My sophomore year of high school, I took a class called Modern European History. We started at the French Revolution and ended at the fall of the Berlin Wall. There were only eight of us dudes—sophomoric both in grade-level and weiner joke proficiency—and one salty teacher who looked like William Macy, acted like William Macy, and sounded like William Macy. (There were only dudes in the class probably because it was an all-dudes’ school. That’s another post for another time.).
About midway through the semester, we had an assignment to recite a speech given by a 20th century European leader. The assignment was unintentionally vague – Mr. Tredennick assumed we’d choose a leader in the traditional, legislative sense. He assumed that we’d gravitate towards a more liberal-minded leader like Churchill or Thatcher. He assumed that we’d bring a copy of the speech as insurance, but the hope was to memorize large sections of it. What he did not assume was that my old pal, Patrick, of driver’s ed whiffle ball notoriety, would choose John Lennon.
The day we gave our speeches, we met in our school’s auditorium where the acoustics were lousy and especially lousy with nine people sitting in a space meant for five hundred. Patrick went first which was random and not unlike having Beyoncé open for a fourth-grade talent show.
Patrick approached the stage, looking down at the ground then out toward all the empty seats. His hands were in his pockets. He was visibly flustered.
“Um, Mr. Tredenick, I—uh— I forgot to bring my boom box for the—“
“What? Why do you need a boom box?”
“Can I go get it? I’ll be right back. It’ll take five min—“
“Nope. No time. Let’s go.”
There was time. But there also was a stubborn, grumpy fella in charge. Patrick shook it off. He looked at all the empty seats again. Then he started tapping his foot.
Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.
The other seven of us in the class looked around to acknowledge what was going on. The melodic humming turned to louder singing. The hunched shoulders relaxed, and he began swaying side to side, unironically.
No hell below us. Above us only sky.
Patrick looked out at the empty seats with a glazed look that said: You know, being 15 years old can be brutal. But singing—really badly, without any music, in an empty auditorium, in front of my grouchy teacher, when I really was supposed to read something by some f*cked-up dictator like Mussolini or someone—is kinda hilarious. I’m gonna really go for it here. And he did.
Imagine all the people living for today.
Each AH had more gusto, more of a resounding voice crack, and less contained laughter in the audience.
Patrick’s fly was down. He was belting Imagine. For that brief moment, being a 15-year-old dude felt invincible—for all of us. And for that brief moment, I consciously tried not to pee from laughing so hard.
I tell this story because it still makes me laugh every day and because Patrick got engaged last week. I met his (now) fiancée in June, and we howled thinking about his singing debut. I think they can save money by not hiring a wedding singer.
We all shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun. –John Lennon