Then and Now

Chapter Five


The Life and Thoughts of Jeffrey Tenbrook
Volume One 


Tuesday 5 September 1972

            Because it is considered bad form to start a paragraph or sentence with the word “I,” I shall not. Instead, I shall begin by explaining why I did not. I chose not to as I shall strive to be a great writer. It is my destiny to be the Fitzgerald, the Hemingway, the Mencken of my generation. However, this journal of my life and thoughts, even though it did not begin with the word “I,” will be about my favorite subject: I, or rather, me.

            I have just read a rather disturbing book that I am not at all certain I like, but which I am certain is important. It is entitled, Anthem, by a philosopher named Ayn Rand. In it, the world has degenerated into a collectivist hell in which no one is permitted to think for themselves and anyone who shows any individual initiative is hated and destroyed. It sounds very much like William Howard Taft, Jr. Junior High School, (was anyone on the school board in 1922 thinking about repetitious redundancy when they named my school? They were in the government; of course not!). However, to return to the subject of the paragraph, the most distinctive quality of the future society Rand is describing is that the concept of the individual had disappeared from thought and language. The very word “I” no longer existed. I think the book should be added to the ninth grade English curriculum.

            English class is the reason I am writing this journal. Actually, like a corrupt accountant for the Mafia, or my evil-stepfather and his bakery, who all keep two sets of books, one for the tax man and the real one for themselves, I am writing two journals, one for Mrs. Finchly, my ninth grade English teacher who requires a daily journal entry from every student in her class, and one for me, for posterity, for the truth. One will contain the usual mundane inanities of the typical William Howard Taft, Jr. Junior High student, (for brevity’s sake, the school will in the future be referred to by its less than respectful nickname of Junior Junior), and the other will contain the truth, the wicked awful truth about Jeffrey Christian Tenbrook, who will one day be looked upon as the Voltaire of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

            Perhaps, the reader thinks I am being arrogant and pretentious. I think not. I am surrounded by fools and dolts who are concerned only with who wins Friday’s football game or who has a hickey and who became erect in the gym class showers. I see things they are incapable of seeing. I feel things they are incapable of feeling. I look at the sunset and I see the glory of nature. I listen to the Ode to Joy and I hear the genius of man. I read Cyrano de Bergerac and I see Man and how he can be and should be, not the weak-minded, weak-willed mediocrities around which I am surrounded, but the great, the intelligent, the sensitive.

            No wonder everyone is school hates me.



The Life and Thoughts of Jeffrey Tenbrook
Volume One 


Thursday 14 September 1972 


            My heart aches for I am in love. Every day, from first hour algebra to sixth hour English, I am assailed with the beauty, the character, and the mind of the perfect boy. Yes, I love a boy. I told the reader in the first entry in my journal that I am wicked, but all the great geniuses must know the wicked side of nature. Yet, how can loving Robin Pendleton be wicked? How can it be anything other than sublime?  

            Robin Pendleton, Robby as he is called by the sans culottes, stands up to the teachers and tells them when they are wrong. He plays the violin in orchestra with such emotion and such strength that it is a wonder Mr. Link does not immediately write to Julliard and tell them of this magnificent prodigy. He runs across the football field, fleet of foot and strong of arm with such grace that the gods on Olympus must gaze upon him with jealousy.

            His blond curls frame a face painted by a Renaissance master. His eyes are blue and contain the wisdom of the universe. His smile is perfect and shows the joy in his heart at living so perfect a life.

            Yet, Robin Pendleton is unaware I exist. He passes me every day in the hall, unaware of the love in my heart, the passion in my breast. He sits before me in History and knows not that I am the only person in Taft who knows, who understands, who appreciates, and who venerates the beauty of his soul. When I see Robin Pendleton, I know there is a God, for how can one so beautiful and perfect have evolved at random? How can such a person, such a boy, simply have come from chance.

            I lay in bed and wickedly pleasure myself with dreams of Robin Pendleton, visions of running my fingers through his thick blond curls, fantasies of lying naked beneath him as he holds me and tells me of his love for me and only me. I see myself on my knees giving him the pleasure and joy he deserves until he returns my favors by honoring me with the seed of his virility.

            I love Robin Pendleton.

            Yet, returning to the mundane world that is my existence, I was jumped again behind the Baptist Church. This time, they only tore my collar and left a hole in the knee of my slacks. There is no physical evidence to mark the humiliation, only the scars in my heart which only the thought of Robin Pendleton can heal.



The Life and Thoughts of Jeffrey Tenbrook
Volume One 


Monday 25 September 1972 


            In the journal I submitted Friday to Mrs. Finchly, the seat warmer who passes for an English teacher, I made the mistake of commenting on A Separate Peace, the book our English class has just finished reading. I called it puerile and facile and said Knowles never once made me care whether Gene did it on purpose or not. In her note back to me today, she called me pretentious and arrogant. In her note, she writes, “Every year in my class, I have one boy, and it is always a boy, who fancies himself the next William F. Buckley. Merely using big words does not make one erudite. As Alexander Pope writes, ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’”

            What cheek! How dare she! Since the deaths of my father and grandparents, is there no one who recognizes my intelligence? I was tested! I have an IQ of 125!  But, then, I seldom say anything or make any effort to display my intellect beyond my school work and my writing. I say nothing to my peers. To them, I am wallpaper; even worse, I am the wall beneath the wallpaper. I am polite and friendly and smile and no one knows I exist except when the cretins need an object of humiliation with whom to pleasure themselves. The girls ignore me or make jokes that I have a cute butt or a nice swing. My evil-stepfather notices me only when I am absent from family gatherings and his opportunities to insult my lack of athletic prowess. I have no one to encourage or compliment me. I am alone.

            Perhaps, Mrs. Finchly has a point. Perhaps, I do seem pretentious in my writing. But, in life, I am a nobody. I am ignored or abused. I try to be friendly. I try to fit in. I try to be “one of the guys.” Yet, I always fail. All I have are my books, my precious books, my writing, my blessed writing that saves what little sanity I have left, and my dreams.

            My dreams. My dream that someday, I will write stories for The New Yorker or Harpers or The Atlantic Monthly, that someday I will win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, that Norman Mailer and John Updike and Gore Vidal will sit with me in a café in Greenwich Village and discuss Proust and Marcuse, that someday Robin Pendleton will notice me and smile.

            I lay in bed at night and tears of frustration and loneliness fall on my pillow. Perhaps, I am arrogant, but it is all I have. And, so, I cling to it, for it will get me through this hell until the day when the world sees that I am a good person and a great writer.


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