Thursday, July 17, 2003

When I saw Mom at one point we talked about Henry, how my childhood friend had found himself adrift, wandering Europe unhappily with his green card-seeking bride. Years of expensive art school had left him a stubborn mediocrity, handing out nondescript paintings like calling cards and saying things like, "To be an artist nowadays you have to have a concept."

I remembered one day in the sixth grade, in English class, it was slate-gray and stormy out and suddenly a tremendous flash of orange burst in the window. The transformer out on the lawn had just exploded.

Henry had been positioned in the classroom in such a way that he was sort of facing the window, perhaps staring out distractedly as we learned the word of the week. He had seen the burst directly, and in the tumult and excitement afterward, kids racing to the sill, he sat limply in his seat. A minute later he complained of nausea and was led down the hall to the nurse. I was struck by how this electrical event had seemed to extinguish something in him and now I wondered if perhaps it had been the source of all his troubles.