There are other American pronunciations besides Eye Rack; we know someone who borrows her books from a Lie Berry, a soft and fruity thing with a fine ripe pop. The books taste sweet and none of them tell the truth. She found her nearest Berry in a gated area in front of a school. Windows are not part of the normal architecture of most of the American schools I've seen, just passing by as I do, walking or riding, and whose idea was that I wonder: who decided that students should be blind, and what a horror, what a blank and inhumane thing, and someone should be ashamed of themselves for that idea but probably no one knows who that someone might be, and not even the person themselves, if there was a single person, and not, more likely, a cabal, not a physical cabal but a cabal in the air, a feeling, an impression, a vague message passed to and fro above the heads of children -- ah, it will be better for them if they don't have windows -- no windows for them! -- says this parliament of ghosts. If there are windows then the students will look out and strangers will look in and perhaps there will be a tree, and the child will not look at the teacher or at a book, they will look at this tree, and think, a tree, when they should be dwelling on George Washington or how to bake an apple pie or a hot dog or some other American thing. Then there will be neither apple pie nor hot dog nor awareness of George Washington and the whole nation will go to rack and ruin, to ruin and rack, and after writing that phrase twice it occurs to me to wonder where it came from. Why rack and ruin?*
The origin of rack and ruin is the kind of thing that children do not learn when they have windows to look out of, and trees, and passing strangers leering at them, all paedophiles and tuckshop ladies, or whatever the US equivalent is to a tuckshop lady. The pie was always half-cool and the flavoured milk was always half-warm in my brown paper tuckshop bag but what magic that was, and what an honour, to be the one who was chosen to fetch that black plastic tub at lunchtime, and a practical privilege too, because they let you out of class a few minutes early, and the school was quiet, everybody else still gluing paper to cardboard or writing the letter A, and you ran away from all of that, you and your partner, over the concrete pathways and under the awning.
What a strange unbounding you experienced in this silent mysterious landscape, which had the features of a school but the atmosphere of a deserted battlefield, and as you went on it became apparent that you could do anything you liked and no one would see -- you could climb over the fence and run away forever, or you could sit under a bush, and it was probably at moments like this that the idea of existentialism occurred to somebody -- to Sartre -- thinking the word freedom! as he was sent out to pick up the tuckshop bags with Simone de Beauvoir, who wore her hair wound on top of her head even at that age, which must have been about seven or eight. He let her bear most of the weight of the tub on the way back and she thought, why do all the boys behave like this, talking about themselves as he's doing now, jiggling around and smoking pipes, and why do they all have such short hair? I am the Second Sex.
* Rack and Ruin.
Maybe the schools do have windows, but only in the walls facing away from the road. That's possible. I might be looking at the only windowless walls and thinking that this phenomenon extends all the way around the building, and is it a mistake to imagine that the full nature of an American school building can be discerned from only a single view of the walls? They might have bow windows on the other side.