If you are five or six or ten and in the playground. If you are sitting on the pale green wooden slatted forms outside the classroom eating your green apple with its juice on your chin or one of a pile of sandwiches and your body, your whole body is leaning into the playground where kids are running and fighting and toing and froing like cards in the wind and it is weird to put heavy food into your body because your body is made of skin and air. If you are waiting to swallow the last mouthful before your light body picks you up and tosses you into the air. If your cardigan has been knitted for you and you would recognise it anywhere in the world because it was knitted for you. If you are happy because your mother came to watch you run or happy because she didn't come or amazed because your father came too. If you think `I know the grass and I know the sky and I know the concrete' and the grass and sky and concrete would be different anywhere else. If you know this then you are alive.
If you believe your best friend when she tells you the dental nurse said you must have all your teeth out, if you believe her and fear runs through you like a pneumatic drill, and if you believe her the next time. If you are lying on the grass against the scaly manuka trunk crying because nobody likes you or you can't run fast enough or catch well enough, because you are scared to climb trees or scared to go home or you look funny. If you are curled around the scaly trunk of a manuka because you look funny and your crying is loud or silent but it is crying and you are wrapped around the trunk then you are really alive, really living. You are in a playground. You are a child of indulgent Gods who toss down sunshine and thunderbolts without rhyme without reason from their sky mountain. Once or twice you are close enough to them to bury your face in the snow below their feet, breathing holes into the white ice, and lifting your head you feel the sun bringing your face, your cold frozen face, back to life. It stings and prickles and glows when you come back to life, and then it is warm, your face, held up to the ultraviolet arc of sky, and only the faintest breath of the Gods, the clean icy page 13 puffs from their small indulgent laughter skims the warm surface of your skin. If you feel this laughter, this fear, this pain, then you are in a playground because these things happen in playgrounds.
Primary School. Primary. First. My first school, my first playground. No subsequent initiation was as liberating, as dangerous as cruel as wide as the initiation into the life and games of the playground. In the playground, everything was immediate and original: each of us recreated the world and it was a world made for children made of skin and air.
'Are you in Ryan's gang?'
'Yeah, I'm a spy for Ryan's gang.'
'Ryan didn't start that gang, I did, it's my gang.'
'You didn't start it Ryan did.'
'No! I started it. I thought it up. I started it.'
'Hey Ryan, he says he started the gang, he says it's his gang.'
'OK, he's not in the gang any more.'
'You can't kick me out I started it.'
'I can so. We can so kick you out eh?'
'OK OK, never mind about it let's just play.'
When you jumped along the hopscotch squares you only felt your foot and leg and maybe your elbows against your waist. There was nothing much to lift up and sometimes it was hard to meet the ground. And getting the flat stone or piece of asbestos into the right square was easy after a while so you were in for ages
and they all watched you, and then you watched them.
While our palms and knees are still ingrained with dirt from sitting and kneeling on the earth, but we are beginning to look over, beyond the wide perimeters of the playground, we are sent to college. We are poured into page 14 classrooms which are bare of decoration except for maybe a map or a diagram, we are shuffled between bare classrooms and fed fragments and fag-ends. And we get bored. Because we have been living lives of adventure and passion in the playground we become bored, stunned, restless, mean. Don't they know who we are? We have been children. We have played better than anyone has played. They can't be serious. They are serious. You are at secondary school. There is a process which goes on in hidden rooms between the making and the getting of knowledge. And the process is dissection.
To leave behind the hopscotch, the four-square, the bulltag. The
pinetrees the manuka forts the small square yellow dental clinic and the bike
shed. To move out of reach of the immediate, the direct, the original. To
leave primary, the raw colourful loud silent oneness of primary for the
fragmented bewildering unquiet boredom of secondary. To lose the keen
whole-hearted head-on promise of the day, to take your eye off the ball, your
body off the grass, to be one step removed from the sun, the snow, is to be
taught to take a pulse instead of to feel it.
There is an ugly huddle of plain two-storey buildings called A Block, B Block, C Block and D Block. Inside are corridors of chipboard lockers and pink sausage-shaped heaters running around the bottom of a wooden divider bristling with hooks for jackets and for hanging short girls by their belts. If you are not the type of girl to find it delightful to be hung up by your belt, if you don't squeal and kick your legs, showing your knickers, if you just kind of hang there listening to your heart bang and feeling the belt bite into your stomach, if your period is due and you are close to tears anyway, then the boys not only laugh at you, they are angry as well. You are not playing the game. But I don't know this game, you want to protest. This is not a game that has lain in wait to be played by me like running or hopscotch or skipping. This is not a game I like. Then their jeering straight grey- jerseyed backs say 'well learn to like it'.
The glass swing doors that lead from the internal stairs to the corridors are heavy and inside the glass is wire, tiny wire squares. I am always lost. There is only a small piece of me that straightens up to meet this place, this college. And I am no longer light, I can't change my shape or pass unnoticed, I can barely move for consciousness of my body. I am in a bad class because they think I am not bright. And I am tired, as if someone pushes and pushes page 15 at the back of my head and it is all I can do to stop myself resting my head on my arms and sleeping, sleeping my college days away.
Rain soaks the bottom edge of my tartan skirt and my socks and shoes. It pushes in through the gaping sides of my parka hood and trickles along the collar of my blouse. The bare stretch of my legs turns lightly mottled and is almost numb, on the stinging edge of being numb. I long for warmth. For a pair of trousers. To be back home, out of the chaos and the weather, not walking the grey length of road between the station and college, beginning the day soggy, cold and miserable. I try to hold my hood on with one hand, my skirt down with the other. I have a grimace on my face.
The accounting teacher has given up on me and my friend. 'You two might as well staple these sheets together and pass them around the classroom,' he says, hanging over us with his dandruff and his cigarette- browned fingers. We laugh and play the game. We are dumb, too dumb to do accounting, too dumb to do maths. The fact is that the sun's yellow beam which spreads over my desk has hundreds of pieces of dust hanging in it, swinging slightly, as though in hammocks, for no reason except that they have gone to sleep there, in that warm yellow arc, on the journey between one place and another.
I long to be older, to be worldly and relaxed about this, to rest against the
lockers and say, 'God, I've got maths next with Green,' and look bored and
superior, with friends humming around me like bees. In my hand is my
blue-and-white timetable. During class it is tucked into the warm pocket of
my uniform, and at the end of each class I pull it out to check that I have
remembered correctly, yes, it is biology and today we are dissecting mice.
I make a rare protest; I will not dissect a mouse, so I am allowed to sit there,
at the tall benches in the lab, resting on my elbows and staring out of the
window at the dull grey-green of the pohutukawa tree. Some boy calls to me
by my surname and I turn around; a mouse's tail lands with a tiny pat beside
my open book. My open book with blank silky pages. This is my education.
Jimmy sits in class next to me with his hands down his pants. I try not to notice him, but the guy behind him leans over and calls out in a loud voice, 'Hey Jimmy! playing pocket billiards again eh?' and laughs. It is Eddie. Always laughing, never seems to be afraid. I like Eddie; he's the only boy in this class that I like. His face is open and his eyes, well, I am able to look into his eyes without fear. Jimmy goes on playing with himself, proud to be page 16 caught with his hands down his pants. The boys in this class, this low stream class, are streetwise, trouble makers, loud. If the girls in the class act loud and are proud of their bodies, proud to be living in such fine bodies, the boys call them sluts (if they are pretty) or slags (if they are plain); if girls are shy or absorbed in one thing or another they are called cockteasers or snobs (if they are pretty) or just ignored if they are not. And we, the girls, pickup these terms, testing them carefully, like scraping a match gently against the flint. 'She's a slut,' we say, feeling the push of power behind those words. 'She's a slut,' we say more definitely, dismissively, with a toss of our heads.
The boys sit on the heaters under the coat hooks in the morning. I walk slowly into C Block, dreading them. My locker is on the top row, and when I put my bag into my locker, each movement taking hours, the bag jamming half way, or falling back out into my arms, the boys sit, looking and commenting. I walk away burning with shame, for my high locker, my short dress, my tied tongue. At the end of the day I rub the chalked obscene comments off the door of my locker with the sleeve of my cardigan.
'So the little mouse got herself a tail today?' Eddie smiles as he walks
beside me. I don't mind this from him. His wide open smile and clever eyes
allow that we are both strangers here, only he has the happy knack of
breathing the air on offer without panic, with seeming unconcern. His
words are carved out of rock and wood and sunshine. And the wisdom is
there, like the grain of wood, beneath the bark The whole history beneath
the skin—and in old age the wisdom creeps out in lines, in tiny loops and
crevices, showing to the world what wisdom looks like. In old age, or in
felling, when the grain faces the light too soon. On our science trip to the
beach to study the rocky shore (what do they study in inland places?), Eddie
drives up in his brother's car. He pulls up by our ragged group hunched
against a chill wind on the grey beach. 'Hey, Miss Parker,' he calls out to our
teacher through the open window, 'I live real close, so I thought I'd meet
you here.' Miss Parker looks at him half in despair and half in amusement.
'Are you going to join us Eddie?' she asks, straightening the collar of her
scholarly authority. 'Well, only if you're not going to join me Miss Parker,'
he replies. 'Actually I've seen some interesting specimens of the rocky shore
already, Miss, is it OK if I take them back to college with me?' While we
hunch over mini oceans suspended in grey rock, touching the waving feelers
of the anemones and trying to catch the limpets unawares, Eddie drives up
and down, giving his mates a turn at driving. The teacher ignores him. His
car is battered and old and noisy, and they rev it and rev it, startling the old
people who live by the sea, who were just falling into sleep after eating their
Each day when I get home, I change my clothes and go for a walk on the beach, pushing away the horrors of A Block, B Block, C Block and D Block. The playing fields are not my playing fields. The trees are not my trees. The grass is not my grass. The concrete is not my concrete. I am living in a stranger's house, or not quite a stranger's house—I am the relative with neither money nor credentials, duty and obligation rubbing shoulders in agitation.
With my biro in my hand I string miles and miles of tired words together.
It is like the most enormous wedding for two people of consequence who
are, in themselves, quite boring. Every word is carefully dressed and chatting
lightly to its neighbour, putting on a good face. The only joy is the clean
page, the feel of it, cool and silky, before the words smudge and crease it,
before the information dents the surface.
Maxine wore her nightie to college today. And white Beatle boots and a flowing red velveteen cape. She is in full form. Just to be near her is to laugh and feel the fresh cool force of her energy, her enthusiasm. Sweet relief from the boredom and restlessness is Maxine, and although we are in the seventh form, the young ones, the third and forth formers and fifth and sixth formers follow us because in our midst is Maxine who has the gall, the utter unabashed gall to act as though she were still in the playground. She is dressing up, she is walking where she likes and how, she is talking loud, louder than some of the boys. And her following is huge, boys and girls together, feeling their buzzing restless bodies growing light again. And just out of the spotlights, hovering at the edges of the dark quiet audience are the teachers, anxious and puzzled. Like beetles, insects, they make strange actions with arms and legs into the air, make small sounds which only they understand, and to us they only look scared and left out. As a body, with Maxine in our midst we grow too big for the hands of insect teachers. I am summoned to the principal's office ('Remember children, the way to remember how to spell principal rather than principle is to think of me as your "pal"') and I am told—no, warned—not to associate with Maxine any more. She is not a good influence. I leave the office sick with the knowledge page 18 of my own 'goodness', my own suitability for a quiet uneventful college career (And remember School, that by the time you leave here your personality will be developed, you will leave here the person you will be for the rest of your life') and I search out Maxine who takes the hand of the crashing restless bored energy of the teenager and links it with the light brilliant fierce energy of the child. She refuses to be unhooked from the land of the living. The teachers are stumped. And Maxine continues to fall asleep in geography and history, snores loudly at the desk next to me, as my admiration for her struggles with my embarrassment and often wins out.
'Maxine's father is the richest man in Wadestown,' my friend whispers to me. And she has an anxious-looking elegant thin mother. She has a best room which you are not allowed into and in the house is the invisible overpowering bullying presence of her father. What do they make of this daughter who wants to bean actress and who, out of a wardrobe of expensive clothes, would find a nightie and a red cape to wear to college. A daughter who will not be cultivated, who comes home with bright paint around her mouth because she has sat in art class absent-mindedly sucking the brush end of her paintbrush as she contemplates her work.
It must be the worst thing in the world not to be able to breathe out. To
take the air in and feel your lungs stretching and stretching and no relief, no
exhalation. To search the room for a pocket of air, like a drowning person,
and find no pocket. This happened to Maxine quite often. She was 'a bad
asthmatic' and always carried her little grey puffer in a pocket or bag. But
this disease that stole her breath, that tried to drown her several times a week,
she allowed no glamour, no moment. We could easily have been seduced
into fascination, into coddling and talking quietly and earnestly to each
other in knowledgeable parental concern if she had let us. But she would
allow no such interference, no such easy spotlights as illness and misery, just
the same small ragged flag that she stuck in the top of the mountain when
she reached it and survived again.
Elizabeth and I are in the common-room skipping assembly. Elizabeth brings through two cups of coffee, thick pottery vessels steaming like chimneys in her thin white hands. The same hands that picked up after her father last night, and the night before. The father who fills the house with his rantings, or with his operatic soarings, with his galloping colliding destructive resentments at being a lone man in a house full of women. A lone page 19 lion in a house full of unicorns. A gargoyle on a house full of altars, scathing and protective of those within. And of those outside.
'What are you going to do next year Elizabeth?'
She looks at me, her face pale between her long coils of hair, surprised, as if I should know. 'I'm going to finish my novel, and try to find a publisher.' The clouds are clearing above her head, the thick, wet, velvet mantle of exhaustion is being lifted from her sparrow-light frame. She will leave home, and write her novel. The favourite child will climb out of the father's hand. She will live in a room which doesn't get the sun, with friends who leave her alone, or not; she will plug a heater into the socket behind the dark-stained set of drawers, and pull her paper and pens towards her. I am, already, envious of her arrow-straight direction.
At home, in the quiet moments, Elizabeth writes copiously in note- books, kneeling on the floor of her bedroom. She leans into her visions, her people. On the table beside her a Mexican Walking Fish drags itself along the bottom of an aquarium just the way you might walk through dreams, or if you were very very tired.
For now, no shred of colour relieves the uniform pallor of her skin, except for her eyes which gleam like dark brown shells underwater. She has the look of a beachcomber, prepared to be fascinated by what the sea turns up: a gold ring, a bottle, a severed foot still inside its boot. We sit down side by side, laughing at our teachers, at our hopes, at the discrepancy between what we are now and what we will be. Closing our eyes against the bleak clean brightness which has overtaken the soft light of morning.
Maxine bursts through the door in a bright green satin dress with a train that reaches almost to the floor. The bright river of her talk ceases for a moment when she spies us, slyly sipping our coffee, furtive escapees from the songs and tirades of assembly.
She pulls in a ragged breath. 'Oh! oh, this is off! This is really off! Look at them skulking in the corner like thieves.' She waves her arm sweepingly at us as her cloak of admirers smile, sensing a performance. 'Darlings you missed it! And we sang "I Pray for thee my Country" and "Fight the Good Fight". Never mind darlings, little darklings, little mice, we will fill you in on what you missed.' Roger puts his long effeminate arm around Maxine's shoulders and Jo pulls out her violin, the rest of the group gather together and launch into 'I Pray for thee my Country' with some indescribable variations. 'What, no pithy address, no humorous yet serious message to page 20 give us? We are quite bereft,' Elizabeth says as the singing and playing subsides and the group wander around finding coffee cups behind cushions and stuck glueily to the sink bench. 'Darlings, even I'—she emphasises with a swing of her train and toss of her head—'even I have my limitations, I would not attempt to soar so high.'
Karen sits down beside us in a rush of musk oil and clinking silver bracelets. 'Sue and Peter are showing off,' she says moodily. 'Trying to remember all the past presidents of America, it's so boring. I don't even know who our own one is.' Elizabeth lifts her head from her book to comment that we don't have a president at all. 'You know what I mean,' Karen says with her pleasing smile. The common-room is filling with students, earnest students in cords and hand knitted jumpers who will get A or B bursaries and who are definitely going to university to study commerce or science or business administration-students who are calm and confident, whose lives will lead eventually to their conclusions, with the desired degrees and other such indispensables, and it will be no surprise to be dying, they will not be caught on the hop. They will not cry out, 'But I can't die yet, I've only just got started!'
'Have you seen my Groucho Marx impression,' Karen asks us. 'Yes
Karen, you did it at my birthday dinner.' She had leaned across the table and
plucked the cigar out of my father's hand and disappeared out of the room
to bang back in doing the best, the absolutely best Groucho Marx impression since Groucho Marx. Nobody could throw herself into a part like
Karen. When she sat back down at the table, she calmly smoked the rest of
my father's cigar, making an arc of smoke over her head, tapping the fat grey
ash into a white ashtray.
In Karen's bedroom in her suburban home in a suburban street, she has hung black velvet curtains. The small dim room reeks of musk oil and other oils which line the shelves where china ornaments and paperbacks once sat. She points to one tiny bottle of oil and says in a serious dark voice, 'Never use that oil for, you know, it really stings.' And goes on to hunt out her copy of the Kama Sutra which she wants to lend me. On her only vaguely discernible flower-print wallpaper are long glinting posters by Gustav Klimt and fuzzy-edged Monets and black-and-white photographs taken from a calendar of nudes. She finds it lying with its front cover curled back under her bed. 'Here,' she says standing up, dusting down her dark blue crushed page 21 velvet skirt and looking into my eyes. 'There's no hurry to return it.' I stick it deep into my backpack and zip it up firmly.
'I'm going to spend this weekend at a Buddhist Monastery,' she declares, lying back on her bed and reaching over to put on a tape. 'Have you heard this latest Joni Mitchell tape, it's just wonderful.' She smiles and sings along and lights a cigarette. 'What will you do there?' I ask.
'At the Buddhist Monastery.'
'Oh meditate and maybe talk to the master.'
'Who's the master?'
'I don't know, some guy.'
I can imagine her causing havoc in the quiet austere surrounds of a Buddhist monastery, with her musk oil and other oils and her clinking bracelets and her Groucho Marx impressions.
'A couple I know,' she says, using her serious conspiratory tone again, 'want me to be part of a threesome with them, you know.' I nod my head and try not to look uncomfortable. 'But I don't really think their relation- ship could handle it,' she continues, stubbing her cigarette out in a tiny black dish.
Her mother knocks lightly on the door. 'Dinner's ready girls.'
We are catching the rattler into town, me and Karen and Maxine and Jo and Elizabeth. Maxine is wearing a full blonde wig, a tight red dress and spike- heeled shoes. It's Friday night. The old train with the swing-over seat backs and half-round silver ashtrays and wide heaters you can rest your feet on is our favourite. You can walk from carriage to carriage. We are smoking, and laughing, and Jo has brought her violin and it perfectly backgrounds our erratic conversational meandering. Taped to the inside of Karen's old leather bag is a postcard of a painting by Chagall: Paris through the Window (Paris par la fenêtre). Its bizarre and beautiful images, its rainbow colours make me yearn for something. Something indiscernible. Maybe to be how we are now, only more so and forever. That night we stand behind Victoria Market smoking dope. Five small figures in a single coat of pungent smoke almost lost to sight against the huge brick-walled back of the market. I am hallucinating slightly, everything inanimate is almost alive, and everything alive is shriekingly so. I fight the urge to panic. But I enjoy myself with an edge of hysteria to every moment. It is almost too much when one of page 22 Maxine's heels breaks and is hanging by a thread and she weaves her way in front of me with her wig and her flapping heel, her head at a defiant angle as people stare and laugh. Elizabeth is flicking through books at the second-hand book stall, Karen is holding a lacy dress up to the light in the second-hand clothes stall, Jo is talking to another tall pale stoned youth, her violin case tucked under one arm, one patched stockinged leg wound around the other. Maxine cruises the junk jewellery display, touching and exclaiming and engaging the stall attendant in loud conversation. I stand staring at the brightly embroidered afghanistan hats like little round boats lined with red.
Outside the market Jo takes off her black beret that highlights the pale animation of her face and rests it upside-down at her feet. She is wearing white stockings with thick blanket-like patches sewn on to them, a white transparent dress under a black coat which reaches to her ankles. She tucks her violin under her chin and half closes her eyes and begins to play. Her face, when she plays, looks like despair and ecstasy, like those paintings of Christ on the cross, that crossover point between being human and not. Above our heads is Jo's jutting arm with its racing fingers, and her sweeping arm with its light horsehair bow, and the notes which seem to come from the unspoken moments of every person who steps around her, who drops a coin or doesn't, from our own and her own unspoken moments. A young guy who stretches out on the gravel at the bottom of the steps to listen and watch comments, 'She doesn't know if she is a gypsy, or if she should be sitting on the left-hand side of the first violinist in the NZSO.'
We sit on the steps beside her and people walkover and around us. When Jo has earned enough money we head back into the market for coffees, smokes and custard squares. Elizabeth's sister comes in while we are sitting over our coffees. We make room for her, and together she and Elizabeth tell stories using their own lives, weaving silvery spider webs over dark corners. Telling stories is playing. When we were children we would get a long piece of elastic and sew the ends together, then two girls would stand with the elastic around the calves of their legs and one girl would be in. She would weave her body in and out of the elastic strands, jumping, twisting the elastic, making patterns, and sometimes we would all chant. Here is the elastic, here is what we make of it as each of us throws herself in, doing our fleet and twisting dances. But we need people on either side of us holding the elastic, and it helps to have an audience, and it helps if they are chanting.
In the dusty classrooms we held our ideas quietly against our sides, like chicks under the mothers' wings. Only occasionally did a small head pop through the feathers, singing its hungry demanding song. Not Eddie though. Eddie with his jokes and his charming highwayman smiles. He let them all out, all the chicks, opened his wings wide, wide and made grand feather umbrellas over their heads. No, more than that, he orchestrated them to a harmony of hunger, demands, challenges, ideas.
Eddie balances on the back legs of his chair and the heels of his feet. He hasn't done his homework and the teacher has asked him if he wants to get his Sixth Form Certificate.
Eddie questions the relevance of studying European history.
'It's good to know your history,' the teacher replies, simply.
'It's not my history,' he replies, rocking on his chair and looking straight at the teacher.
'Well, we've inherited an English constitution,' the teacher counters, her hand resting on the history textbook as if swearing her life on it. Eddie thumps his chair back onto the floor and looks disgusted, as though he has been misinformed about the cause for this gathering and he never would have come if he'd known.
'My ancestors aren't English either, they're Irish,' states the girl with the thick brown plait. 'My ancestors are Scottish,' ventures the red-haired girl. Our challenges pop up like bubbles will inevitably do when a bottle is held under water for a time. When the girl with the plait says, 'It was practically genocide, what the English did to the Irish,' the teacher, whose flush is deepening, says briskly, 'I think you are splitting hairs for the sake of argument. You can all settle down now and open your history books on page one-oh-one.' We turn to our books, our shoulders falling from their anxious-excited tension, each dog-eared page seems to sigh and shuffle, restless and bored. And then it lies down to die.
But Eddie has deserted ship; he sits silently and draws on the lid of his desk.
Eddie smoked dope at school and swore at the teachers. So he could be expelled, quite legitimately. 'Only two Maoris left in the seventh form now,' Eddie said. 'Lucky they're well behaved.' One down, only Maxine to go. Maxine. Elevated out of her proper place by wealthy parents. They would just have to wait her out.page 24
The uncommon children are gathered in the common room in their silks
and musks and patchwork and fur.
College is over for the day, and my thin, ragged and stoned boyfriend sits
also in our midst, adding a sense of excitement, of beyond. We are at the end
of the year, and the end of our network. On the backs of our necks, whispers
into the curve of our ears the chill soft laughter of the childhood Gods,
whose voices we have lost and found repeatedly over the college years. And
in our heads, banging and clanking like metal chairs being arranged in a
large hall, the facts and lessons we have learned.
I don't watch him too intently. He is nervous, shakes his long hair, hunches over the wheel as though it were electrified and he was unable to free himself from it. I light a cigarette. He shakes his hair again and the pungent smell of dope drifts out of its depth. The mattress in the back is covered with Indian cotton and there is also a piece of carpet and some abused-looking paperbacks. I put an incense stick into a crack in the front dashboard and light it. The van bounces and I push the incense in a little further, trying not to break the fragile splintered stick. The smoke fills the cab. 'That's a bit much isn't it?' he says, throwing an irritated glance at me. I open the window as we drive past the railway station with its ugly overbridge. A friend of mine throws her bag from the top of the overbridge down to the platform; books fly out and fall like little human dummies, like the intentional acting out of a possible accident. It's hot. The sun plays with the grey curls of smoke, encourages the musk-scent, teases the smell of dope out of his hair. I touch his white-knuckled hand that will not leave the wheel. He glances at me, quickly, curiously, as though I had some inside knowledge, as though I knew what he was thinking. I look out of the window wondering what it is that he thinks I know.