Rick’s Tracks

Rick had always been short, round and bespectacled. He started wearing glasses when he was two years old; he looked like a little owl in the photos on his mother’s mantelpiece. By the time he was six, his father began worrying about his rotund qualities and tried to get him interested in sports of all kinds. Rick took every kind of class that was offered at the community center, from karate to swimming, but he always ended up crying and, somehow or other, with broken glasses. His mother grew tired of buying him new glasses and refused to sign him up for any more classes. Instead, his father tried to get him involved in the peewee teams at his elementary school, but that didn’t’ work either. Rick was always gently taken off any team he was on when he was found, elbows on knees, staring at a caterpillar rather than paying any attention at all to the game.

It was no use. Rick simply wouldn’t become the son that his parents had thought they would have. But unlike many unlucky little boys and girls, Rick had parents who loved him and learned to accept him. Rick himself was a cheerful and dreamy child and never seemed to quite realize that his parents had been disappointed in him for a time. He grew up happily, finding friends among the other quieter kids, entertaining himself with adventure books and building blocks, and pleasing his parents with his good report cards.

Of course, little children grow up, even if they read Peter Pan over and over again. Rick stood by the train tracks nervously, fiddling with a ragged piece of tissue between his fingers and dabbing his nose absentmindedly every few seconds and thought back on his life. The bad things, he decided, must have begun around middle school.

In NYC

Dear Blog, Dear Bloggy-Friends, Dear World,

I’m in New York City, and it is fabulous. Last time I was here, I was extremely thin, painfully thin, and I’m told that I actually looked ill. In that state, I was absolutely terrified of the cold, since it seemed to penetrate every pore of my body and froze me to the bone.

Now, however, I’m managing to enjoy the cold like never before. I leave the apartment I’m staying in well wrapped in a new coat, new gloves, an old scarf and a very old hat (it was my older brother’s baby hat, apparently) and I feel snug as a bug (and where does that expression come from, anyway? Who ever said that bugs were snug?).

My spirits are high, higher than they’ve been in a while. I bought three classics today, as well, and having these books in my room (Howard’s End, Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Fair) makes me happy.

So. In a week, I move into my dorm room. Over the next few days, I’m enjoying my re-immersion in the city. I’ve also experienced some lovely interactions in the past few days with random people, so I’m hoping to find some time to write little tidbits about those.

I hope you all have had a fabulous weekend! Did anyone else spend the weekend walking about a city? Has anyone bought new books?

Winter Break

I’m officially on winter break!

This makes me joyful. While the past few months have been eye-opening, difficult, wonderful, mind-expanding, glorious, interesting, intense and any other number of adjectives – while all this is true, it’s also true that I’m not sorry that my first semester in college is officially over. I’m through the first hump now, and I know more of what I can do, what’s expected of me and how well I can perform. I’m pleased with my studies – rather, I’m ecstatic about them. I never thought that I could truly enjoy intense studying as much as I did – that is, I always knew that I’d enjoy learning new things in college, but my satisfaction and pleasure in it in reality exceeded my wildest dreams.

Still, I’m happy that I have a break now. I have almost a month to air out my brain a little and go back to school feeling refreshed and eager again. I truly find it rather astonishing how much knowledge I feel I’ve gained over the past months, as well as how much work I’ve done. My mind still reels at the notion that I wrote somewhere around 150 pages throughout the past three-and-a-half months.

Now that I’m back, I’m going to be kicking myself back into my proper writing/blogging regime. I miss the creative side of my brain and intend to use it again during the break I have. This shouldn’t be too difficult a task, if only because my recently acquired insomnia causes me to lie in bed for hours thinking about characters and things I want to write about. Next post should finally be something more than a useless, silly ramble like this!

At the Diner

It was Halloween night, and fourteen people sat around one long surface made up of tables pushed together. They were a loud bunch, all talking and laughing animatedly, despite the fact that it was past two in the morning. They were elated. They’d just finished what felt like the greatest, best, most amazing and spectacular experience of their lives, and they weren’t likely to forget that night for the rest of their lives.

They were a variety – all shapes and sizes, both young men and young women – but what they all had in common was the sweaty, running make-up that none of them had bothered to remove. In loud voices, they yelled up and down the table to each other, congratulating a night well done and feasting on everything from pancakes to onion rings to spaghetti-and-meatballs. They were ravenous, having completed a feat to which they’d devoted countless hours over the last two months.

Anyone nearing their table would have been able to feel the warmth, friendship and fierce-if-fleeting love they held for each other in that hour. Even the tired waitress, decked out in forced-Halloween-uniform and looking tired beyond measure, smiled at the bunch, allowing herself to be patient with them and trusting that, distracted as they were with each other, they wouldn’t complain about the slow service.

It isn’t surprising that this group wasn’t the only one sitting at a diner at two in the morning after Halloween night. The booths were filled with pirates and princesses, butterflies and Peter-Pans, all of them young people on their way back from various parties. The surprising element was that of men and women well into their middle ages, decked out in elegant finery fit for an extravagant office party or dignified family event – and there were many of these at the diner that night as well, looking happy and content, conversing just as loudly and merrily as the young folk.

If the diner could have felt the happiness and excitement that was filling its tables and chairs that night, it would have sprouted wings and begun to float above the ground.

Being Other

A toss of the hair, a gesture with the chin, a purse of the lips – these will suffice to change a person utterly from one thing to the other. From a shy, timid, slightly awkward person will emerge an attitude, a style, a replica of the actor onscreen. Confidence has nothing to do with it at that point – once someone changes, they’re in the moment and no matter what happens, the attitude will remain, the stance will stay upright and the chin raised.

Such small things, such subtle mind-shifts and twists – on such things hangs the balance of a show. But once a person is out of self, succumbing to that infamous of Greek gods, Dionysus, and loses the identity of the self, then there is no pause, no doubt, no fear. Nonexistent wine gives the head its buzz and the body its confidence; nonexistent masks take over the face and expression; nonexistent muses come and spark drama or comedy at the needed times.

Being other is liberating. The fear before succumbing to that loss of self is overwhelming, almost paralyzing. The moment the threshold is crossed, however, the fear evaporates like a magician’s rabbit – instantly, utterly, although still biding its time somewhere hidden where the audience can’t see it.

Being other is mastering fear. Being other is being free.

Handing In My First Essay

The assignment was simple, but we were all much too nervous to appreciate that fact. The classroom was a buzz of talk throughout the hour and a half lesson as we discussed one theory after another, dissecting one paragraph after the next. The discussion was real and intense, ideas tossed back and forth, shouts of “I agree” and “No, I don’t think so” flying around the room as tongues loosened as we all bathed in the liquor that is shared knowledge and differed opinions.

It was an hour and a half that was free of the normal constraints of time and space. The very walls seemed to change dimensions as the air heated or cooled with the passion of the students, and the time zipped past in a fashion most unlike the normal “classroom time.” Shared craving of healthy discussion and conversation made us all comrades, part of an entity – until our opinions differed and we changed sides in an instant, becoming enemies in a war where the sides respect each other but are each completely adamant about triumphing.

We were working with our essays in front of us, and when my turn came to discuss my passages, I felt like the very air I was breathing was heady – I don’t do that normally, I don’t charge into an opinionated speech based on examples and analysis of a situation – but I did it then, my mind being freed from bonds of shyness or intimidation.

At the end of the lesson after I handed my paper to the professor, I lingered, as I do, to write down the assignments for next lesson in my weekly-planner and to pack up my bag just right. As I got up to leave, I found myself the last one in the room besides my professor, who casually turned to me as he packed up his own bag and said to me “That was very good.” I didn’t understand, so I said “What?” and he replied “That was a very good presentation.”

I stammered some sort of thanks and rushed out of the room. My first week of classes officially ended, and I did something right. Good start.

Three Ladies at Peet’s

Three ladies sat outside Peet’s Coffee in Santa Monica. There were many little tables outside the coffee-shop: one was inhabited by a trendy man in his early twenties, wearing a brown hat and reading a design book; one other table was occupied by a balding man with glasses perched precariously on his nose who was proofreading a paper as he sipped his coffee and occasionally looked up at the people going by; the third table was surrounded by three ladies.

The three ladies were of varying ages. Two were in their early fifties and looked like sisters – both had similar features and they had that sort of friendly and easy manner with each other that comes from a good sisterly relationship. The third was obviously a family member as well – the daughter of the one and the niece of the other. These ladies were surrounded by lots of baggage – a purse, a backpack, four pounds of Peet’s coffee blends, another shoulder bag, and, of course, three large cups of coffee, a cinnamon roll and a small box of chocolates.

The conversation between the ladies was fast and carefree: gossip about family members and family events, chit-chat about the merits of good coffee, small talk about travel plans. Somehow, in all the chatter, the subject of ostrich meat, an option that had been on a menu of a restaurant where the ladies had been the night before, came up. There was some discussion over the general aversion to the very idea of ostrich meat, and then with a casual remark from one of the ladies about how it tasted like roast beef, the table exploded. The ladies all burst out laughing as one of them spit out her coffee, overcome with laughter, and the other two followed suit while trying to control themselves and the flow of coffee spilling over their baggage.

Eventually, the three got themselves under control, though still giggling, and got up to leave. As they were walking down the sidewalk, the young hip man called out with a smile that he enjoyed their laughter and liked to see that they were having fun. He wasn’t mocking – he was sincere. He had enjoyed the sight of three ladies laughing at a table in the Los Angeles sunlight. Only the young lady had noticed that the other man, the quiet one with the glasses, had smiled to himself as well as the three had been laughing hysterically.

The youngest lady walked away from the whole encounter feeling that the world was a good place if people could enjoy the enjoyment of others.

Rosy Thoughts [Part III]

Rosy was staring out her window when she heard footsteps in the hallway. She leaped back into bed, covered herself with the thin summer blanket, and closed her eyes, trying to breathe naturally as she did so. She had been out of bed and standing, staring out of the window, for the past hour – she was quite sick of lying down all day and it made her muscles hurt. That didn’t mean, however, that she was ready for her parents to know that yet.

Matt opened the door slowly, and, upon seeing Rosy’s slightly flushed face, he deduced that she was awake and only pretending to be asleep at the moment. Nevertheless, he walked slowly into the room, shut the door quietly, and sat down gently on the bed, as if trying not to startle her out of sleep.

As he ran one large, rough hand over her brow, Rosy opened her eyes slowly, trying to seem groggy. She looked at him for a moment, and then turned her head from his face. She couldn’t stand when he looked at her like that, his face suffused with love. If he loved her so much, she thought, he’d make everything work out with Mama.

Rosy’s reasonable side immediately flared up at this thought, and began chiding her – “your parents DO love you – you know the divorce has nothing to do with you really!” – but before her thoughts could get into a serious flurry, she turned her head back to Matt’s face.

“What?” She asked sullenly.

“Are you feeling any better, Rose-Bud?” Matt asked quietly.

“No.”

“Are you feeling very rotten?”

“Yes.”

“I’m so sorry, Rosy,” Matt whispered. The door creaked open once more, and he looked around to see Laura peeking in. She entered the room and came and sat down on the other side of Rosy, perching on the little room that was left there for her.

Rosy looked from one parent to the other before fixing her gaze on the ceiling. She hadn’t seen her parents together in the room since the day she had entered her bed and refused to leave it. She had forgotten, somehow, how nice their faces looked, close together like this.

Matt and Laura exchanged a weighted glance, both of them steeling themselves for the conversation to come. Their eyes seemed to be conversing: -You with me? –Yes, we’ll do this together. –For our girl. –For our Rosy.

“Rosy,” Laura began with a barely concealed sigh. “You know Papa and I are getting divorced – you’ve heard us talking about it. We should have had a conversation about this earlier.”

Rosy continued to stare at the ceiling.

“Honey, we never meant to put you in such distress,” continued Matt. “We want you to understand that this has nothing to do with you. Mama and I love you very much, and we’ll both always be in your life. We’d never leave you – neither of us – and no matter what happens, we’re always going to make sure you know we’re both here for you.”

Rosy was fighting the urge to roll her eyes. She could almost hear her parents practicing this – this – this horrid TV-mom-and-dad talk. She wasn’t stupid, she knew all this. She knew her parents loved her, at least in some distant, rational part of her brain. The rational part also knew that she was probably getting one of the best divorces there could be – neither of her parents had some other creepy person on the side, and neither of them was going to move to Alaska and start a band. She knew her life would be pretty normal even after the divorce, and she knew also that she would be alright with this in time.

But Rosy’s rationality didn’t seem to alleviate the pain in her chest and the tears that prickled in her eyes as her parents kept on talking about how much they loved her, how much they were worrying about her, and how much they hoped she could forgive them.

As Rosy screwed up her eyes and felt the tears streaming out from under her closed eyelids, she felt something shift inside her mind. As her parents both showered her with kisses and held her hands and wept a little bit with her, she could feel her irrational thinking begin changing its views. It seemed as if more and more of her mind began to agree with what her small, rational space had been saying all along, that “They love me, they do love me, it’s going to be alright because they love me.”

Rosy stayed in bed for another day after the conversation. After that day, though, she got up, she hugged her parents, and she went to school. She felt rotten still, and would keep feeling horrible all through her mother’s moving into an apartment building down the street, all through the faux-cheery shopping trip for furniture for the new room for Rosy in her mother’s small apartment, all through the year or so it took for her to get used to spending half a week in one place and the other half in another. Eventually, though, as Rosy passed into her teens with two smashing birthday parties, one in each of her homes, she grew used to it. She knew she would, but that didn’t make it any less pleasant to wake up one morning and realize that she was content, finally.

Hmm.

It is immensely satisfying to have a long, hard, stressful day and to come home at night and know that it’s almost done, and you’re still okay. There’s something so comforting about the knowledge that you can live with routine, really get into it and be fine, despite the fact that it’s difficult. It really makes you proud of yourself to know that you can look at the things you still have left to do in a day and be able to organize them rationally and logically without freaking out or hyperventilating.

I rarely experience this feeling, being the bundle of nerves, hormones and moods that I usually am. I normally cannot really shake off the annoyance or the bad mood that clings to me. But once in a while, there is this feeling of peace that settles over me despite knowing that the day is not quite done yet, that I still have things left untended to. Knowing that I still have yet more to do tomorrow and not freaking out about it is a rare things as well.

God, being a teenager is weird – it’ll be pretty sweet to be able to say one day that being in a good mood is the norm and that bad moods are rare and not quite as spur of the moment as they are today.