So what I'm curious about is how sophisticated is Google's advertising robot? What are they going to start advertising to me? I'm assuming local things, right, so if they know I get knitting emails and am in Lexington they should send me ads for ReBelle or whatever. They certainly know I have a cat because I get vet ads. But what about socioeconomially? Are they trying to market me cheap stuff, because I'm still a student, or more expensive things, because they know I'm going to be a doctor someday?
I love to make jokes about robots running our lives, calling our mothers for us, brushing our teeth, driving our cars. (Smartphones usually equal robots in these jokes, unless I'm talking about my electric toothbrush.) Google advertising algorithim robots, right? "how well do I match a sophisticated algorithim that predicts things about me based on keywords gathered from my email" becomes "how well do the robots know me" becomes "how predictable am I? what if I'm exactly what you expect me to be?"
right? What if med school is--more than it is set up to educate or enlighten (which it does, but how well is still up in the air)--a system to produce and maintain smart and kind people? To reward them, to be the kind of fair where if you work hard you really do get ahead, to say "this is what we want our people to be like"? How much of our society is a system set up in this way? Because honestly I'm okay being part of a system that's designed to create and maintain smart and kind people--but I'm not sure if that's what we're doing, and I don't think there's room for everyone in the system we have.
This new fascination with "What My Demograhpic Data Says About My Life" and "Just Who Is The Man, Anyway, and What Does He Want" just keeps going. First with the Dhalgren then with Google ads. Because I'm afraid. What if they're right? What if advertising robots really do know me better than I know myself? who am I and where do I fit into the expectations that are set up for me?
They put me on the floor and held my legs above my head, and when I had to sit up so they could move me to the hospital bed I threw up, twice. It was the student clinic so they only had one room with three hospital beds in it. There were three big windows that looked onto the desk where the nurses kept their personal things, and they kept the door open, though the lights were off. They put a cold washcloth on my forehead and gave me a warm blanket, and I was feeling shaky and nauseous still and just kept thinking I want this blanket. It had a hole in it right next to my ankles. My ankles were crossed but I felt too tired to uncross them. After a while I sat up, tried to stand up and walk around, called Dustin to give me a ride home after Kay and Amanda were both busy. While I waited for him to call me back I became more and more aware of the way my hands and feet were getting hotter and my neck was getting colder, and though the nurses kept telling me I looked fine I felt awful.
Dustin used to date this girl and one of the horror stories he tells me is that the only date they ever went on, she threw up in his car. I kept joking "I'm not going to throw up in your car" on the way home, so I got out of the car and made it to the porch, sat down on the porch swing and then threw up all of my cashew craisin ginger-cinnamon fried rice and carrots and shrimp all over the blue floorboards of the porch and my sandled feet. My roommate was super apologetic she hadn't been home to pick me up (she's the nicest person ever) and hosed off the porch (and my feet) and brought me a glass of water.
One of the nurses asked me if I was a med student? how did I do with the procedures? I'm fine, just not when they're done to me. I'm going into medicine to avoid ever being a patient. Seriously, it sounds like the worst ever. Especially if this happens every time. It makes me want to be the nicest doctor ever because being sick is the worst experience.
so hi, I'm in med school now! Don't ask me what's wrong with you. I don't know yet.
My first day is tomorrow. I've been studying.
It is very hard to transition from a life in New Orleans, with friends, free time, and a significant other to Lexington, Kentucky (recently named the most sedentary city in America!), living alone, knowing four people. I've spent a lot of time staying home and crying. But that's to be expected, right? With a difficult move! That's all behind me now! (It's not. But I won't have much time to sit around crying in bed after tomorrow.)
One thing I've noticed about myself, as I've sat through this past week of Orientation, is that being told the Institutional Norms and Expectations tends to make me dig in and want to ask "Why?" Let's call it my subversive streak. They've spent a lot of time this week trying to get us to think of ourselves as Professionals now, capital-P and all, and I'm trying to figure out exactly what that means. To me, to us, to our culture. Success IS culturally determined and decided. So how do you be a Successful Young Professional? Do you follow all the right rules? Are you good at your job? Are you courteous to the people around you? Are you respectful of authority?
This isn't something only I have been thinking about, either. There's been an archetype around for a long time of the Idiot Savant,the Brilliant Weirdo, this notion that if you're Good Enough, you can be forgiven things. "Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up," as Terry Pratchett says. Enter Sherlock Holmes, who's allowed a cocaine habit and shooting holes in his walls (or his modern equivalent House, antisocial and angry with a Vicodin addiction). If you want real life look at Fritz Haber, father of the process we still use to create nitrogen for fertilizer, who came up with gases used in trench warfare in WWI and whose wife and son killed themselves. Genius! There's a subversive element in it. If you're good enough, you get away with a lot. Duh. You knew that in high school, when you realized that if you made straight A's your parents didn't really care what you did with the rest of your time.
But that's not enough, right? If you're good and you want to do good, that's why you go to medical school. I have always been top of my class, high school valedictorian, National Merit Scholar, graduated college even summa cum laude. Because when you're smart you want to be good, you want to do Your Best, and if you can get straight A's in college then you will. I could, and I did.
I don't know if I believe in this system any more.
Medical school is hard. And there are grades. I can, objectively, be smarter or better than my fellow classmates. But I don't think that's helping anymore. Maybe doing research looks good on a resume, but is my resume the most important thing I'm worried about anymore? I hate doing research. (I worked in a very poorly-run lab for a year+.) There comes a point where, in a life-long academic career of competition over, for me, 20 years of school, you have to ask yourself what the endpoint of all the competition is. Do I really want to be an orthopedic surgeon? God, no. I just want to see patients, and help them, and be able to have my own life in the process.
So I think this subversive streak has to do with a journey of self-discovery. If I've spent my whole life doing My Best and Living Up To Expectations of others, then what are my expectations? I've never dyed my hair crazy colors. I've never gotten a tattoo. I conform to the Mainstream American Professional Young Girl. In appearance (height/weight/hair color/eye color/skin color), in attitude (I'm friendly and accommodating), in achievement. So is that what I am?
You want your children to read. I have read. You want your children to exercise. I exercise. You want your children to make straight A's, to eat healthily, to bike instead of drive, to go to college, to be savvy to social media but not attention-hogs, to do summer internships, to do research, to be clean and tidy and nice and accommodating. You want your children to succeed. I have succeeded. My friends, my peers, my class, we have all succeeded. Just the way you wanted us to. And every day I check my Facebook page for the average 15.5 minutes* and watch my friends search for jobs when there aren't any, complain about an American system that sets up expectations for its young people that If You Do This, Then You'll Get A Good Job and Be Happy, or at least can buy all the newest stuff, which is just like being happy, right? But we can't. We've done all the right things and now we can't Get A Good Job or really any kind of job. And I, new first-year medical student, have done the financially smart thing and borrowed almost $50,000 from the federal government to pay for the first of my four years of continuing education.
Why is it so hard for people to meet their basic needs and to live? We've been doing it for millions of years. Is the answer just that life is hard and then you die? Is this how it's always been?
I do not know.
I do not know if I am making the smart/right decision. We do not live in a society where healthcare is working. I'm not sure our medical education system is working. We are doing (as we have always done), the Best that We Can Do and I don't know if it's enough. I have looked out the windows on the interstate as I drove through the South from New Orleans to Kentucky, I have looked at the angry statuses my friends post on the internet, I have looked at the newspapers and the streets and the people and I have thought There must be a better way to live.
how do iron filings orient when there is no magnetic field? how are we, how am I, when there are no expectations to fulfill?
At nights here I stay home. On my subbversive streak I've been rereading Dhalgren, a book I feel privileged to have read once, a book I could spend the next four years reading and still not understand. "I've got a theory now--freedom. You know, here--" Loufer says to the Kid, "you're free. No laws: to break, or to follow. Do anything you want. Which does funny things to you. Very quickly, surprisingly quickly, you become-- [...] --exactly who you are."
*"That’s a full 15.5 minutes the average American spends on Facebook every single day."
In one interview, he said "When people ask me, 'Who is your public?' I say honestly, without skipping a beat, 'Ross.' The public was Ross. The rest of the people just come to the work."
--from his wikipedia page
from my class notes:
Felix believed that e go through life in couples--one individual life is fragmented. Untitled (Orpheus Twice) is two mirrors side by side--if you stand between them by yourself, you're bisected. Only a couple is complete.
Untitled (Perfect Lovers), 1987-90. Two clocks in perfect sync--but they fall out of sync, they lose time, and one will stop first. His partner, Ross, was dying of AIDS.
Untitled (Ross), 1991. This exhibition is hard candy that's been poured against a corner. He called this a "portrait of Ross": the candy weighed exactly what Ross weighed. You, the viewer, were supposed to take an eat a piece of the candy. Every morning, the museum owner would replenish the candy to the correct weight.
For the celebration of the "Day Without Art", to look at the impact AIDS had on the art world, galleries were supposed to put black veils over all their paintings. Felix rented billboards and showed this photo of an empty, unmade bed. No text, no context, was given.
Untitled (Blood), 1992. Made of hand-strung red and white glass beads: turns people into ghostly figures on the other side, represents a liminal space between life and death, sickness and health, separated by the composition of blood. Felix strung the beads for this curtain, along with Untitled (Chemo) of 1991 and Untitled (Golden) of 1994, while sitting at the hospital with Ross.
Felix died January 9, 1996, of AIDS.
They are men who would be offended if I ever mentioned this idea to them, who think they are champions of women's rights, who--because they 'respect' the ideas of a few women--think they give women equal treatment.
They are not men who 'disregard' women. They are men who do not think of women. If they want someone to talk to, they will run through a list of all their male friends and acquaintances. If they find something they want to tell people, the ones that come into their heads will be exclusively men. If they see women they are courteous, nice, and can engage in an intellectual conversation with her, usually with no problem. But no matter how stimulating this conversation is, these men will never think 'yes, I should talk to this person again sometime!' They do not think of women as 'people'--they think of them as women, as girls, and that is their primary classification. They don't disregard women. They just don't regard women in the first place.
These are the men who, last night at the coffee shop, told me that because I had read 300 pages of Nabokov's Ada in three days, I was reading too fast, and couldn't possibly understand it all. These are the men who, after I've been showing up at the Bike Help Desk every week all semester, finally say something to me like "hey Nicole, you know stuff about bikes, right?" These are men who always call my boyfriend to hang out and talk about books and, even though I'm the one who tells him to invite them over for dinner to hang out with us, never bother to get my number. These are the men who will cook for your parties but never clean their own dishes. They just don't think about it.
I could name names. I could list, off the top of my head, ten men I personally know well who fit this description. Some of them have gotten better over time, some have gotten worse. Some of these men are the kind who sleep with women at parties and then get upset when their friends do the same. These are men like Wes Anderson's self-obsessed men, like John Cusack in High Fidelity, like the Brothers Bloom, like every Zach Braff character, like Robert Heinlein books, like James Bond, like comic book superheroes, like all the other examples we can think of. We all know men like this. We have dated men like this, or our friends have dated men like this; men who are sexist because it is an extension of not thinking of other people.
Is this what causes sexism? racism? People who assume that other people are like them, and when they're too far removed, they simply ignore all those too far outside their category of sameness.
I don't know. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about sexism or racism; I don't see that I can do a lot about it. I'm not an activist, I don't think about what social change I could be making or that needs to be made. I tend to accept the way things are and work on a small scale to make things work for me within my own life--isn't that what we all do? Isn't that why this problem exists? Maybe I am part of the problem.
I let men sit down next to me at coffee shops when I'm reading alone, I feel like I must listen to them when they want to idolize me as their dream girl because I'm reading their dream book. Is this sexism? This is just how gender dynamics work in my life. Those same men watching me read their favorite books will need to explain to me their interpretation, and want to read me their poetry, and they don't want me to critique the use of "us" versus "I" and the annoying didactic tone in their poetry--they want me to quietly admire and appreciate Poetic Genius. They want to give me their number. The power I have is not power to say: "Hey, please leave me alone, reading a book in a coffee shop does not mean I'm out fishing for men" because that's rude. The power I have is to tear up that phone number later. The ways in which politeness and personal space intertwine, the ways in which a woman is regarded and is expected to act in public.
Outside a bar my roommate told me that if a woman is alone, at night, and sees a man walking down the sidewalk towards her, she should cross the street to avoid him. She said that a man should not be offended by this, and that the woman is not trying to give offense and is not acting in a frightened way. She said that this act is empowering, that it is a necessary act of self-protection, and that the man and woman should both understand this, and be able to greet each other from across the street. She said that politeness takes a backseat to self protection, every time.
In that same conversation I told my roommate that, since I'm graduating, I was thinking of writing an email to my ex-boyfriend, the terrible one, the alcoholic, suicidal, depressed, controlling, manipulative one, to say something like "I hope you're well." Just to leave college with a clean slate, no grudges. Earlier that day I had had lunch with my ex-boyfriend's new ex-girlfriend. She's wonderful, a very nice lady, who I would like to be friends with if we ever get the chance. They had just broken up, and she was moving out of their shared apartment to get away from him. Listening to her describe their fights, complain about the way he came into her room, drunk, and yelled at her for an hour, told her they were over. She said, "fine." He begged her to take him back. Ad nauseum, ad nauseum.
That day I opened a fortune cookie that said
Let hate turn to friendship because of your existence.
They were wrong. Being polite, making amends, being friendly, being "the better person" does not mean subjecting yourself to re-opening communications with a person who hurt you, who is depressed and manipulative and taking his anger out on you, who is not seeking help, who will not get better. Protection, not politeness. "The better person" doesn't put themselves at danger to help another. You don't have to take abuse, and keep taking abuse, in order to help someone else, and you should never do so. I am not saying men should not abuse women. People should not abuse each other.
How do you recognize the self in the other? Is that the foundation of sexism or the end of sexism? Is selfishness the cause of all these problems? I don't know. I am mad at those people, at those boys who sit in all-male circles reading poetry to each other at parties I attend, at the offhand comments they make about "a man's job", at the girls I see at parties who complain about "the drunk sluts at the Boot," at those men I sat next to at a coffee shop last night who laughed at four girls on the corner in minidresses and heels taking a picture together, at one boy I am very good friends with who talks about how stupid and entitled his girlfriend is when she's not around. It's not okay. It's just how it is.
On Monday, typing travel reimbursement memos, my hip still throbbed, though the bruise didn't appear until Wednesday, ugly purple, bigger than my fist. With the dictation headphones in and my hair still matted with blood I felt silly and Fight Club, like typing haikus on company time and abusing my copier privileges.
on Sunday the weather was nice so I wore red, white, and blue.
At the Holi festival behind the cafeteria revellers splashed pink dye all over me, so I had to go hoe and change.
In the sun it was seventy five so I wore a sundresses with white flowers embroidered across the chest, and we biked to the Bayou St. John. Going down the hill on Jeff Davis in the sunshine I let the freewheel spin and raised my arms in the sun, watched the trees against the blue sky and felt that one moment of perfection you only get going downhill on a bike on a sunny day.
At the bayou, even in the sun, the breeze coming off the water made goosebumps raise on our arms, and we huddled around the pot where crawfish were boiled alive, warming ourselves on the steam. When we gave up and went home I stepped in the shower, getting my hair wet but not washing it, feeling the steam around my own skin. I've never left a party only to shower and return but we did return, in jeans and sweatshirts. It was dark on the bayou and we clustered around the table greedily fumbling with carapaces and tails that we couldn't see. The boys became giddy, setting off bottle rockets, agitating the dogs.
I got into a boat with my boyfriend when the water was still. Our oars made silk-fabric ripples in the water and we rowed under the footbridge, ducking low, hearing it creak over our heads. The bridge, strung in Christmas lights, mirrored perfectly in the water. "I'm going to remember this for a long time," he said. I want to. I watched the cars go by on Esplanade from a boat, dipped my fingers into the water. It was warm.
on Thursday I didn't go to see the Two Gentlemen of Verona like I said I would. I age meager pasta provided with the best intentions in a student lounge at the Tulane School of Medicine, talked to a friend about my job, his former job. They showed us the robot dummies where the medical students practiced delivering robot babies, putting in a central line, injecting intravenously. Everyone said they loved the school.
I told another student that I was writing a thesis on time travel and he looked at me, awed, and said "You're a keeper."
I drove home listening to Johnny Flynn along Claiborne, so close to the Superdome you could see the individual lights around the edge as they change color.
on Friday I went to Thesis Fridays alone, mixed jasmine and peppermint tea, made sure the protaganist knew she was her own mother. Time travel problems.
I left at eleven thirty to attend a lecture on the role of neonatal testosterone in prepubertal impulsivity. I wore a red halter dress, my shoulders feeling very exposed, my hair down. Through the lecture I was nervous, butterflies and goosebumps.
After the lecture I went to Cafe Freret to have lunch with my ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend. We talked about theatre, television, and time travel. Going home I tried not to think certain things. I kept thinking of how nice she was, how easy it is to be taken advantage of when hyou are nice. All week before I'd been dreading the meeting, what we would say. "When I knew him, he was a depressed, alcoholic, suicidal, manipulative, mean person," I'd practiced saying, in my head. "I hope he's changed." I didn't say any of those things. We sat at the table long after we ate, our conversation punctuated by silence.
Friday afternoon I went to bike help desk, put on a new bike saddle, rode around campus in the sunshine. While Grimes played I put my brass bell on my stem, watched from the back of the stage her hood fill out in the wind. That night at the levee there were four bonfires. In the woods was a large canvas washed up by the river, covering something the same size as a man, with his head leaned forward as if in sleep. My search for firewood turned up only trash, everything turned gray by the moon. I walked near it only slowly, at first thinking it was a hobo in a sleeping bag, then—when it did not move—a body. I didn’t touch the canvas to find out.
Around the campfire I went with the only people I knew, only to find them high on acid. Smoke blew into my face, making me cough.
A hobo, drinking Artem’s mezcal, approached us. “I wanna sit by the chicks,” he said. “I ain’t tryin to look cool,” he said. “I’m 36, and a hobo, hoppin freight trains and stuff.” His other friend, also a hobo, said goddamn in an accent that reminded me of home.
Those drunken boys who tried to climb the bridges fell into the Mississippi. ”You aren’t an alcoholic until you graduate,” the girl sitting next to me said.
At the liquor store I sepnt twenty seven dollars and seventy three cents on alcohol, and drank none. I only wanted the cork to plug the ends of the handlebars on my bicycle.
In the woods I found no firewood.
Sitting around the campfire I thought of Kelsey’s front porch, about being miserable in fancy clothes, about doing what other people want, about the very isolating feeling of drinking only water and watching those around you become intoxicated.
The clouds were orange from reflected sodium streetlights and the moon was half full, half empty.
We climbed atop an abandoned yellow platform that shook with our movements, by a ladder set at a 30 degree angle, tilted away from the body.
I went to the woods alone. I did not go home. I did not pull aside that canvas to reveal whether underneath was rotting flesh or just logs.
on Saturday night I went to an Everything is Terrible movie with Bailey, called Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez! I ordered and drank a Goya Ginger beer that burned my nose and throat. Three men dressed as dogs did exaggerated comedy. The movie was an hour and a half of found footage of dogs, each clip less than twenty seconds. I didn't understand the humor. I fell asleep to dog jobs and woke to ghost dogs, unaware of how much time had passed.
Leaving the threater two of the dog-men said "Goodbye!" to us for a good two minutes as we walked back to the car.
Saturday afternoon, at Plan B, we fixed a bent crankset, discoveerd a bent frame, bent it back using a vice. A man with a cigarette in his mouth said: "This is way hillbilly," holding the frame while we clamped down the vice. That night Braden put together his new bike before we left.
At midnight, the brand new Sunday, I went to Snake and Jake's with Bailey. "Are you happy? How is your relationship?" she asked me. I am.
We walked the three blocks home at 2am, after ditching the bar because a man with a coffeepot kept talking to use. Five blocks away, at Pine and Maple, two students were mugged at gunpoint, shoved to the ground and hit. We didn't know. We drove to the store for cigarettes, came home in ignorance. I took Nyquil to stop the coughing at three and fell asleep in my underwear.
on Sunday night Braden was excited about his new bike. "He was biking like an asshole," I told Bailey later, holding a gauze pad to my head in the front seat, shaking. His new bike is faster than mine and he, giddy with fireworks, crawfish, and beer, wanted to bike fast, take sharp corners, beat cars at stoplights, not wait for me. I caught up to him on Jeff Davis as he was fumbling with a light, not paying attention to me. While reaching around for the light he swerved in front of me, knocking my bike towards some cars. I backpedaled, used to a fixed gear, unable to find the brake, and landed with my left hip and the left side of my head on the road. "Are you okay? Are you okay?" he kept asking, over and over. "My head," I was screaming, clutching it. "My head, my head--"
Two med students in the car behind us stopped and ran over to help. I kept thinking how important it was to be lucid, to not cry, to be sane. "Where do you go to school?" I asked and upon learning it was LSU joked: "Oh, I work there. Let's just meet in the cafeteria next time," with blood still running into my hair. I sat down on the curb to avoid throwing up. Braden put his jacket against my head to try to stop the bleeding.
Jake and Sarah's house was only two blocks away so they drove to come get us. In their kitchen Sarah washed my head with the sprayer on the sink, running warm water over my scalp. "Do you want me to stop being nice to you?" she asked. "I know if I'm hurt an people are nice to me I just start crying." In the kitchen, after everyone had left, I just started crying, holding a brown towel to my face.
At home my rooommates fussed over me and washed my hair, Chelsea pouring hot water over the right side of my scalp, Bailey applying peroxide, neosporin, and bandages to the skinned patch on my left elbow and palm.
In bed, shaking, I piled blankets around myself, sobbing intermittently. My eyes remained undialated, my head pain local. I remain unconcussed.
on Monday I woke with blood matted on my hair, on the right side, and afraid to touch my scalp I washed the ends, the water running brown against the white porcelain sink, and then drove to work. My boss noticed my limp. "But you were wearing your helmet and gloves," he said. "Yes," I said, my left hand bandaged, blood still dry against my scalp. My helmet was in a gift-wrapped box on the bookshelf, waiting for my Wednesday birthday.
At home I put on a dress I'd never worn before, from my wife, in liquor-gray-brown satin that had a large bow over my chest and fell to my ankles. I biked to work that afternoon very slowly, unable to put a helmet on over the knot on my left side.
At work we prepared for a reading by Jonathan Franzen. I walked around the quad in the sunshine in sandals and that long dress, holding yard signs to direct people to the event, walking slowly. At the reception I told the two people sitting next to me, Zach and Evian, about the accident, but didn't mention it to my boss. No one noticed the matted blood in my hair.
The reading was funny, and Franzen signed my book "To Nicole: Happy Birthday."
on Tuesday it was Braden's birthday. We ate biscuits cut out in the shape of men for breakfast, spread them with raspberry jam. That night I bought bread and made sandwiches on twelve-grain bread with raspberry jam and nutella. We tried to bar crawl but tuesday night defeated our compatriots. At Parasol's, eating the orange slice out of my old fashioned, sitting next to me, he repeated: "No one came to my birthday party." Outside the bar, sitting on the sidewalk, we fixed a flat tire and our friend met us. At the next bar they were doing Pub Trivia, the Princess category, and I knew all the answers. I ordered To Die For Fries, with bechemel sauce and green onions, and it felt like eating french fried pasta. At Cassidy's house, at midnight on the new Wednesday, March the 7th, he gave me a Tree of Life tarot reading for my birthday while Braden slept on the couch. My significator was the Page of Cups, and the first card he laid down, the top of my spiritual triangle, was the Star. My intellectual triangle was entirely inverted, everything holding me back. Inverted in my emotional triangle was the World. I thought over and over of Pynchon, of Blicero:
His future card, the card of what will come, is The World.
on Wednesday it was my birthday. I ate Life cereal with strawberries and half a grapefruit, went to work late, skipped work all afternoon to go to the zoo with Braden and Carrie. Wearing my purple dress, I smiled at the flamingoes, the elphants, the tigers, the lions, the orangutans. It was sunny, and I wore my favorite shoes.
In the sunshine, watching the animals, everything was wonderful.
+dancing to the Talking Heads at midnight
+playing Grim Fandango all afternoon
-getting stomach cramps on a bike ride and rushing into the new Rouses in the CBD to be ill their bathroom
+it’s a really nice Rouses
+seeing ‘Tit Rex (pronounced T-rex, short for ‘Petite Rex’, a Mardi Gras joke), which is these tiny little floats the size of small wagons or large shoeboxes. the parade was one block long. instead of standing in one spot, waiting for floats to pass us by, we walked up the parade and admired each float individually
-losing circulation in my fingers and toes, standing in the cold (it’s 37 degrees yall)
-blowing a flat on my front tire on my way to the afterparty, walking my bike into the bywater
+at the afterparty (through a friend of a friend), the first thing I saw when I came into the house was a knitting book on the coffee table. further inspection revealed a bowl full of knititng needles, circulars, double-pointeds, metal, bamboo. There were two typewriters on either side of the fireplace, two guitars next to an old-fashioned desk, an antique toy keyboard on top of the mantleplace. The bookshelf contained Terry Pratchett, Ian M Banks, and lots of Palahinuk. It was arranged by color
-I never met the people who lived there
+sitting in the perfect front living room of people I had never met, alone, I took my tube out and replaced it with a new one. Everyone else was in the kitchen. Someone passing through to smoke gave me their floor pump, and sitting on an old green chair, with vintage copies of Playboy on the table next to me, warmth and circulation returned to my fingers and toes
+in the kitchen there were pieces of white cake with brown sugar frosting, thin pieces each individually wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a gold embossed sticker with a hummingbird on it
+after I fixed my tire and wandered back to the kitchen the party announced that they were dispersing to an afterpartyafterparty (as they had done the one-block ‘tit rex walk hours earlier). I sat on the couch in the kitchen and wrote a hurried thank-you note to the people who lived at that house, signed it “with gratitude, Nicole” and left it next to their nightstand. I am sorry they won’t know me. someday I’ll leave a pie at 3146 burgundy and they’ll never know who or why
+biking back from the Marigny we zigzagged through parade routes blocked off on Canal, and took St. Charles back, watched some unnamed parade (Oshun?) as it looped from Lee Circle all the way back to Napoleon. We waved at the parades and rode in the left lane. All the cars were going at our speed; no one honked, people waved.
+At Seventh street, where we had to cross St. Charles to get to my friend’s birthday party, we had to wait for a marching band to cross before we could sneak in front of a float. “You’re doing a great job! Keep it up!” I shouted at the marching band, the dancers.
+At the birthday party my friend had a bunny named Sadie, named for the Joanna Newsom song. We drank wine from mugs and ate sparkly, metallic king cake from Sucre and delicious vegetarian jambalaya
+in the 37 degree temperature biking is the only way to keep warm. I wore my hat and goggles
+I abandoned the idea of the bonfire rumpus, my face aching from the cold. Biking home I saw a man walking down the sidewalk, carrying a partially deflated kiddy pool. “Good weather for swimming,” I said as I biked past, giving him the thumbs up.
+the cake was good. when I got home the heat was on.
+11:11, and all is well.
me, taken by my boyfriend, september equinox 2011
(I like very few pictures taken of myself and this one I like a lot.)
today the weather is cold (cold, so cold, it was 58 when I awoke and is all the way up to 64 now) and wonderful and instead of enjoying it I am inside completing secondary apps for medical school.
they say things like
"Give an example of personal feedback in the last few years that was difficult to receive. How did you respond?"
"The most meaningful achievements are often non-academic in nature. Describe the personal non-academic accomplishment that makes you most proud. Why is this important to you?"
"Describe a problem in your life. Include how you dealt with it and how it influenced your growth."
which are of course the kind of things on secondary applications. It is just exhausting to answer more than fifteen "DESCRIBE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE FROM THEN UNTIL NOW AND YOUR FUTURE PLANS AND WHY" questions at a time. I don't want to talk about timelines (please don't mention/ask) and goals and the various medschool "what? why do I wanna do this? WHAT IF I DON'T" freakouts I've had over the past few months, especially summer. There is no past and no future and there is only the purity of color and the way the wind sometimes feels like fabric against your skin, and the way the ends of your hair split into such fine pieces that you can only see them as golden lines in the light.
Since reading Gravity's Rainbow it is harder for me to worry about little things. I think this is a good thing. I have a sense of perspective which certainly makes my mental state better: there is no bomb going to be dropped on me. How can you worry about wordcounts and deadlines when a.) there is no V2 rocket hanging over your head and b.) you know something beautiful and meaningful exists in the world? I cannot. I am calmly giving this my best shot, telling them what they want to know, and leaving it at that. Sometimes I need to stop and make tea and bake a cake and go to lunch or ride my bike around in this lovely weather and that is just how it is. I will work on it and get it done on time.
I need this equanimity now. Last night I dreamed both my thesis readers came to me and said: "we need to read your thesis RIGHT NOW" and awoke relieved that I had a solid 50 pages to give them, with specific spots marked that I was working on and writing for. I saw one of my thesis readers last night, on Magazine Street. It was Art for Art's Sake, which is an event where the dozens of art galleries on Magazine street have open houses and each one has free wine and food. I walked up and down Magazine for three hours and lost track of how much wine and how many tiny sandwiches and tiny desserts I ate. My professor was walking into a little gallery near Napoleon and I said hello, asked him how he was enjoying the art. "I just got here," he replied, to which I said: "Well, you better start on the refreshments!" My mother has raised me to be a charming, hospitable person who is capable of making small talk, and she is a wonderful perfect lady.
Our favorite exhibit (mine and my boyfriend's) was at a little art school near Jefferson, which I've walked past many times but never entered. One room had 3D paintings--sculptures that hung on the walls and came out from them, unpainted clay that came out from the wall. Many of them were distorted, like photos taken with a wide-angle lens. One had death walking through the streets, second-line style, in a suit with an umbrella. Another had a nude woman standing in front of a mirror: on the other side of the mirror was another sculpture of a woman, standing in the same position, in a room full of 3D objects. I wanted it to be lit from within. The woman was connected to the sculpture only by the slightest connection at her elbow: she hung there, torso suspended in air, held in place only by her reflection.
Yesterday I wanted ginger ale and so came home and made my own ginger soda: this is very easy. You boil equal parts sugar and water and however much you feel of sliced ginger, then add seltzer water. When I opened the seltzer water it spewed all over my clothes (the first long-sleeved shirt of the season) and I was upset for all of five minutes. When I checked the ingredients on seltzer water it said the following: "CARBONATED WATER." The CO2 diffused and the water evaporated. I took a nap on the square of sunshine on my bed and my shirt dried. Are all my problems so small?
April 9th. My first real bike ride to the french quarter with my new bike and we went all the way across the bridge to sit on the levee in the ninth ward. I rode with Braden and Erik and we passed graffiti that said
I LOVE YOU
YOU ARE EVERYTHING GOOD
IN THE WORLD
spray-painted on the side of an old brick building. They ride faster than me and I yelled it at them, reaching my hands forward over my handlebars. At the levee Erik read poetry from The Hour Between Dog and Wolf. On Esplanade we sat outside a convenience store and ate a Hubig's, drank beer and coconut juice, orange soda.
At the river there was one of the wide, lit-up boats with a red paddlewheel, and the music was jazz projected all the way across the Mississippi river water to where we sat on the rocks. I stepped from rock to rock, the wind blowing back my skirt and hair. The wind was warm, like an embrace.
Outside the convenience store two people were riding a tandem bicycle built to look like a banana and an old woman muttered "BYWATER KIDS" as she passed. When the pie was through we walked down to Washington Square. I made Erik hold my beer so I could go play on the swing set. Eventually he drank it. A little girl came to me and told me she was three. "Do you want my swing?" I asked her and she said yes so I gave it to her, hoisted her into that lopsided duct-taped piece of plastic held together with rusty chain, and pushed her. On Frenchman they were filming a movie.
Riding down St. Claude through the eighth ward everything smelled like fried food and that scent of summer. When my tires went over the fine metal mesh of the St. Claude bridge, I could see the water below. The lights began to blink and after we had passed they rose the bridge so a boat could pass through the space where only moments earlier our bicycles were, our bodies were. When I bought whiskey the woman at the counter asked me how I was feeling, smiled, told me to have a nice night. I did. The wind at the levee alternated warm and cold, leaving ripples of goosebumps across my damp, sticky skin. The lights of the business district on the water were beautiful and the riverboat passed slowly by, a blur of light in my camera across all that dark water.
At the bike help desk we'd made a run for free food on the LBC quad, spooning the thick chocolate-chip-flavored-ice-cream into our mouths. I recognized the woman who fed me.
At the levee Erik offered me sips of whiskey, a pint of Jim Beam from a glass bottle. He held still while I photographed him.
I do not know about bicycles but I held parts while Phill worked, wiped bike grease on my green skirt.
In the humidity my hair escaped in small, curly tendrils that cling everfine to the curved skin on my neck.
On the way back down St. Claude we stopped at Hank's, got four pieces of fried catfish, a peach pie, and an orange for four dollars and forty four cents, and ate on the stoop outside. I screamed when a cockroach crawled across my lap and Erik laughed at me. I ate the fish standing up, and it was warm and peppery on the inside of my mouth.
The light slipped behind the horizon.
On the back streets we rode fast, delighting in the feeling of wind across our shoulders.
When we stopped for coffee it was Erik's turn to recognize the woman who fed us. She gave us a cappuccino at a corner cafe in the Marigny and I ate the foam off the top with a spoon. The last time I was at this cafe was with JR, in his blue button-down and mirrored aviators, in the very miserable days when I was still in love. I did not recognize it until I was sitting at the same table, the same chair I was in one year ago. I am not her now.
In the French Quarter at night the sky is never dark, only the deep shade of navy they call "cerulean" in clothing magazines.
At Hank's on St. Claude a man came over to tell us stories about the country club, "bathing suits optional", and asked for a hook of Jim Beam. We gave it to him.
On the walls of the coffee shop the palm fronds looked like the legs of millipedes creeping across the gray siding.
At the levee when I took photographs only the sky is visible, all the rocks a line of blackness spreading diagonally through the frame. "This is the Ninth Ward," Erik said. "These are the levees that failed." Two young boys passed me, both on bicycles.
At the coffee shop we took the table without the umbrella and someone had left four brown cigarettes lying on the mesh-metal table. I put one in my purse, for luck, and Erik smoked one. There were fleur-de-lis spray painted on the trashcans. I skipped lunch and went to work instead.
This morning an anonymous person sent me flowers, to my work, and I engaged all my friends trying to figure out who it could be. I couldn't bike them home and left them, in water, in the bike shed. They were purple and white and wonderful. "Why? Because you're like a parfait: beautiful on many levels and everyone loves you," the typed card said. It was signed "Love," but the name was cut off.
At the river I could see stars, the old moon lying in the new moon's arms. "Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts," I said, eating catfish on the stoop of an abandoned house.
Outside the R-Bar, a man named Josh told me: "My sister's getting married tomorrow."
Women were drunkenly singing on Royal Street: "YOU LOVE US," they shouted. I do.
Three of the boys who have been pursuing me examined the card and the flowers, but none confessed. I received no phone calls or text messages until all the light had gone away.
Biking home the air was cool and Baronne was dark and soft. The wind pulled me back on my bicycle, warm and insistent, as if it were saying SLOW DOWN, SLOW DOWN. "It's okay, I know, I understand," I shouted to it. We took the cigarettes home, stuffed leftover bread into our mouths. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. I am grateful for this day.
more creepy pictures Amanda took of me, with her Diana this time. I really like this duo together though.
I spent all night on the couch, reading Asimov and Cell Biology, under a blanket with the floor strewn with toast, tea, an empty Kleenex box and used Kleenex. I took a sudafed-ibproufen combo and now have added nyquil to the mix. Evian made us pesto, Phil came over to sit around on our futon, and I was congested and happy. Last night I lounged around reading Macbeth (and Cell Biology) and eating cheerios dry. I'm surprised how much I still love Macbeth this time around, it's giving me flashbacks to the last time I read Macbeth and how bad things were then. It's odd how one combination of centuries-old poetry can send you back: "I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight?" but that's why he's Shakespeare.
Michael Winn and I discussed Amanda Palmer's radiohead ukulele covers album and I was of the opinion that the electronic stuff on the ukulele was where it fell apart and got messy. Lo and behold I WAS WRONG. NPR did a bit on Idioteque and I discovered they were right, and now I keep listening to it (both versions). I also discovered Laura Marling is only a month older than me and am terribly ashamed of the lack of accomplishments in my life.
The reviews on the back of the book and basically that I've heard everywhere were all "OMG THIS WAS SOOOO GOOD I READ IT ONE DAY." Since I usually read all books in one day, I also finished it in one day--Christmas Day, read it on the drive to Atlanta. I have sworn off driving to Atlanta on major holidays, it always makes me superbitchy. Anyway I was quite unimpressed with it. It's a pretty typical mystery-thriller except for Larsson's thing about WOMEN BEING RAPED HORRIFICALLY. After Sandler's excruciating rape scene that just happens to take place on MY BIRTHDAY I threw the book across the car. I finished it though. I have so many issues with Blomkvist, namely that he is not a real character and just a placeholder for the intended audience.
The Girl Who Played With Fire was even worse. about 2/3 of the book is Sandler spending the billion-so dollars she embezzled from the bad guy at the last book. We go from solving an island murder to watching Sandler go apartment shopping, new clothes shopping, take a vacation in the Caribbean...I'm not joking. Why is this so thrilling, it's like a written version of HGTV. Blomkvist and Sandler spend the entire book out of each other's ompany until the final two chapters. There area about four action-filled, read-ahead-quickly chapters in the entire book and most of the rest is Larsson setting up the entirety of Sweden as terrible and misogynistic. Which is fine, but after about the sixth chapter in a row that does nothing but set up police and press misogyny I GET IT, OKAY. THEY HATE WOMEN AND ARE TERRIBLE TO THEM. YOU SAID THIS. It's like Atlas Shrugged, only in Atlas Shrugged it was character rhetoric that continued beating a dead horse while the plot actually moved forward in interesting ways, and here it is exactly the reverse. By that I mean both character rhetoric and the plot only do one thing, and do it at a length that is unnecessary.
I didn't get The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest for christmas and haven't felt the need to go buy it. I'm sure I'll read it eventually, or at least watch the films with Evian.
anyway. Now I'm reading A Prayer for Owen Meany and have been taking a week to read it! Weird! I feel like it's going exceedingly slowly because I have spent a week on it! And it's very good, but when you read more slowly you notice the good and the bad more and so I'm starting to think the plot pace needs to pick up, but that just may be my reading pace! I can't tell them apart. It is quite good and surprisingly nonrepetitive for a fake memoir. anyway, more when I'm done.
also I have watched this video from the best woman and this video which I want to cut up into ringtones about five times each and see no reason to stop now. They are pretty great!
which is quite blurry and dark but I had to rush the self-timer and then run up fountain steps, so I didn't get to frame it well. It was right on the switch from 2010 to 2011, when the bars around the park broke into cheers. We walked home and it started to rain, switching from drizzle to pounding downpours. James came over, and we made hot chocolate, listened to Laura Veirs' The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae on Amanda's record player, and James tried to make smores by roasting marshmallows over a candle with his fingers. I went to sleep in the rain and had nightmares, woke up to more rain and scribbling in a notebook in the bathroom, trying not to wake anyone up.
when I was in high school I wanted to throw listening parties, where you figure out a place that takes exactly the amount of time to drive to that it takes for one CD. And then you get some of your friends in a car and you drive there and you listen to one CD. The rules are that the first time through you can't talk, that everyone has to listen. And you get to wherever you're going and you eat dinner, and then on the way back you listen to the CD again, with comments. the only CD I ever imagined doing this with was In The Aeroplane Over The Sea which I can't love less with time, only more. I gave the record to Amanda for her christmas present and for the Party party, members in flux, we sat in the living room and ten or twelve of us did that, walking softly in an attempt to get the record to not skip. And it's a great CD for it--the point in "Oh Comely" when we were singing "I know they buried her body with others, her sister and mothers and five hundred families" I knew the reason I started writing this book I can't seem to finish. The combination of people and songs.
I've been running out of things to say lately. I don't feel like blogging or writing, I've been reading and knitting a lot, watching movies with people. When I was at Amanda's we attempted to recreate the cover of Pulp Fiction, something I've wanted to do since I got this haircut, though it's a bit too long now:
as close as it's gonna get. Her bit on
Mia: Don't you hate that?
Mia: Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it's necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?
Vincent: I don't know. That's a good question.
Mia: That's when you know you've found somebody special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.
maybe is rubbing off on me. Last night was the first night all week (all year) I've slept without nightmares, probably because we fell asleep at 3 in a freezing-cold house (the heat went out at Amanda's). I feel like most of what I say is oversharing, but is that because I think the people around me don't want to hear it or I don't want to hear myself say it? Writer's block for real life. I wish that I would get a good night's sleep, I wish that Mumford & Sons would make a new CD so I could stop singing the same one I've been singing all year that I get sick of but don't love less, I wish my feet were warm and my hair three inches longer and I don't know if I should try and cherish this weird in-between time or just wait it out. When you have spent too long with the same group of people you run out of things to say to them, they can be your roommates or your family or your friends or your characters.
Sometimes you are in an in-between place, when you are waiting for time to pass so you can finish your degree, to go back to school, to get a promotion, to see someone again, to go back home. Sometimes you are just waiting for the nightmares to stop or for enough time to pass so you can get over someone, but if that hasn't happened yet there's not very much you can do to make the waiting go faster or get better. So it goes.
I've spent most of break sleeping in beds and listening to Joanna Newsom and Kanye West, which is a strange couple to be singing in your ears together and probably the reason for my sleep--too much, not enough, staying up nights wandering around the house clutching blankets, or else sleeping ten hours a night, waking up to turn my alarm off and sleep more. Tonight I almost got frostbite on four toes. My mother was rubbing my numb feet with her hands until they started hurting and itching, toes going from white to vivid bruise-purple. I sat in the mexican restaurant, shoes off, clutching my toes under the table. Etiquette.
We watched The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which was my favorite Narnia book and the movie I was super excited for. I thought they were going to cut all my favorite parts out, and some of it--like the creepy feeling of Lucy reading in a room with an open door behind her after she has tried to shut it, and failed, and the way their feet became boats, and their beards that grew to cover the tables--they did. But they kept my favorite bit in, which was the water at the end of the world:
There was a moment's silence and then Lucy knelt down on the deck and drank from the bucket.
"It's the loveliest thing I have ever tasted," she said with a kind of gasp. "But oh--it's strong. We shan't need to eat anything now."
And one by one everybody on board drank. And for a long time they were all silent. They felt almost too well and strong to bear it; and presently they began to notice another result. As I have said before, their had been too much light ever since they left the island of Ramandu--the sun too large (though not too hot), the sea too bright, the air too shining. Now, the light grew no less--if anything, it increased--but they could bear it. They could look straight at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before. And the deck and the sail and their own faces and bodies became brighter and brighter and every rope shone. And the next morning, when the sun rose, now five or six times its old size, they stared hard into it and could see the very feathers of the birds that came flying from it. (249)
which here, in the longest days of winter, echoes around every cup of water you drink.
I stayed up to watch the lunar eclipse, but it was cloudy. I wanted to go to Cumberland Falls with everyone I knew, but the weather was sleet and the cloud cover was 94% instead of the moonbows and lunar shows I was hoping for. Instead I sat at home, stayed up all night the longest night of the year, texted people and listened to music, tried to sleep then gave up, sat on my bed staring at the sloped ceiling, sat in my window staring at the clouds. It wasn't the good kind of stay-up all night, it was the reliving-bad-memories kind of stay-up all night, but I texted Bailey and Hannah and they both responded, about the time Bailey went to bed Hannah woke up. It was the longest, darkest night of the year but I had people to talk to, so I can't really ask for more. From here the light will only increase, past the solstice, past the eclipse, past the island of Ramandu and past bleak midwinter.
We came home from the movie. I started to fill up the bathtub to warm my feet. With the water running into the tub I ransacked my cabinets, finding all the bubblebath that acquaintances had given me as gifts, poured them into the water to get lavender chamomile vanilla raspberry clean. The water wasn't light and I didn't drink it but I laid in the foam with my nose above water, listening to Ys until it stopped and watching the bubbles sparkle as they popped until they were all gone.
this week. I was so pleased last night when I finished my all my papers, all the 20 pages I wrote Monday-Wednesday, and at midnight last night went over my to-do list and crossed everything out feeling immensely pleased with myself and then realized I didn't write my article. I GUESS IF I HAD TO FORGET SOMETHING IT'S THE ONLY NONGRADED THING.
I started keeping a dreamjournal this week (since I had to turn in my actual journal) after I had a dream I was served brains at dinner and then the victim sucked blood that was gushing out of my mouth. Last night I was in a terrible mood and dreamed of a banana-guitar, woke up feeling pretty okay. Yesterday, I listened to Winter is Coming thirty times in a row and before I went to bed, I watched David Tennant as Hamlet. At first he was just kind of weird but by the end the way he plays Hamlet--as totally, completely, strapped-to-a-chair-mad--gets under your skin and when he has killed Polonius and is duct-taped to chair and mocking "Not where he eats, but here he is eaten" you are also feeling trapped and crazy and in the middle of this week it bothered me more than it should.
I have spent too much time reading Shakespeare recently. Eight days left in New Orleans.
I got hit by a car. I limped home, hat untied, carrying my bike, blood dripping down my leg. Later I kept thinking about the moment mid-fall when I stopped resisting, my left hand on the ground, letting my body roll sideways onto the asphalt, feeling the weight of my backpack swings its arc into the ground. I was fine: only my rear bike tire and my left knee suffered injury. My roommates bandaged me up, gave me advil. None of us were healthy or well. We rested and drove in silence.
This is not my home: this is Bailey's home and I am thankful for it, for her mom that made us clam chowder (my favorite soup) the night we arrived, who cleaned my scraped knee with hydrogen peroxide and gave me bandaids. I am thankful for Bailey, for skipping class to go to Sonic with me, for putting together couches at one in the morning, for when she came into my room at 2am to watch spongebob with me because it was storming. I am thankful for Carrie, who drove me to Walgreens at 1am and bought chips and candy so we could watch the Emperor's New Groove in bed. I am thankful for Evian who lets me borrow her clothes, and watches TNG with me, and is my constant lunch date Tuesdays and Thursdays, who always says good morning.
I am thankful for my wives who are always the first ones I call, each of them separately. I am thankful for Leah who understands me here and sugarlungs far. Yesterday I played the piano for the first time in months and I am thankful, for Hamlet and Lost in the World and Harry Potter and the music that other people play when they are driving, I am thankful. You keep all my days from slipping into the void of my memory.
I believe my parents are perfect and my grandparents saints and my brother my friend, and I miss them, and I think of them every day.
I am thankful that it was only my knee and my bike tire and not my face that was dragged along the asphalt, that the driver stopped and asked if I was okay before she drove off, even if she didn't offer insurance. I hope she is unharmed, I don't wish karma on her. I am thankful that things were not worse.
We ate Thanksgiving Dinner. The Saints won the football game. We went shopping at 3am on black friday. I fell asleep at 8am craving eggs. My sinuses filled up with phlegm, I did not write my Shakespeare paper. I became tired and homesick, cried in bed before falling asleep. I woke up to Mumford and Sons and Ryan Adams and I was comforted. I am happy where I am. I do not wish that things were different and for that I am thankful.
to celebrate not having lab this monday afternoon I read What's Eating Gilbert Grape? by Peter Hedges outside until I had to turn on the flood lights to finish it. It makes you feel like being homeless on the streets of New Orleans would be better than being stuck in a small-town in Iowa with your family until the very last chapter.
I finished Persepolis yesterday, but I don't have very much to say about it. I've been reading Hamlet out loud over the past few days, slowly, and eventually I'll sit down and watch Kenneth Branagh's 242 minute version. Family-conflicted, guilty, sensitive, indecisive male heroes compromise my past few days.
I prefer to say "sextuple-you" rather than "double-you, double-you, double-you"
Hunger gnaws at my attention span all through my American Literature class. These are the three hours a week when I sit in class and fantasize about going to the zoo, have vivid flashbacks to things I was told at parties among lectures of literature about workers on strike.
I remember, very distinctly, the first time I realized I could make myself thinner by not eating. I was standing on the Newcomb quad with Evian and Erik in the dark, wearing a purple t-shirt, and Erik poked me in the stomach and made some comment about how hard it was, told me that my long, thin belly button looked like an arch.
I lost weight. I grew enamoured with the long ridges of my pelvic bone, the exposed superior illiac crests, the weird contours of my torso from my ribcage to my hips, the space along my stomach where no bones were. I would sit in class and run my fingers along my collar bones and shoulderblades, exploring the hard surfaces within my own skin. I felt my breasts were too large, getting in the way of my ribcage. I became obsessed with stretching into myself, feeling my body in space, pressing my forehead to my shins.
Is this a body image problem or is it just being a woman in America?
I did not get better. This is where I am right now
I couldn't focus on molecular biology. The ends of my hair, lying on the words in my textbook, fascinated me. I imagined the molecules coming together, becoming amino acids, becoming proteins, spontaneously polymerizing into these long dead strands that fall across my shoulders.
It was monday and it rained all day. I rode my bike home after lab, my hair getting wet and splintering up, the wind stinging into my eyes.
last night I didn't do homework. instead I laid on my bed staring into space, listening to music like it was a tangible thing that covered my skin until I fell asleep with the lights still on.
The shower had no hot water. I stepped out onto the rug to shiver in a towel. I shouted at the shower "I hate you! I hate all of the things that make you up! I loathe your constituent parts!" but I couldn't stop laughing.
my american literature teacher: "Teddy has learned that life is a series of violent dichotomies"
I never woke up. I slept for three years until my youth was wasted away and when I woke up I had to be responsible. I poured out the bottle of bourbon next to my bed and donned that business casual attire and conservative earrings I walked into the streets and none of my friends knew me. I didn't realize for months that the city was underwater and this was still the same dream.
I woke up at 7am with the light spilling over my eyelids
I fought with my best friend.
"Is all the counsel that we two have shared,
The sisters' vows, the hours that we have spent,
When we have chid the hasty-footed time
For parting us,--O, is it all forgot?"
I dreamed that my dad died, that I was kissing a boy I thought I liked and we had no chemistry, that our empty house stuck out into the narrow street, that I was getting a key made in the grocery store when I finally broke down. I woke myself at 7am crying
This the week before Thanksgiving I felt guilt at every extra snack. I woke early every single day to my winter playlist. I listened to the Radical Face CD until we could both breathe again. I had a bad day and watched dream-mazes on the couch. I put up pictures. I dressed to impress and failed. Our hot water went out three times. I laid between my teal sheets like an aquarium and wondered
who am I doing this for? who is on the other side of the glass?
“La Vita Nuova” explained how to become a great poet. The secret was to fall in love with a perfect girl but never speak to her. You should weep instead. You should pretend that you love someone else. You should write sonnets in three parts. Your perfect girl should die.
Amanda’s mother said, “You have your whole life ahead of you.”
-La Vita Nuova by Allegra Goodman
There is something about the absence of a thing. When you have been living without cigarettes, for example, six months, maybe a year or longer smoke-free. Maybe you have gained weight but have come to accept it, think your lungs are worth it. And then, one day, you start again. Maybe an old friend came back, the one who got you started in the first place, with her infectious smile and the silhouette of her lips blowing a cloud of smoke into the air. Maybe Parliments were on sale, and they were just exactly as good as you remembered.
But the next time you quit will be just as hard, worse than all the inbetween time, all the no-cigarette time, all the time of real breakfasts and smoke-free lungs.
I drove back from the airport alone, my passenger seat empty for the return half of the round trip. And it had been raining in New Orleans, and the interstate was wet, there were rainbows of oil in the puddles. I pulled onto I-10 and that is when I saw it: a break in the clouds, a rainbow in the sky, always paler and more fragile-looking than you think it should be. I was listening to Florence & the Machine and gripping the steering wheel very tightly with both hands, sobbing alone in my great-aunt's car at 65 miles an hour and feeling the ache again. It is just as hard the second time, the third time, the fourthfifthsixthseventhtwelfthfifteenth every time. How many does it take to learn?
I went on a walk with Leah today, after we walked out of a lecture. "I've been seeing a psychologist," she told me. "She keeps giving me articles by the Dali Lama. I'm the only person I know who thinks Tibet is better under the Chinese. I don't care about the Dali Lama."
"I don't know anything about Tibet," I told her. She told me about walking around Tel Aviv, drunk in high heels. She's the president of the Akido club and walking back to my house she told me how someday she hopes someone tries to mug her so she can teach them who's boss.
I've lost track of the day of the week every day this week. Evian bought me a brown vest and I was pleasantly surprised. I have molecular biology I should be doing, but tomorrow is friday, I know.
We're officially moved in! Have a picture. It's the kitchen because that's the most furnished room right now.
I've been reading arsene lupin on my iPod--classic book app, since I finished The Disappearing Spoon this morning and the library is closed Sunday. We're going to go later today.
All the furniture so far is mostly mine, my bedroom aside--sofa bed, coffee table, end table, kitchen table & chairs, armchair. Besides that it's pretty bare, though Bailey's mum is getting us a futon for the back room soon (we pick it up today). We don't have internet either. I can steal from a neighbor but its fleeting, so I apologize for the lack of updates.
I went through Faine's boxes, with lots of exclamations of "Thanks Faine!!" in various tones of joy (dishes, spices) and confusion (so much cumin? like twelve ounces of cumin. not joking. also so many ponchos!). Her furniture is fantastic. We bleach-water-washed everything due to mom's fear of mold, polished the wood, vacuumed the upholstery, and unpacked the mysterious kitchen boxes that contained pots, pans, spices, food, and a mysterious pair of shoes. ??? okay.
This is fine for me because I love inheriting other people's stuff, I like getting furniture and boxes with odds and ends from someone else's life and going through it to see what they thought was important, what they kept and collected. I like things that already have life when they're given to you, and a good life, it's almost like you're expected to carry that into future generations. Same reason I love my grandparent's house: full of furniture (I suspect a good one-third or more of their furniture is hidden under beds and things, because they have more furniture than house. I told grandmom I'd buy a house so she'd have somewhere to keep her extra furniture), old books, old pictures, old things people have made. There's a reason my purse right now is a carpetbag of unidentifiable age I found in my grandmother's closet. I like old things. Also mum said the mattress smelled like marijuana. Oh, Faine.
I'm still in a transition phase; that first week, from school to home or home back to school, is always disconcerting; I'm not sure what the routine is yet, I know what I would do at home but here? And it's always accompanied from a busy-to-nothing shift, from finals to staring at my room in KY, from MCAT-library-working-packing-crazy to moving in, with my most strenuous duties being grocery shopping and cooking dinner. It takes a while to get reoriented. I have confidence that things will be better when Evian gets here.