Let me tell you about Peter Bagley’s eyes. Peter was a classmate, I guess, because I knew him by name & remember his wide face and his gray eyes even today. I have this photographic memory moment, tape loop, in motion, full color & sound image locked in my mind today over half a century later as clear as it was when it happened:
Public school playground (Enfield St. School) probably no later than grade three, and I’m maybe 8-9 years old on a spring day, one of the first days warm & dry enough to be outside without boots, only a sweater or light jacket, or neither & the smell of wet soil and new growth in the air. And there were kids everywhere, running around on the big field (seemed big then, anyway) at the end of the school where there was also a paved basketball court and a small building that housed….what? I don’t know—probably sports equipment and custodial lawnmowers, etc—
(irrelevant, except that I recall it in such detail this day; I stood near its brick wall, solar energy absorbed and radiated back out amplified and welcomed after the long winter of inside, finally come to an end. I get the smell of hot brick in my nose today, recalling it, and the feel of the mortar between the bricks, and the bricks themselves, each one marvelous in its texture. And I’m struck, I think for the 1st time in my life, by the amazing mathematical patterning of the bricks: each course interlocking with the next, the long horizontals of mortar, the alternating perpendiculars—the whole structure grand & magical & solid, real for the 1st time like nothing has ever been real like it since.
And Marsha stood or sat next to me against the wall of the building and she wore a gray coat, some gray synthetic faux fur which blew in the Spring breeze and I recall thinking how warm she must have been standing there by the wall wearing that coat and I envied that warmth I was imagining like a womb.)
And I recall that I was standing near the top of a slight rise where the grass rose to the basketball court and I heard something—Peter’s shout, maybe, or someone calling Peter’s name—I can’t recall—and then I saw him being chased down at a full run by one or more adults & I have the feeling that in the background someone else was crying or bleeding and that somehow Peter was being chased down for punishment of the misdeed. I remember that he ran as if possessed, and that he cornered and feinted so suddenly that although his pursuers were often within arms reach, none could actually subdue him, and that each time they attempted and he eluded them, his flight became more wild and more unstoppable.
I don’t recall that he actually said anything as he ran, although perhaps he repeated his innocence or perhaps it was his movement and obvious terror that communicated this me.
Peter Bagley’s eyes were gray & wild & filled with terror and tears. Peter Bagley’s eyes were the eyes of prey at the moment before the hunter pounces. There was something about Peter Bagley’s eyes that day that told me that he was innocent of whatever he was being pursued for or, at least, that whatever transgression had led to this wild chase had been beyond his control and will. I think I came to know that day that we are sometimes more terrorized by the world which relentlessly pursues us than we are by our own demons, with which we come to accommodation.