I'm in kindergarten, sitting at my desk, attempting pay no attention to anyone around me. I do this well. My pockets are full of knick-knacks and I'm fiddling with a piece of chain that I've been carrying around for a few days. Contemplating the links and how they got attached to each other, I start to imagine someone manually compressing each metal ringlet, one by one onto the chain. This doesn't seem right, so I stare intently at the chain; the perfect clamps puzzle my young mind.
In the middle of my inspection, a massive thump causes my head to instinctively jerk up to see my teacher who has just unloaded a stack of magazines onto my desk.
"To-day, klahs.... yoo wil bee ta-king theez mag-a-zeens and ser-ching fawr a let-er uhv the al-fa-bet." She addresses us using phonetics. As if we don't understand her, she speaks with a slow voice and high inflection on the vowels, bobbing her head as she slurs her speech. I wonder silently if she has an impediment or if she doesn't realize we all started talking about four years ago. She looks right at me. "Teyk wuhn." She holds up a finger as if I don't know how many one is. "And pas the rest uh-lawng." She points down the row of desks.
I grab a National Geographic and 'pas the rest uh-lawng' without looking at my neighbor. The magazines vanish from my hand and I pull it quickly back in.
"Suhm-bod-ee's shy-eye!" Teacher exclaims, like a children's show host on ecstasy.
I'm not shy, just ĭn-trə-vûrt-ed. I don't respond. Instead, I leaf through the magazine and admire the freedom of the wild caribou.
"Oh-kay. Wee wil go throo the al-fa-bet uh-round the room. Your uh-sahyn-muhnt iz too kut owt az men-ee uhv your let-er az yoo kan faynd and peyst them awn your sheet uhv kuhn-struhk-shuhn pey-per. Ri-mem-ber your let-er." She begins to go around the room, pointing to each of us. "A... B.... C.... D.... E... F..." That's me. I'm F.
I open the magazine and begin scanning the lines for the letter F. Gobs of words and pictures, maps and page numbers whirl past my eyes, but I see no letter F.
Frantic, flustered, furious and fixated on photographs, I'm fantasizing a transformation into a feral ferret, becoming wild and free, frictionless in fine fur, forgetting all about this foolish assignment.
"O-kay, ev-ree-wuhn... yoo shood hav found plen-tee uhv let-ers bahy nou. Ahy wil giv yoo uh-nuhth-er min-it too grab a kuhp-uhl mohr and then wee wil see hou men-ee yoo found."
My eyes dart from my blank, red construction paper to the girl sitting next to me. Her paper is full of the letter E. She has over a dozen of them already. The letter E! My mind fills with the woefully whiny voice of discontent. That's the most common letter in the English language. Why didn't I get the letter E?! This is so unfair.
My magazine is defective. It doesn't contain the letter F and I'm freaking out. I'm running out of time. Fuck! Hey, that starts with an F, I think, maybe that's in here. I've heard it a million times; I know it's a real word... I focus. I find my Zen. Going back to the magazine, I put my finger on a line and I start to follow it for miles, discarding every letter that is not an F, searching for 'fuck'. Finally, I find an F! It's not F for 'fuck' but it's an F!
"There it is!" I grab my scissors and as I pick the magazine up off my desk to put it in place for a cut, the teacher plucks it out of the air and away it goes in a heap with the others.
"Oh, it looks lyke yoo did-nt fynd a sing-guhl let-er F? Wuht wur yoo doo-ing heer this hohle tyme? Wel yoo get an F, nou." She says this last part with a frown as she bends over with a red marker and scrawls a massive letter F on my red construction paper. She circles it for emphasis but it's barely visible, red ink on red paper. The marking is slightly darker than the page, only from the wetness of the ink. She walks away, leaving me to stare at it for a few seconds until the ink dries and you can no longer see the traumatic loogie the teacher just spat in my face. It completely dissolves like a joke that nobody gets and I'm staring blankly at a blank red page.
I put the paper down and resume inspecting my chain.
In an instant, I'm gone, traveling to another world, riding above and below the lemniscate chain link waves, running along a valley of mobius strips, surfing on a sea of infinite possibilities.