Sexy and Seventeen
Well, I wasn’t sexy when I was seventeen, or at any other time in my life. But, I did go on my Senior Trip when I was seventeen. We went to Washington DC, that bastion of politics, learning and museums that was supposed to teach us seniors a thing or two about America.
I didn’t appreciate much about that trip, other than a hideous 1987 sweatshirt I bought from a street vendor and the amount of time I got to spend flirting with the cute boys in my class. It was February of 1987, and it snowed on our arrival. My first view of DC (or any big city, for that matter) was of it covered with a wash of white. I giggled and preened and hair sprayed my way through the whole experience.
Yesterday, I relived a portion of that trip. I decided to revisit the Jefferson Memorial, a site I had not entered since that freezing day in 1987 when our group of gaggling twelfth graders decended upon the peace of it. The sky was a bottomless brand of blue, the kind of lovely that happens when summer humidity abates for a few hours. Set against the backdrop of that sky, the white domed building jumped out of the landscape as I walked around the wind-whipped Tidal Basin.
I don’t remember how we approached the Monument my senior year. Maybe we came on a bus, or maybe we walked. I know we were obnoxious, however it happened.
It was different yesterday. I’d already walked past the spot at the White House where I had my photo taken with one of my male classmates and stopped at the Washington Monument, where we all stood in a long line to ride to the top. By the time I approached the Jefferson Memorial on foot, I was sweaty and tired and thirsty, and I knew I had at least four miles to walk on the return. In short, I regretted going out there in the first place.
Until I saw it again up close, a palatial Pantheon in our own country. I made my way through the high school groups to stand inside the breezy, shaded dome, and I sat, still and reverent. I watched a girl try to pole dance on one of the columns, and I wondered if I did that the last time I was there. I listened to the group of girls next to me, complaining about how they were ready to go. That was me at seventeen.
They say we shouldn’t repeat things, that the repetition ruins the novelty of the initial experience. In this case, I’m glad I relived a microscopic portion of my life. With adult eyes, I saw the things I missed at seventeen: the exact copy of the Pantheon ceiling in Rome, minus the hole; the way Jefferson stares longingly at the White House in the distance; the salient words of the Constitution engraved upon the walls; the way the stone columns frame various perspectives; the play of shadow and light.
It was so much better than when I was seventeen.
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