1999: Graduation & Points North

by Mensah Mkalimu

I always think of high school.
…1999, screaming with my peers about
being the last class of the millennium, plotting
college plans, senior prom dates, class ring sizes
…babies carrying babies inside swollen bellies, which
peeked through draped graduation gowns, and we were all
unaware that life was all too mysterious
…until they pushed us out with diplomas in hand, 
ringing commencement speeches in our ears, 
never whispering a word of reality about the 
true humanness of being an adult and, accordingly, 

High school sets the tone for adulthood
…because cliques never really break up outside of the grounds…
…because bullies still reign supreme over the quiet and sensitive…
…because your intellect is overlooked by the dude who can
jump out of the gym with fresh Iversons and school jerseys…

It is the barometer for the coming days
…principals are called “politicians” now…
…tattle-tells wear police badges now…
…you are still told to be good boys and girls…
never step out of bounds…never be you.

Shiny denim pants are still worn below the equator
…men, once boys, still spit lines to women, once girls, in hopes
for nightly romps in sex-funk’d shadows…
and the nerds who don’t become Fortune 500
…they become unhappy…unstable…and become prone to
firing arms in corporate cafeterias when lay-offs and lost youth becomes too much.

Not so different from high school, is it?

Drunk nothings, who used to be football stars, stand outside
Liquor stores…batting touchdown stories back and forth…
Wishing to reclaim those once-in-a-lifetime teenage years.
…cats who rapped and broke beats on lunch tabletops still
chase emcee dreams, trying to stretch paychecks to include rent
and studio time…loose girls are now difficult mothers…
loose boys are now dodging fathers…and everyone in between now knows
that sex wasn’t as pious as preachers and health education teachers made it to be…

You really do say goodbye to friends on graduation day.

Phone numbers and final scribbles in yearbooks are well-intentioned
…but 5 years fly by easily and friends become recognizable faces in malls
during Christmas vacations.  It is only natural…that is, it has been made to be natural…
to sit at dinner tables, chewing on overcooked meals, wondering about 
your high school sweetie…and the girl who was the best friend a man
could ever have…and the kid who always wore black and spoke about guns
…and the group of 4 who you sat with during lunch…and the teacher who
made the most sense…and the white girl who smiled when she 
became student class president…and the black girl who found a way
to carry her pregnancy with dignity…and the Latina mami chula who used
to dance hard…then had to lose half her height when she was banished to
a wheelchair…let us not forget the long hair guitar player who shared your
Simpsons’ sentiment…and the black man who is now doing 19 years for a choice…

High school was many moons ago, but not enough sunrises to forget those days
…remember being picked on?…remember picking on the skinny bookworm?…
remember kissing passionately in empty hallways?…remember hiding your
sexuality in order to avoid the epithets?…do you still hide?…remember conversations
about Tupac’s death?…remember watching the O.J. verdict in science class?…remember 
when “In My Lifetime: Vol. 2” dropped?…remember listening to P. Diddy remember
his slain partner?…Ruff Ryders became hot…The Matrix blew our minds…The
Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the queen of the blown speakers inside used cars…
Remember when your hymen was broken?…remember the next day, when your
Heart was broken?…your parents officially divorced…everything lost its simplicity…
Black and white became gray…and Clinton back-talked his way out of losing
His job…those were the days…those were the days…

1999 was my best year…

What was yours?   

1999: Graduation & Points North by Mensah Mkalimu

© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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