Mack Williams: An Old “Dent”

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2016

 When exiting my 1992 Chevrolet Lumina, the door always falls inward, even when I’m parked on flat surface. I suppose it does this for a reason; but if you are just a little slower in getting out, the door can come back and hit your shin.
The other day it did just that, and in my self-consoling rubbing, I felt a “dent” on my shinbone (we’ll dispense with the famous “bone song” for now).
The Lumina door caused only an abrasion, but that fingertip-sized, shallow “bone valley” beneath, was a little deeper and more deep-seated, dating back about 55 years to a late afternoon 1961 day at Granite Quarry School when I was 10.
From his time in the War of 1812, Peter Stuart Ney had scars all over his body (said to match those of Marshall Michel Ney). The only war I survived was the cold one, with my injuries (not Cold War related, only contemporaneous) numbering basically “two.” One has survived as several scars on fingers caused by a broken fishbowl, and the other is that “dent” on my shin.
On that day in 1961, I (like everyone else) was in a rush to get to my bus to be taken back home, when I slipped, hitting my left shin on metal-edged steps. The person behind me saw me on the ground. From my particular viewpoint, I was face-to-face (chin almost touching) with an upper-level step, while the step lower down was the source of excruciating leg pain (being hit in the shin probably rates a close second to being hit “someplace” else).
On that day, as always, I made it to the bus, but limped on the way.
Since I made no reciprocal “dent” in the metal step (no “A/B,” no “yin/yang,” no “positive/negative,”) there is nothing surviving there from my injury, or is there?
A drop of my blood would have lingered for only a short while, not like those long-lived “stains” of Peter Dromgoole’s blood on the rock at Chapel Hill’s Gimghoul Castle (or other “blood-lingerings” dealt with by the likes of John Newland on TV’s “One Step Beyond”(1959-61).
I do wonder, though, if school buildings are prey to some sort of “remnants” of oxidative processes produced by the energy of the hopes, dreams, fears and even school-yard injuries of children (in the case of the older schools, accumulated attendance would number in the tens of thousands).
In those early years, childhood wishes and fears seem as volatile as a chemical reaction, but differ from a chemical experiment, with a wide variety of outcomes (some positive, some negative) being the “life-results.”
The wear and tear from the energy of young dreams, the interaction with young friends and nemeses, and the emotion of looking up to a teacher or principal as role model might have left their mark on the old school’s wood, brick, and perhaps, even much harder granite.
As a result, perhaps an invisible “patina” representing fervent childhood emotions covers the surfaces of the buildings at Granite Quarry School. Perhaps the old two-story building’s tearing-down was necessitated by that emotion-filled patina’s accumulated weight. (I’m sure the stated reason for its tearing down was something physical and logical, but who knows  everything which contributed?).
It’s as if, after enough “sittings,” the background and canvas take on some of the life of the subject; or if after enough “performances,” the stage’s set takes on some of the dynamics of the actors.
I like to imagine that between the arrival of the busses in the morning and their departure at 3 p.m., the flowing energy of childhood possibly moves along a gradient (Faraday), exciting the atoms and molecules of the classroom buildings, making their electrons orbit faster and faster!
Concerning that old “dent” in my shinbone, resulting from my accident “with” Granite Quarry School; as I age, the more that school (even just its physical plant) becomes a living thing in my mind.
School children, walking lively in groups with arms flailing in unrestrained camaraderie sometimes give each other a “thump, “or “bump,” either purposeful, or by accident.
So it follows that the little dent on my left shinbone is a long-term memento of when my “good old friend” Granite Quarry School and I “bumped” into each other one afternoon in 1961.

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