Theo and I are at 6th grade orientation at his new middle school. Next stop is P.E. in the Lisa Kruder gym. I step gingerly on the wood floor with my worn leather boots. Street shoes we used to call them when I was in school. The kids are herded into the middle of the floor by a teacher with a microphone strapped to her head. Coach Sean is sort of androgynous looking and her amplified voice is full was’ up- yo’ dude confidence which the kids love. They are asked to pick a partner to start playing a mass version of Rock, Paper, Scissors in a cooperative way- you play the best of 3 and the winner then faces one of the other winners. The person who didn’t win (the loser) is supposed to cheer for the person that just beat them and so on and so forth. The kids pick their partners quickly and begin to play. Theo, who doesn’t know a soul, gets paired up with a special needs girl who instead of playing the game just keep on running and throwing herself into a blue pad on the wall of the gym with a big smile on her face. Theo wins his heat by default and quickly joins the ranks of the winners and starts another round. There’s a wild controlled vibe seeping through the gym fueled by cooperative energy and hip hop music.
Coach Sean is talking to the kids explaining the nuances of what it is to be a winner. There’s a slight delay in what she’s saying because of the acoustics and her words don’t quite sync up with her lips. I think to myself- when did I learn how to play Rock, Paper, Scissor. Why does paper beat rock? My mind begins to wander back to my gym class at St. Peter and Paul’s or St. Anthony’s. I think of some of the mysteries of my childhood. The confusion of the words soul, palm, my index finger, my ring finger, how to throw a curveball or how to pop a wheelie.
We used to run into the gym with our street shoes on our feet and throw our sneakers high up on the bleachers. Then we would find them and put them on wherever they landed and line up back on the wooden floor. One day though, we ran into the gym and I threw my sneakers up into the bleachers and something happened. At the top of the bleachers were metal pained windows. I don’t know how it happened but one of my shoes sailed off course hit and broke a window. The rest is a bit sketchy, but all’s I do remember was sitting in a nuns’ offices in a hard wooden chair my feet not touching the ground- the sneaker that broke the window was sitting on a shelf that pulled out from her desk as evidence.
Later, sitting in the cafeteria with Theo eating a hot dog, tater tots and drinking a blue slurpee I ask Theo if the Rock, Paper, Scissor game was fun. He said it was kind of silly. I told him it looked kind of silly too. I’m just about to ask him why he thinks paper beats rock but decide to just let it be.