The bus I rode to school had a Mickey Mouse character painted on the front of it. I can still see the iconic face and the roaring yellow transport which screeched to a halt where I waited on the corner of Park Avenue every morning. I was nine then. Life felt like a chaotic ride on a merry-go-round; flashes of faces were either smiling at me, chattering, or chastising. They ushered me in this direction or that. It was -and is quite a blur, but certain scenes are frozen in my memory like a paused video screen. One is the image of that gargantuan bus, looming at me as I stood before its belching doors, alone and vulnerable on my street corner against a backdrop of changing seasons. Another is a beehive of activity after arriving to school one morning in late spring. In my mind’s eye, the classroom is monochromatic; the only distinctive details are rows of colorless desks and a carpet where children gather around the teacher at the start of class.
A dozen or so students rush about -I’m guessing we were putting lunch boxes away. “Where’s Bobby?” Deanna Standring demanded. (She was the one that tricked me into showing my underwear to her on the bus.) Her inquiry was probably fueled into investigation by the tension in the air. Once on the carpet, the teacher went through her usual routine, but her sweetness was tinged with uncertain eyes and a guarded tone. She told us delicately that Bobby wasn’t in class today but was sure to be back on Monday.
Later that evening Debbie Cahill and I had a sleepover. Lying there in her second floor bedroom, we drifted in and out of ramblings in attempt to fight sleep. The open windows framed the tops of the trees that defined the woods across the street from her house. More vivid is the muffled melody to which we finally fell asleep that warm spring night. “Baaaaaah-bby……..Baah-by. Bobby?” A chorus of intermittent voices rang out. Tree limbs swayed violently in response like arms flagging some signal. This is the calm which lulled me to sleep that warm, spring night in 1977. I’d wake up the next day, naive, ignorant, playful, but Bobby never did.