter to myself while adjusting the boa and straw hat that made up my ensemble.
In kindergarten, I was struck by Cupid’s arrow, though I didn’t know that’s what was happening. His name was William Sneed and he was the worst. He was big for his size, hugely tall and hugely round. He was rude, and violent. He said swear words and made my life a holy misery. “Do you know you have boobs?” He asked me one day. I don’t remember how I responded, but it’s safe to guess I either said nothing, ran away, or quietly denied the existence of any such things on my person. I developed early, but not in kindergarten. I can only assume that my sexual powers were captivating even then. Either that or that William Sneed knew a lot more about the world and bodies and pheromones than I did.
I found him repulsive and captivating. “Mom,” I chirped sweetly after class one day, “what does fuck mean?” I don’t remember what she said, but I’m sure she handled it like a champ.
William Sneed made life for my kindergarten teacher, Mr. Ishiboshi, impossible. Our teacher would summon us back indoors from recess by twirling a, I guess, piece of a hose over his head that would make a weird hooting sound like a strangled trumpet. The kids would run to him, Mr. Ishiboshi with his tucked in shirts and his belts and his kindness. Not William Sneed. He always had at least one finger in his belly button, and another up his nose. He ate whatever he managed to find in either orifice. “Nasty,” he’d say smacking his lips. Once in the bath I leaned down to see if I had anything worth snacking on in my own belly. Sadly, this was not the case.
My heart was divided up into pieces and I was strange to myself. I spent my free time wondering what awful thing WIlliam Sneed would do next. Once, he accidentally got poop on his own leg and I almost popped my own brain trying to think how he'd out-do himself after that. William Sneed could make me cry by telling me I had an “ugly man nose”, and I’d think about it and him all day. I’d think of all the things I wanted to say to him. I wanted to hurt his feelings.
I thought about this the other day when I was sitting with this kid in a bar. The bartender was being kind of an asshole, because, you know, he's a bartender, whatever, that's a hard job considering the way people are. Anyway, my date prides himself on his quick comebacks. He was playing out scenarios with me of how he'd best the bartender. "What would you say to rip that guy's heart out in five seconds?" I think I just sort of shrugged. William Sneed would have known just what to say.
With William Sneed, I felt like if I hurt his feelings, he’d like me. I was, you know, five, so the breakdown in logic there didn’t really bother me. When he was out sick I was so happy. I would soar like a bird. “Children,” I imagined the principal coming into our room and saying. “William Sneed is dead. He said 'fuck' to a pack of wild dogs and they ate him in a slow and painful way. Except for his belly button. Even the dogs won't touch that.”
I told a girl in my class about these fantasies. She never said, “Dude, that is literally so dark and messed up.” No, instead she said, “Oooooh you like him!” I was indignant. I felt my throat get tight, like my head was about to pop. “I DO NOT I HATE HIM,” I screamed. The girl just nodded knowingly. She got that hate and love are twins. She was an advanced study. It would take me another thirteen years to figure that one out.
Sadly, William Sneed was never eaten by dogs, or run over by Knight Rider, or murdered by a band of roving musicians who plied him with ‘shrooms and brownies. None of it ever happened. He always came back.
If I loved anyone else in my kindergarten class with my weird little bits of cardiovascular matter, it was Mr. Ishiboshi himself. It’s funny that I don’t have a clearer picture than the one I do of him. I couldn’t tell you how old he was. It could have been 20 or 40. I remember what he looked like, I remember the hose he used to call us all in to class. I remember that he rode his bicycle all around town and I thought that was so funny. In hindsight, Mr. Ishiboshi might have been an awesome proto-hipster and I have no idea. I do know that I felt a kinship with him. He was so patient and decent. He did not laugh at me, or anyone.
The only time I ever saw him angry was one day when William Sneed was being particularly terrible. It was a show and tell day, and William Sneed was systematically ripping everyone else apart. He’d forgotten to bring something for show and tell, and when Mr. Ishiboshi called on him, he tried to use the Co-ed Naked T-shirt he was wearing as a point of conversation. Mr. Ishiboshi just shook his head, and moved on to the next student. This just made Sneed angrier. I can’t remember what he said that finally broke our gentle teacher, but I guarantee you it was obscenity laden. It possibly involved our teacher’s mother. What I do remember is Mr. Ishiboshi picking up William Sneed by the seat of his pants and hurling him into time out.
Keep in mind: I was five. I am much older than that now. The mind is not to be trusted. For all I know, Mr. Ishiboshi just forcefully marched him to the corner. But I swear I can recall being awestruck when William Sneed was silenced by the surprising physical prowess of our small teacher. I remember William Sneed’s ass flying through the air. I remember thinking that when I died, I hoped it felt as good as this moment. William Sneed's ass collapsing to the ground with a wobbly slap was prettier than any surprise I'd ever seen.
I wanted to comfort William Sneed. I wanted him never to forget what it felt like to be made small. I wanted to hug Mr. Ishiboshi. I wanted to call him my hero. Instead I just sat in the sharing circle with my legs crossed, sucking on my own upper lip and wondering if life was always going to feel so complicated.