Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lesson of the Train Baggage

A week ago I left for my East Coast summer adventure 2015. My cheapest ticket available required me to take the busiest train line at the busiest time of day. In April, when I planned the trip, I made a mental note of this. Last week, with a packing hangover, the mental post-it has fluttered away.

Waiting for the train, I could already feel the heavy judgement surrounding me. Side eyes that said, "Oh, you think you're getting on THIS train, huh?" When it arrived, I crowded around the doors with my suitcase, duffel, and backpack. I acted no different than usual but inside I was absolutely shouting, "You're not gonna fit!" Then another side of me: "Play it, cool, for the love of donuts! Don't let them smell your doubt! They'll elbow you out!"

I made it in, and the general disgust cloud around me stank stronger. My bags were unruly--rolling slightly, bumping knees, threatening to bump the line of sitting women. "I should be sitting," I thought angrily. "Look at me wrestling with this luggage that I NEED because I have to have show clothes and hiking clothes and workout clothes and regular clothes. Don't you all know this!?" I did my best and kept my eyes down from the early morning clucks and tsks. "I'm sorry," I thought--then, "No, I'm NOT sorry." A seat opened. Before another girl could even make a solitary move, I said, "Do you mind if I sit down?" She huffed and turned away, absorbed in earbuds.

I sat with my tiny mountain, people specifically taking the time to sigh as they skirted around me. I trolled internally, "If you had just gotten up and let me sit near the back, no one would have any issues!" As the airport got closer, the car got emptier. Relief.

And I thought. I thought of the times on the train when I to have been grouchy others brought their giant stroller aboard and sat smugly as we all Cirque de Soleil over them. I thought about how most days I don't mind standing on the el, but some days I do mind, and I look rudely at all those guys my age taking up seats. Feminism, yes, but also, in those moments, I just want them to feel bad. And then I think, I think about how many times a tired-looking person towers over me, and I refuse to look up. I was here first, fair and square, and I don't have to feel bad about that. If you wanted a seat so bad, you should have gotten on at an earlier stop. Never mind where you work, where you live, your schedule. Somehow, when I have what I want, your situation is your fault. And when you have what I want, the universe is so so unjust.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Moss: Part III

We hiked The Porcupine Mountains, the collective crew of Counselors in Training--big and small, blistered and bouncing. I was afraid to go on the trip because what if I didn't hike fast enough? And I had to carry the pots in my pack. And I hadn't gone to REI like the other girls for those special swishy trail pants. And we weren't supposed to wear t-shirts. Well how was I supposed to know?! I had been wearing a t-shirt for literally occasion of my high school life!

On the third day we made it to Lake Superior. It was too cold to swim, but the water brought a newness. A sense of accomplishment and a marker that we were halfway there (oh-oh-livin on a prayer!) and the trip couselors could use a break too so they basically went to bed as soon as we had put out the fire. Tee, Rench, KHo and I were up, determined to get on that lake if not in.

We wobbled atop a path of rocks just peeping from the water's surface. Tee pointed down at a very mossy one. "Slick," she said. I stepped as delicately as I could but I still flaked for a moment before sticking the landing.

The sun was setting and Rench listed all the schools she visited and which she was applying for and the ones her friends were going to which were just short of disgusting. Rench was the cabin dum-dum but she had a million polos and chacos in the way that made it seem her intelligence would have little to do with where she ended up at school.

"Where are you guys going?" In the distance a tiny boat squatted just under the pinking clouds. KHo came from money too. She pressed her. "I don't want to talk about it." KHo said. "Can't this be the one time in our lives we don't talk about it?" The orange floated away, we tip-toed to shore.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Moss: Part II

Muggy run Friday. We may as well have been inside the old sneakers we wore. "I'm going to go down and splash some water on my face," Bisque says about two miles in. Good idea. There's a lake right there! Who knew!

So we hop down the concrete steps to the waves lapping some rocks. I see the rocks are moss, so I bend down where I am am splash myself the best I can. But, before I can say, "Wait, don't--" Bisque is stepping onto a big mossy slab. In one second I panic. There are so many options--yelp, lunge and try to catch him, close my eyes...I gasp as his feet fly from under him and he lands square on his back halfway submerged in the water. I frantically garble, "Where is your phone*! Talk it out of your pocket!" Phone was safe despite every other part of his shorts and tee being drenched somehow. He was fine. he carefully stepped back onto dry land. We walked the rest of the way home since he was sogging. Sore neck for a couple days, but it was no big deal.

I've been thinking about that moment. What if I had flailed and tried to scoop him up as he fell? Surely my quicker response time could have saved him the womp. But then I think of the logistics, and even if I COULD have reached out, might I have kinda nicked his head causing it to eventually hit much harder on the stone? It could have all cracked open right there. In this case, my best intended action may have been murder.

*It says a lot about the importance of technology in society that the first thing I asked about was his replaceable cell. Bisque later mentioned casual fun is not as fun anymore because of cell phones. On our walk home I mentioned it was right of passage to be pushed into Peppermint's swimming pool with your clothes on in middle school. No more of that with iPhones in pockets!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

And a Year Later, Another Graduation

Last night was the closing show of my ensemble's run at SC. The Program is officially over. The reason I moved across the country is complete. I feel like I'm standing about two steps up at the bottom of a long flight of stairs. At the same time, I shouldn't discount the fact that at one time I saw those two steps as an end goal in themselves. My appetite has been wetted, but if I had to walk away today, I've already accomplished something a lot of people only dream of doing.

As soon as the audience was ushered out, I changed out of my show clothes. The directors ran through the process of "celebrating us" in robotic fashion. Eight boxes of pizza were delivered and lined up. Pitchers of Sprite and beer on the cab tables. The stage manager turned on some generic party music. "Hooray us," we all said. No one called our names. We lined up by the stage and shook our right hands and took rolled up red t-shirts with our lefts. We all put them on over our clothes and took pictures and gave out compliments like parade candy. This may be some people's way to release a year of toil, growth, and personal conviction, but it's not mine, so I phoned it in. Kinda happy, but really needing more time to decompress.

It's not a giant wave of anything yet. No walls are crumbling. I think I'll see the ones I want to see again? Won't I? I keep some words close. I dream.
Something Something Donut Joke

Monday, July 20, 2015

Insomnia: Teacher Weights

Can't sleep. I'm up worrying about my student in the hospital.

It was such a good day. A summer Sunday. I slept in, finished Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread. Bisque and I walked two miles to the beach. We were sticky upon arrival, so the mighty cold lake felt refreshing. The life guard plopped his row boat three feet from us, the only swimmers, who were perpetually humming "Jaws" and splashing around. I watched the Tig Notaro doc on Netflix, curled up into my grey hoody, and napped because the sun was coming through the windows just so. And this new couch (we got a new couch!) was ever so inviting. Suddenly, I needed to be productive. I cycloned around the apartment for two hours cleaning the closets, recycling old documents, organizing my lip glosses hurled under the bathroom sink. Bisque went for a run, and we agreed to meet up at sunset on the rooftop pool at our gym. Humidity retired for the day, I laid contently in a sun chair watching the orange sky melt. I walked to CVS to use my coupon, and chocolate dusted almonds were on sale for six measly dollars, would you believe it?

Finally, in the deep dark of night, we turn off all the lights, dunk ginger snaps in milk, and watch MTV's Scream. Bisque reads aloud to me from a young adult book. Before bed I notice I have a work email. It's from this kid's mother.

This kid, this sweet, cheery (one would assume) kid is struggling again. Severe depression. Things were unsafe. What does that mean? Are they certainly safe now? I'm worried this good student is going to fail. This is the last week of the term. I'm worried this good person is going to die. I can't stop thinking about it and wondering what else I could have done. Did this kid know I cherish all of my students? That the essays this kid writes are excellent, and that's not something I write on every paper? Please keep this kid alive, I keep repeating. Repeat One, like the button on a Discman. Keep this kid alive.

And now I'm worried for them all. Tomorrow is the final exam. I want them all to pass so badly it bunches my guts. They won't. That one missed, like, 6 classes and two essays. He doesn't have the practice hours in. This one can't implement verb agreement. And this person doesn't understand "logic" "proof" these things are nothing to him. "Meet me before the exam! Anytime. Email me. Send me practice paragraphs, grammar questions. I'm here from you." I checked my email devoutly all weekend. Nothing. And some of them really needed it. Nothing. Until now. Now I have one new email from the mother of the special kid. Please keep alive.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Moss: Part I

Lazz has only been sharp to me once in our decade of friendship. In high school he was the epitome of sweet. Syrup person. His face was always a perfect reflection of concern, and he gave out a lot of backrubs, sometimes for an entire movie. He was my senior prom date (asking me via cookie cake) and gave me a birthday present ( a Christopher Durang collection) even though he couldn't come to the party.

Over the years he remained this magical leprechaun of cuteness even though I saw him once in a blue moon. My freshman year of college I heard from George that he was still working at the candle store in the mall and she happened to see him leaving late one night right before Christmas. He had his headphones in and was dancing on the long long trek from the front doors to the auxiliary holiday staff parking. He sent me a hand-drawn birthday letter one year and even surprised me at college by showing up for the fall play. He's a good dollop, is what I'm saying.

I was visiting him at school a few years ago. It was summer, but he stayed in the po-dunk town to work at a Mexican restaurant and hang out with his frat brothers. We went on a Saturday afternoon walk through the woods by his house. There was a small creek, so we walked across it holding a fallen tree. I steps gently on a stone because I saw it was mossy. Lazz followed behind, stepping less gently, and he slipped awkwardly nearly plunking himself into the water. "It's slippery!" I yelped. "I see that," he hissed. It was so sharp I nearly feel off my current rock for no reason. Then he said, "Sorry." Then he started singing an Aimee Mann song.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Intersection of Upset and Grateful

"If I express my dislike for something, it is usually because the other 99% is perfect," my sister explains to me. We're talking about negativity. How I think it's a complete bummer and how she thinks it's a mere expression--and certainly not to be taken personally. (I know that too, but I still do it.)
Road trip gummies.
Would the world move on without the perfectionists bringing storm clouds to the silver sidewalks? Could the perfectionists quietly toil instead? Are things as they are perfect, or at least as perfect as we should be entitled to? I worry a life of constant critiquing doesn't leave much space for gratitude--which is the number one potion.

Ah, so, these are the times one must escape to the north woods. These are the days a knotted tummy and work email are not options. There are barrels of bulls eyes in the candy shop, a near-empty movie theatre, the late night chats, finding a toad, setting off a firework in the driveway, and the glittering flowage. The bags of carrot chips, the humongous muskie, a rope swing, and a new book--just cracked.
Fish fry.
Brownie sundaes for dinner.
I could make you satisfied in everything you do/
All your secret wishes could right now be coming true.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Two Reasons to Love Bisque

1. On Sunday we went out for farewell coffee with his sister Fizz. Bisque asked for a macchiato, and I got a biscotti. When the barista chirped "MACCHIATO" I did a double take. At Starbucks a macchiato is basically a latte. At this trendy place where I always get terrible service, but there are very nice love seats and a giant open window, a macchiato is about a thimble of caffeine. I brought the "beverage" over to my guy. He looked at it, I believe on the cusp of playing it cool and being disappointed. He said, "This is not what I was expecting, but I'll try it." And I really liked that. I think a lot of times we pretend like, "Oh yeah, I knew that." But it's just so much better not to. Being honest about the smallest, most frivolous things is how we build muscle to be honest about the big swampy messes--how we learn to have open minds to admit we were wrong about a political candidate or professional mistakes.

2. He said to me last night, "If you're too focused on your dream, you might miss a dream."

Bro and sis post-pizza.
A dream is a wish your heart makes.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hatin' on Hatin'

I just want people to manage their hate.
I don't want people to frown when a waiter steps on a dog's paw at brunch while they are eating bacon.
I don't want people to spend hours researching how the wrong side is wrong.
I don't want hate groups on Reddit, and I don't want hate groups marching in streets.
I want things that are hated to be changed, lovingly, with time.
Happy Fourth of July. I'm a gremlin.
Snacks and booty from arts conference I recently attended.