Together We Can Rebuild Crest Falls
by Caren Beilin
We are the body of Satan.
There was God and Satan. They spoke, in the Book of Job.
In which Job suffers because others die. The plot is that he suffers. Others are dead, his children, his three outstanding daughters. Sons, too. Wholly evil things happen, in this fiction they are happening to Job.
God authorizes Satan to make Job suffer, to experiment.
The children die in a bad storm, and the servants, paired with his animals, Job’s many animals, burn up from a fire. Satan is saying: “He doesn’t really love you, Father. You don’t understand that conditions are integral to loving.”
Satan is like a behavioral psychologist and his father, God, is like some boomer Rabbi.
They need to have it out.
They have that dialogue.
God is God, fine. I don’t doubt his existence or gender, I don’t care. But we are that body of Satan. We speak in a frenzied harmony. We all, all humans, are all the cells in Satan’s brain, his mind. That is who God talks in opposition and in a dalliance with.
I have received an email this morning letting me know my old high school, Crest Falls High, in that near suburb of Philadelphia, is infested with Stachybotrys, the worst kind of mold. Stachybotrys chartarum causes bodies, in their minds, to break down. Insanity, suicide, despair, brain fog.
At first it seemed, the email said, like the current students were only tired. But then three girls became suicides. They had seemed ok, anxious and depressed, yes, normal, but autopsies revealed the high levels of mycotoxins, metabolic byproducts of black mold, the Stachybotrys chartarum.
Crest Falls has had to close due to extreme mold poisoning.
A building attacked these young women who were, like everyone, cells in the body of Satan, the mind-body of Satan, who is always, like any one of us on Earth, shedding his cells, duly replacing himself.
I was so sad to hear what happened. In my own impossible way, I felt the feelings of an alumna. I wept for these girls and quickly nixed in my thinking anything about that Jeffrey Eugenides book about suicide sisters in a school system. This wasn’t like that, it’s not the early 90s anymore, it’s not 1993, the year of The Virgin Suicides, the year of Jurassic Park. Have you seen the recent sequels? We are far away from that now. Spielberg is not directing us any longer. Hadn’t that book, The Virgin Suicides, fully centered only to fully self-kill a pod of sisters as though they were Job’s obediently destructing daughters?
And his wife. Who either dies and is replaced or bears him ten more kids. It doesn’t ever say. It doesn’t matter in this sick system, of God’s, where conditions aren’t integral to loving. This is God’s system, not us, not ours, not Satan’s, who says, we say, that it could matter.
The email was asking for donations. For the sake of the surviving students, some of whom were sick from mold illness, maybe on a path to suicide, and all going to school online again, the pandemic’s modules springing back into happy action. The modules as resilient as intractable as irreversible as anything. You could burn down a building killing everyone and everything, all of the servants, the animals, but the modules…the modules would dust off their knees…
The surviving students were at home working on them.
The email suggested we start at 10k. To rebuild Crest Falls.
God. Did the email think we’d all become so successful? Crest Falls was not some esteemed prep school. There in the suburbs of Philadelphia, it wasn’t a bad one. It was a well-off enough public school, and I remember it had clean and thin carpeting, and well-stocked janitor’s closets, unmarked doors in the middle of most hallways. There was an easy and fine way to get onto the roof. The starting scruff, there, of Bio’s meadow.
I googled every single person in my class, around 400 people.
Everyone was, in the parts of their life that bit like a rat on a wire into the speeding pane of online, doing exactly what they’d done in high school.
The theatre kid. Now starring in Hamilton.
Editor of crestfallen, the literary magazine, now editing poetry at Poetry Magazine.
Alum from my high school, I learned, were running Philadelphia, directing all of its major institutions as they corresponded to the clubs, sports, and afterschool activities or curricular achievements of everyone at that time. There were no interruptions to this astounding pattern. There were no art kids now investment bankers. No preps now not the head coaches at Temple, Drexel, no girl who wasn’t ensconced in a productive emotional affair with Mr. Cointnernt, the English teacher, who was not now tenured at Penn, some beyond famous classicist or breakthrough Shakespearian noted for her incendiary readings as she was incendiary, then, in her communication of desire and what-is-desiring with Cointnernt, again, after school, always her and he striding together, once on the roof to read their poem, co-written, it was disgusting, and it was, Shakespearian, and no kid who was poor and knew the janitor who was not now the local lead at the Service Employees International Union. Fate came in and took pictures of us one day and whatever got captured in that photoshoot sprouted with bombasticism.
I had been voted “too cool for school,” and have acted that way all of life, so I didn’t know what was going on. We were the class of 2000. We were freshmen when the Sacklers made oxycontin.
I wonder if the mold, so poisonous now, had started to grow in the pipes when we were students but in its incipience the poison’s hex was incredibly, I don’t know, invigorative.
I have always been too cool for school, that is my fate from that fateful photoshoot, when the mold took its sick pictures of us, like a ped, but this morning I feel I want to talk with everyone, to gather all of us into an auditorium.
Were we blessed? Now everyone who goes to Crest Falls, who goes there online, is sick. Won’t travel. Won’t even experience or witness injustices that could prompt and propel them onward, irritated and iridescent.
The email said we owe them. The way we sucked on the blessed start of the poison.
The email warned. Mold is hard to mitigate.
The email turned me off. It kept centering the building, as if the building were the protagonist of the email, like Job.
I am contemplating donating.
Yet, I have always been too cool for school, and fungus, I know, only replicates. I know about mold. I know myself. All I ever do is lean against an exterior wall, of a building if it exists. My job—the job the mold gave me—is to not involve myself, yet I could give, I would, I’d give 100k to one person, if it meant she never had to know you anymore.