Lies My Teacher Told Me
James W. Loewen

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Lucinda Williams



Friday 7 June 2002


On Wednesday night, I went over the Deborah's. It takes a while to get there from my parents' house, a long drive through the nether regions of Lancaster County, manuvering around Amish buggies and driving down overgrown roads that look like they haven't seen traffic outside of geese and the occasional tractor. I wasn't sure if I was going to remember the way, but I did. Somewhere in my brain that route was burned - 897, 501, Sleepy Hollow road, Snavely Mill Road, Brunnerville Road. I had driven it dozens of times, hundreds maybe.

Her house hadn't changed much. Foundation work had to be done early in the year, she said, and the strange ladder-like carpeted staircase had been replaced with one of elegant unfinished wood, flanked by two columns that she said went down through to the basement. The floors were unfinished and unsanded. This place never failed to calm me. I can't even tell you what it was that appealed to me. Except for the front room, the walls and carpeting were dark, giving a womb-like feeling. Dozens of small artifacts arranged in glass cases, including two of my own pieces that I had given as gifts, wedged in next to the shards that she said were Anasazi. The house was kept very cold. I liked it that way.

And we talked, not for too long, tripping back over the last few years. I tried to articulate my frustrations at my work, myself and my professors at school, and felt my words and feelings fall flat. She drew it out of me and illuminated what she could. We always talked intuitively, Deborah and I, like we could anticipate what the other was about to say. It felt so comfortable to be back, so right, in the presence of someone who loved you not because they were supposed to but because they wanted to.


I went to my sister's high school graduation. Under a hat and my new haircut and glasses, I hid and hoped no one would recognize me. For the most part, it worked. I did talk to Sabrina briefly, who I hadn't seen since since her father's memorial service. After her asking, I tolds my plans for the next few years : grad school, teaching, being an artist. It still felt so dumb coming out of mouth. I still felt like I was faking it.

It's funny, I think I've blacked out my high school graduation. I can't remember the ceremony at all, what side I was sitting on, what people said, what the concert choir sang. I only remember the incidentals, those memories refreshed by photographs: the picture of me and John and Sarah before the ceremony, hiding a book under my white robe to read during the boring parts, wearing a sleeveless dress for the first time in five years and being embarassed by my fat arms. I hate being asked to remember things that are supposed to be important to me but usually aren't.