Sunday, January 31, 2010

From the Calendar, with Love

Here is a January of more guilt, more crumpled sticky notes on the floor, items half-checked off to-do lists. Postponed. Everything postponed while I am trying to graduate from this beloved institution and off into the godforsaken land of no-jobs. Everybody complains about the future, while my future is now and I'm staring it right in the face. Wanna step outside, future? I say, brandishing my silver tongue.

If only there were more time, I grumble as afternoons segue into late nights and mea culpas, and futile questions like, why in the world would I take a whole hour for dinner? Did I really need to hear all that? To hear myself talk, to hear them babble? Why can't I be a hermit as befitting my career goals? And so on. I will eradicate meals, it's the only way.

So this is the last lunch we have together, I told her. February is my month, censorship of activities enabled, entertainment be damned. I'll be a Road Runner through the cafeteria, gone before you know it, too fast even for hellos. You'll see. February's for 50-page papers and more overnights in the dark room. It's all about timing, my dear, and you should understand since you sleep so little, too. So after I told her all this with a grave voice we stayed, nostalgic, in the cafeteria until dinnertime, for five hours or so just talking, with the surly staff cleaning around us, assuring us we're not in the way. We stayed, for the last time. Unless they have cookies tomorrow.

And now, the February of guilt, staring me right in the face. Come on, February, wanna step outside with me?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the Shadows

“Aren’t you going to miss this place?” I remember asking her. “No,” she said looking right at me, almost defiantly. “I miss my family, Canada, everyone. I’m glad to go.” “Well,” I shrugged, “then I’m happy for you.” I lied. And I was sure she lied too. For how does one debar herself of nostalgia, I don’t figure. It’s always there, nostalgia, for me at least.

Through the mist that envelops my future I have to consider my present in context. So – will I miss it, I thought as I climbed the stairs two at a time. There are Nepali cooking on the second floor, one of their smelly dishes, surely, sticking their finger inside to taste, then licking it and sticking it right back. On the first floor are Koreans who giggle incessantly and barely mind me as I squeeze myself along the wall to bypass their flurry, their racket. The Chinese walk around in flip-flops unkempt and blank-faced, like androids. All irritates me, their obliviousness pressing hard on sore points, on years of loneliness. Will I miss it. It’s hard to imagine I will.

It’s hardly the first time I’ve asked myself this. Even though time’s not been kind to this memory I’m gleaning, there are good things here. Really, like what? I retorted. And to refute this skeptic intimation I took to taking photographs. Trying to prove something to myself. There is beauty alright. Plenty. But it is tainted, stained by what I know, the ugly side of the funfair, which doesn’t get printed in brochures and news announcements. The backwards of it, the pantomime, the energy that goes into appearances, all for form and in want of content. Well if it’s appearances I cherish, these tall trees and neatly-trimmed grass, red buildings and squirrels galore, the more the landscape dissolves into idyllic the more egregiously it deceives. If it’s only appearances I’ll miss then I’ll miss nothing, because there’s scarcely anything to miss underneath. I’m beginning to understand what she meant.

We watched Battleship Potemkin today. The sailors found worms in their meat and made a revolution for a decent meal. Women and children were killed but the insurgence held fast. Of course it was not food they were after. It was dignity. Dignity is to not be given food with worms in it.

Friday, January 15, 2010


The life of a writer is the life of a loner. I think it must be so. If I am to build a new world and make it believable it is imperative that I distance myself from the reality of the present. It distracts me, like a voice buzzing in my ear as I am trying to formulate speech. Stuttering is a symptom of distraction, of a mind preoccupied and thus unfocused. Writing with interruptions is like stuttering, thoughts that hiccup instead of flowing make for a story less credible. Bill tells me he cannot write, and although I’ll never say it to him, for better judgment, I’m more inclined to think that he is just distracted. Like most everybody else.

I was interrupted while composing this. Who knows what the hell I was going to write. All right. Start over.

We were walking down the street and I noticed that you looked different somehow, that pink scarf pulling the features of your face into more angular geometry and making your curly hair glow with a matte finish, like flashed photographic paper. You’ve grown up, I thought. It was only last year I saw you last, but the last time I really saw you, really looked at you, was long time ago. You will agree, I think. The shift we’ve undergone is to be expected, given that college is the time for action while high school is a time for dabbling. Nothing really happens in high school, or whatever happens has a passive quality rather than participatory. Things happen to you rather than with you. So in college you’ve gone out and did, and you were nobody’s fool, except maybe your own. And now you’re lost again, or perhaps found, but still a gambler, always a gambler. A gambler for dreams, you’ll say, and I’ll chuckle. It’s a wonder that you, a dreamer, and I, a skeptic, would ever be friends. And yet.

I asked you, apropos of my reason for snubbing you, if one day you discovered that the cup of coffee you’d been drinking every day contained poison, would you keep drinking. And you, instead of evincing some kind of outrage that I’d liken you to poison, said with naivety and stubborn benevolence that it’d depend on so many factors, like what kind of poison, or what damage it would do, clearly resisting the analogy with a feeble defense, but in a cute way. We are slaves to our perceptions, I fear, and yours is that I’m now the bad guy, and mine’s that I was right to cut you off.

You told me how there’s no more affection in your friendships, a deficit of caring between you and them, and you complained how she, whenever you talk, will only talk about herself. But there are too many who make themselves guilty of self-absorption. Truth be told, my intuition whispers that you’d do the same to me. This nostalgia born of habitude sometimes obscures realities which can seem blunt or insensitive, but they’re nevertheless in our faces, like an elephant in the room that nobody talks about. If I told you “this friendship’s done for” you’d probably console yourself accusing me of hostility, victimizing yourself, and since I’m the one who’s actually severed the connection, it’s clear who’s the evil one here. But you know, I don’t feel like the evil one. There has to be someone to say the emperor’s got no clothes. I merely called what was already there. And that’s all my defense.