So what with the death thing and the “serious” novels I was starting to read around that time, I began to think I was profound or deep maybe or something like that, and other people of course were not. So while they all went off to the prom, or got drunk and drove around in their cars doing whatever, I was at home in my room alone and thinking deep thoughts, while they were off doing the trivial things high school kids did back in 1962. That was a pretty good rationalization of my social ineptness—that word isn’t strong enough—though not good enough to keep me from feeling pretty damn out of it on occasion.
Not out of exactly, just lost. I didn’t know enough about what I was missing in the form of a “normal” high school social life to feel out of it. So I just trucked on with the death thing like a monkey on my back. Sometimes, I figured, though this was later on, that I was born in the wrong century. Maybe I should have been born back in the 19th century when half of all kids didn’t make it past ten years old. Or maybe even earlier than that, back during the Middle Ages, during the plague when people were dying all over the place. Hell, I could have become a priest and fit right in. I could have gone around giving sermons on the ever present presence of death and how this life was a veil of tears and soul making and so forth, and really gotten my heart and soul into it.
But in California in 1966, it didn’t look like anybody was dying. I had at that time only met one dead person and that was my poor cousin that I didn’t like very much. And since nobody was doing it, nobody was talking about it. I don’t remember the topic popping up in any sort of casual conversation, as in, oh by the way, but isn’t death sort of terrible. I couldn’t find a way to introduce my obsession into conversations about cars, sports, girls, and getting drunk. There just wasn’t a niche anywhere in the social ecological system of high school for a kid who went around thinking about death all the time. And since nobody was doing it—dying I mean—my bringing up the subject was likely to be taken as a conversational downer.
This is all mixed up with any manner of chicken and egg problems. Did the death thing—since it really did exist, and I wasn’t faking it—keep me from fitting in? Or was the death thing a kind of rationalization of my lack of fit. Or maybe I really just didn’t fit in because I thought too much and was the only kid at my high school to have read Crime and Punishment and the death thing was a way of feeling there was something special or different in me that could justify my persistent sense of isolation.
That’s a picture of non-dead young people back in 1962 hanging out at the burger joint and looking as if they are auditioning for American Graffiti.