In Search of Lost G
- onDecember 21, 2017
- Vol.38 Winter 2017
- byKim Kyung Hyun
- In Search of Lost G
In Vice Principal Newsome’s office on the second floor of Stone Hall, Northfield Academy, there are large windows overlooking the campus. Though the office boasts a spectacular view, its windows are always covered with dark brown curtains that block out all natural light. The ambience inside is somewhat reminiscent of Gangnam Cine City’s smallest theatre, Screen 11. However, unlike Screen 11, a tiny 50-seat theatre normally reserved for depressing art films, the vice principal’s office features a spacious study and a huge poster hanging above the couch, which are immediately visible upon entering. The poster is a blown-up image of the cover of Who Ate My Cheese? Underneath the image, G notices a phrase in small print: “This book offers better divorce solutions than the best family law attorney!” Noting that the author is Spencer Newsome, G mutters to himself, “So Mr. Newsome has published a book like this.” The photograph next to the poster shows Mr. Newsome, who coordinates the weekly chapel service every Wednesday, in the company of Oprah Winfrey. He stands tall next to Oprah and, despite the smile on his face, the two look rather awkward. Perhaps it’s fair to say the photograph resembles that of the South Korean president posing with the G20 delegation.
In an effort to drive away his apprehension, G lapses into thought. Mr. Newsome must have had his heyday as a divorce consultant before he joined Northfield. Would my parents have stayed together if they’d had a chance to consult with Mr. Newsome? Nope. The language barrier would have hindered proper communication. Mom speaks good English and Dad doesn’t. Maybe that would’ve aggravated Dad’s inferiority complex and made things a whole lot worse. What does cheese mean to America’s married couples anyway?
“Over here, G.” The voice of a middle-aged white male calls out from somewhere.
Mr. Newsome’s desk is quite far from the study, a penalty kick distance away from a goal post. Behind the desk, the vice principal flicks through a world atlas the size of a 46-inch television as he waits for G to come over and sit. Is he planning a trip to Australia? The pages in front of him show the vast expanse of the Australian continent.
“Sorry I’ve kept you waiting, G. I don’t believe we’ve met before, have we?”
His voice sounds different today. During the weekly chapel service when they sing the school song, “O Jerusalem,” he invariably brings his mouth close to the mic and sings at the top of his voice, so much so that he’s been nicknamed “One-man Choir” by the kids. Here inside his office, his voice is far from the usual choir tone.
In a voice that’s hardly audible, G barely squeezes out an answer from his throat. Last year, they did shake hands at the welcome party for the freshmen, but this is the first time they’ve come face to face in private.
“Please take a seat over here. Would you like anything to drink? Coffee?”
“. . .”
G wants to say, “No, thank you,” but can’t muster the energy to blurt out the sound of an n and an o put together. The vice principal’s kindness is only making him even more nervous. He can’t wait to get this meeting over with. Every moment inside the office feels so tortuous that he doesn’t even have the peace of mind to enjoy a cup of coffee.
Mr. Newsome, in a bow tie and suspenders, waits for G to sit down before taking a cigarette for himself out of a drawer. G has never seen any of the other teachers smoke in the presence of a student at Northfield. He thought all buildings were non-smoking but maybe he was wrong. Thankfully Mr. Newsome doesn’t offer him a cigarette in place of coffee. Nor does he resort to the pathetic excuse that smokers usually come up with: “I quit last year but somehow took it up again. I’ve given up alcohol but this is one vice I can’t let go of.” He takes a long drag on the cigarette and then flips the ash into the waste bin. Soon G’s eyes catch a framed photograph on the desk. The photograph shows three shirtless hippies with overgrown hair. Who are they? The first, a corpulent hippie, sports a thin moustache that hangs below his chin. The second is in a cowboy hat, and the third, a tall hippie wearing red round-framed glasses, has hair the color of autumn leaves that just about touches his shoulders. Is that Mr. Newsome’s son? He looks very much like the vice principal. Seemingly gazing at something curious, the three men have a certain air of melancholy about them. At any rate, they don’t appear as unnatural as the sight of Oprah forcing a smile.
“That photograph was taken thirty-five years ago. That’s me in the middle, wearing sunglasses, and the two on either side are famous musicians. Recognize them?”
Simon and Garfunkel maybe? G thinks as he shakes his head in response.
“That’s Neil Young on the right, and David Crosby on the left. They were members of Crosby, Nash, Stills & Young. I worked as one of the band’s roadies during their 1974 tour.”
So they weren’t some dancing pop stars but must have been a group of talented idols producing serious music like SG Wannabe. The photograph of the vice principal in his youth puts G’s mind somewhat at ease, prompting him to ask a question.
“How old are you here, sir?”
Amazingly, the ash at the tip of the long cigarette sticking out from Mr. Newsome’s mouth manages to remain intact.
“I’d always aspired to become a musician, so I jumped right into the business without finishing high school. I think I must’ve been about seventeen.”
G takes another look at the photograph. Mr. Newsome used to dream of becoming a singer. Is that why he sings the school song in such a loud voice? Mr. Newsome at age seventeen doesn’t look significantly younger than the other two, though there must be an age gap of at least ten years. Be that as it may, there isn’t much of his younger self left in him now. G is curious as to where Stills and Nash, the other two members, were when this photograph was snapped but checks himself from asking another question.
“I needed to make a phone call first, and it took much longer than I’d expected.”
Mr. Newsome stubs out the barely half-smoked cigarette in the waste bin. Who was he talking to on the phone? G was able to relax for a little while but now he can feel tension creeping back into his body. Was it Mom?
“I just got off the phone with David George and Sam Elliot’s parents.”
G’s feet begin to shake and click-clack against the floor.
“You can face criminal charges for what you did yesterday. It’s definitely beyond the school’s authority. I have the report right here. Let me read it to you.
“At about 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, near the tray return conveyor connected to the kitchen in West Hall, Gee Sung assaulted two of his fellow eleventh graders, David George and Sam Elliott. They were on their way to return their trays when Gee suddenly attacked them. Gee kneed David George in the abdomen. Open bracket. It says ‘open bracket’ here. Only narrowly missing the pressure point. Close bracket. David George momentarily complained of difficulty breathing. At around 7:30 p.m., he was taken to the ER at Greenfield Hospital. His chest X-ray showed no bone fractures, or any other injuries.
“As for Sam Elliot, G grabbed his face and pressed it down on the conveyor, which could have caused serious injury. Luckily, G let go before Sam Elliot got dragged into the dishwasher. However, Sam’s face and shirt became smeared with leftover food and liquids. Sam is a member of the school’s football varsity but the ER physician, Nils Rudd, forbade him from training for one full week. However, Sam should be able to participate in the game against Deerfield this Saturday, provided that he makes a speedy recovery.
“Meanwhile, Gee received bruises on his back and knees after Mr. Green Hutchins, the math teacher, and a few students tried to stop him. Although David George, Sam Elliott, and Gee are all in the same grade, the three are not close friends. The only class they take together this term is American Literature. There are more than ten eyewitnesses to the incident, including Mr. Hutchins. The statements they’ve given more or less match up. Greta Chow, the head chef at West Hall, claims that the two victims did or said absolutely nothing to provoke Gee in any way. Other eyewitnesses concur that they noted nothing out of the ordinary prior to the assault. Following the assault, Mr. Hutchins went to great lengths to calm Mr. George and Mr. Elliot, who accused Gee of behaving like the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It took Gee nearly two hours to compose himself. During the self-study session later that evening, Gee’s dorm head Billy Spears visited his room and probed the reasons as to why he had used violence. However, Gee offered no response.”
After finishing the report, Mr. Newsome looks up and stares at G.