Wrackspurts

“A Wrackspurt… They’re invisible. They float in through your ears and make your brain go fuzzy…” – Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’ve had a Wrackspurt in my head all day. I didn’t have any classes and an interview I was supposed to have about my school’s Oxford program was canceled: I had a whole free day to do lots and lots and lots of work in. Total amount of time actually working? Probably about two-and-a-half hours. That’s all. I napped for too long, I messed around on the Internet for too long, and now I’m writing in my blog instead of working on the story I need to send to my writing teacher or continuing to make some headway with the notes I’m trying to organize on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Ugh.

I hate when this happens. I begin to feel guilty about not having done enough and it takes the pleasure out of the things that I do for fun. Even when I try to tell myself that I actually do have enough time, that things are going okay and that I’m mostly on top of my work, actually, I still somehow end up feeling guilty. And then I get stuck in obsessive thoughts; for example, I woke up from my nap at 4:50PM and then lay in bed feeling back about having taken a nap until 5:20PM, wasting another half hour that way and not managing to release myself from those obsessive, judgmental thoughts.

If anybody knows of a potion to get rid of wrackspurts and unfuzz the brain, let me know. Also, any un-guilt potions would be helpful.

Feeling the Years

Ever since coming home from school, I’ve returned to taking voice lessons. My teacher wanted me to be in the music-school’s end-of-year concert, which is how I found myself roped into singing the lead in Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” as well as doing backing vocals for half a dozen other songs.

The other girls singing with me are of various ages between eleven and eighteen. I’m the oldest by three years, having recently turned twenty-one. Let me tell you, nothing makes a twenty-one year old feel her years like spending hours with girls six years her junior and realizing that they’re actually not as interesting to her as the eleven-year old. What is it about the middle teenage years that seems to erase half their brain-cells? One of the other singers, an incredibly talented girl who’s also very sweet, polite and bubbly, actually takes Justin Bieber seriously and thinks that he’s the bee’s knees.

Then there’s the issue of the guy who used to be my guitar teacher when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school. I hadn’t seen him for ages, until tonight when I found out that he was leading the rehearsal we were having. Since seeing each other he’s become more clean-cut and I’ve had time to go wild and come back down a little again. It was strange seeing him and realizing that six years had passed since spending weekly hours together with our guitars. Knowing that I’m now at an age where he looks at me like an equal, an adult, is frightening in some ways, exhilarating in others.

Growing older is strange, but so far it’s not actually displeasing.

Marianne

An abundance of light brown hair, creamy skin and freckles made people stare whenever she told them she was born in Africa. It always amused her, seeing this prejudiced reaction in the people who ate at the restaurant where she worked. She sounded French, you see, and so they all assumed that she was a young photography student, maybe a dancer, who worked during the mornings.

She was a student, this was true, but not of what people always assumed. Her large eyes and pink lips seemed to give most people the impression that she was a dreamer, when, in fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. She hadn’t remembered a single dream she’d had at night for over ten years. This isn’t to say that she was without imagination – theoretical mathematics required more of the stuff than anyone who wasn’t studying it could believe, and Marianne possessed it in abundance. The simple logic of numbers, a universal language, was beautiful to her, and the deeper mysteries of unreal numbers and the roots of negatives fascinated her and raised a song in her heart.

It was hard for her to find a date – there wasn’t time between night classes, homework and her job at the cafe to go out anywhere. She got countless phone numbers from customers leaving a fat tip on their credit cards, smiling at her with cheeky grins, but she never copied them from the receipts, simply leaving them in the cash register where they belonged. She wasn’t interested in random men who saw her wrapped in an apron and looking like the picture of womanly virtue. Neither did she want the fawning boys in her class who drooled at the thought of a female mathematician. No, she was looking for something else, and she would recognize it when it came. She hoped.

Dorms, Interviews, People, and Stuff

I haven’t posted in over a week – could it even be two weeks? – and I feel bad about that. No, correction, I specifically feel bad about not having written for so long, as well as about not having read all of your posts. I find this an encouraging sign that I will (hopefully) be able to keep up my blog posting over the next few months while I’m at school.

I’m currently in my dorm room, which I share with one other girl. She’s lovely, although I don’t know her very well yet, and I feel quite optimistic about us continuing to live in harmony – this is rare for me, as I’m often quite the pessimist. My aunt pointed out something interesting to me this week – I’d gotten some news, and I immediately began to talk about all the things that were going to go wrong and how things would fail – my aunt, as I was saying, pointed out that whenever something happens, the story-telling part of my brain starts formulating what’s going to happen almost at once. True, the predictions I make are usually dark, but I’m trying to be a bit brighter and better. For instance, I’m truly trying to be in the moment while I’m here at college and not think about the stress that will come later.

At my school, registering for classes is a complicated business involving lots of running around (in the rain) to sign up at different professors’ doors. The students interview the teachers about the classes they’re teaching and then base their decision on that. I’ll update you all what my classes are once I know them for sure, but suffice it to say for now that I really-really-really hope I get into the ones I want.

I’ve been meeting lots of old friends from last year, and they’ve all given me lovely and warm welcomes, which makes me feel both fantastic (because they remember me and thought fondly of me while I was gone) and ashamed (because I honestly felt that nobody really liked me when I left school a year ago).

I suppose the point of this whole scattered post is that I’m seriously glad to be back, despite a lot of things which could really easily ruin it for me.

One Good Thing

Jodi lay on what she knew to be her deathbed, and thought about life. It was impossible for her to think about death. She’d been thinking about death for the past three years, ever since the doctors had found the first tumor. But in a few hours, the doctors said, she would die. They’d offered her morphine, to ease the pain, but she’d refused. It wasn’t because she was particularly strong, nor because she desired to suffer. It was merely that she wanted to think about life a little before she died, and she knew that she wouldn’t do that in the blissful haze that morphine gave her.

She wasn’t a very good woman. Ninety-three years old and her neighbors had been wishing her dead for two decades already. She knew that no one liked her. But that was alright. She’d realized sometime during her sixties that she didn’t like herself much either. At first she went to therapy and tried to fix herself. After four sessions, she’d decided that there was no reason to fix something that had been broken for so long, and anyway, Doctor Haddock was simply gaga.

Lying in the stinking hospital room, on her soiled sheets, Jodi wondered whether she’d done anything good in her life. She thought of her children, and concluded that they turned out to be good people despite her, not because of her. Her husband of forty-five years had died a long time ago, and she didn’t think that she’d made his life better. She thought, upon reflection, that he would have done better to have married his mistress when he started having an affair. She didn’t begrudge him anymore. Her grandchildren she hardly knew, although they were all in their twenties and probably having babies of their own by now. But her children had both run away to far corners of the earth, and so she’d never come to know their offspring well. Better this way, really, because her death wouldn’t be of much notice to anyone.

But surely, she thought frantically, she must have done something good in her life. No one would remember her for long, it was true, and if anyone did they’d remember a gruff, violent old woman who couldn’t hear very well but insisted that she did. They’d remember her spiteful cackle and the way she never opened the door for children at Halloween. None of this bothered Jodi, not really, but she still thought that there must have been something good in her, sometime.

A strange memory came upon her as she stared at the boring whitewashed ceiling. An image floated across her mind’s eye, an image of a red-haired girl giving a flower to an old drunk on the street and handing him a thermos full of strong black coffee. She remembered the man blessing that red-haired teenager, who was wearing a frightfully short yellow dress, and calling her “ma’am.” She remembered the red-haired girl laughing merrily, giving him five dollars – more than a month’s worth of allowance back then – and telling him to get a job. Finally, the last image she could see was of a janitor whistling as he swept the floors in an old office building where the red haired girl worked as a secretary. She remembered the red-haired girl smiling at him and shaking his hand and the man blessing her for the coffee and the money, but most of all for giving him hope.

Jodi’s crabbed fingers clutched at the call-button. A nurse came in, warily. She was new, and she’d heard horror stories about the old woman’s temper.

“Tell the doctors that I want the morphine, girl,” Jodi said in her rasping voice. “And be quick!” The young nurse jumped, surprised at the vigor in the words and hurried off without a word.

Jodi smiled to herself, toothless, sunken-cheeked and liver-spotted. She’d done one good thing in her life. That was good enough.

A Personal Ad

On the grandest of summer days, beneath a willow tree in the beautiful park that I can see from my bedroom window, I met my true love.

Wait, no, that was only the stupid plot of some sappy romance novel I read a while ago.

Truth is, I’ve never met my true love. How can I, with my line of work, my bad hours, and worst of all, my bad hair? No one could be attracted to this hair, that’s for sure. Sadly, it’s part of the job description.

Nowhere in my very extensive memory can I remember wanting to do what I do. Sure, I was smart. I loved watching all those television shows with chemistry sets and experiments. Yes, I got straight As in elementary, then high school. Of course I got into the best school there could be. But nope, I don’t think I ever really thought that I’d be applying for a post as “Mad Scientist, Female.”

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not really a mad scientist. I wish! No, I’m only playing one at the Museum of Scientific History and Literature. It’s an odd place, to be sure. They have all these different characters here, some playing cliches like me – there’s a Frankenstein plus monster, of course – and some taking on the parts of historical figures like Galileo or the Curies. Me? I was fired from my grown-up job at the Modern Science Research Center because of “budget cuts.”

With student loans I still haven’t paid off, rent and utilities due every month, and one mean landlord, I had no choice but to get a job as quickly as I could. So here I am, working at the weirdest museum known to mankind: we’re open between 10am to 5pm, and then from midnight to 5am; we have an Einstein who’s got worse hair than I have and a horribly false German accent; drunk science geeks traipsing around in the middle of the night; and finally, to take the cake, a huge fake library with bookshelves bearing fake cardboard books. What’s with the library? As the sign says when you enter: WE’VE CATALOGUED ALL SCIENCE-ORIENTED NOVELS SO THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TO! People are supposed to walk around and write down titles of books and then see if our amazingly understocked bookstore and gift shop happen to have them. They usually don’t. We get lots of complaints.

But it pays alright, and I’m applying for jobs during every spare moment I have. Oh, the hair thing? Well, it’s a wig, obviously, but it doesn’t agree with my real hair, and so my dull brunette mop is matted and disgusting after every time I put that stupid fake tangle on top of it. The woes of the young and… employed?

I know I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. But not having a steady boyfriend since high-school has started to wear on me. During college I was stuck in my books, during my summers I interned everywhere that would take me, and after I graduated I was lucky enough to get a job at the Research Center. Working there for another four years has gotten me to the age of twenty-six without having kissed anyone since I was seventeen. Okay, that’s a lie, there have been encounters here and there, but I’m pretty ashamed and revolted with all of them, so I try to pretend that they haven’t happened.

Yes, people, even science geeks have needs, you know!

The point is, I really would like, for once, to meet someone who isn’t a) a smoker; b) an alcoholic and c) a complete idiot. Is that really so much to ask for? Apparently it is. But don’t they say that intelligent women intimidate men? Well, I seem to have scared all of them away – although I think the ones I dated were all much too dumb to have recognized me as being super-smart anyway.

No, excuse me, I’m not blowing my own horn, I’m simply stating a fact. I’m smart. I have powerful deductive skills, I grasp new concepts quickly, and if I don’t understand something then I’ll work at it until I do. I also have very small and steady hands which are an asset when you’re working in a lab.

So here I am, ready to break through all the barriers and say that Gertrude Jenkins, twenty-six years old, five-two and one hundred and ten pounds, is looking for a date. Not true love, so don’t get freaked. A good date will do just fine to start with.

[IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT gertrude_j CLICK HERE]

As If (More Jessica)

So Jill finally gets to the store – late again! I swear, she spends more time on her hair than I do, and that’s saying something, you know? I mean, fine, sure, she’s got curly hair so she needs to straighten it every day and that takes time and stuff, but still – it’s not like Mr. Jacobs remembers to pay me overtime. Anyway, she’s finally here and I’m pretty angry by now since it’s almost five-thirty and my shift was supposed to end at five.

“Um, double-you-tee-eff, Jill?” I ask as she comes in.

“Sorry, sorry babes! Oh my gosh, is it really that late? Oh, I’m so sorry,” she’s such a gusher, it’s so annoying! “But Jessi-babes,” and I hate that she calls me Jessi. “You’ve got to listen, the most amzinglicious thing happened. I was walking out of my car, right? And this guy was, like, leaning against this yummilicious Ferrari and he was texting on his phone or something, and he looked so bored and then I tripped, right? I mean, these heals are new, and it was so embarrassing.” Does she realize that I’m still here? I should be halfway home now! “But he was really sweet and helped me up and asked if I tore my jeans or anything, and I said no, but that it was so nice of him to ask and not laugh and we got to talking – and have I mentioned how hot he was? Anyway, so we talked and I gave him my number!” She looks so excited, it’s really so sad that I have to say what I have to say. But I do.

“Yeah, Jill?” I say, and I take my purse from under the counter. “That’s Robbie, he’s my roommate, he’s been waiting to pick me up from my shift.” I can’t help gritting my teeth a little, I mean, come on, she hit on my roommate and that’s a good excuse for making me stay an extra half hour? As if!

Jill giggles. I hate her giggle. I mean, I like her, don’t get my wrong, and when we have shifts together – only on weekends when there’s a rush of customers at the mall – then I kinda like hanging out with her. She can be funny and stuff, but I hate. Her. Giggle. “Oh-em-gee, Jessi-babes! You’ve got a hottie like that for a roommate? Jealous much. So can you make sure he calls me?”

As if. I am so not making Robbie call her. “Sweetie, he’s gay,” I tell her. Ha! I love seeing women’s faces doing that crumply thing they do when I tell them about Robbie. They get all disappointed and then, the inevitable comes along…

“But he doesn’t look gay!” she says. See, now I just kind of hate her a little bit. I mean, come on, not everyone fits a stereotype, you know? I mean, Robbie sure doesn’t. Anyway, I don’t know, my mom said the same thing when she met him when I told her we were moving in together after college. She totally didn’t believe me at first, she was so sure that we were going to get married and stuff. It wasn’t until I told her flat out that I could produce video proof that she backed down. I was bluffing, obviously – I mean, as if, Robbie hasn’t had a date in months! Sweet guy, but he only knows how to hit on girls. It’s kind of funny, really, he’s just this big flirt, but he clams up around guys he likes.

“Well, I’m getting out of here, okay? Mr. Jacobs is in a mucho bad mood so watch out. He caught this rich lady stealing and now she’s saying she’s going to sue and stuff. So, like, be careful.” I air-kiss Jill and I leave the store.

Oh! Text. Let’s see… Oh, it’s Robbie, of course: “Jess, Jess, Where art thou, my dove?” He’s so funny! He was an English major (duh) and he is so funny about his texts, he always writes really long ones and uses capital letters and stuff. I text back “c ya in a min” and I start to go down the escalator.

Robin

I’m not sure that I’m ever going to do anything with this, but I’ve had this character floating around my mind for over a year now, so I finally decided to write a little introduction to her life.

At the age of twenty-four, the thing Robin loved most in the world was her house.

It was tiny, painted blue with white framework on the doors and windows. There were flowers in the three windows that faced the street, and a garden leading from the front door right down to the small white gate. There was even a lone tree in the yard, one that had grown enough to give a little shade during the long, hot summer days.

The house was on a small residential street in Studio City in Los Angeles, which was another thing that Robin loved about it. She loved being so near a happening area and yet snug in her own little space, the picture of suburbia. She had a Mr. Horns to her left in a small yellow house, with a rather large yellow Labrador named Puck, while the house to her right was empty, a big “FOR RENT” sign the only inhabitant of the fading lawn.

Robin had acquired this house in a strange set of circumstances. It had, belonged to her great-aunt Lucinda, an eccentric woman who had lived in a nursing home for the last twenty years of her life. The family was under the impression that she’d sold it years ago, but, as she wrote in her will, she’d left it empty, freshly painted and clean, ready for her great-niece, who had only just been born, to grow up and receive it. When Robin turned twenty, Lucinda passed away and the house was discovered in the will.

Robin couldn’t believe her luck. As a university student, she longed to leave the dorms behind her and live in a space all her own. She had no desire to return to the poisonous environment that was her parents’ house. She’d suffered enough hardship over the years, and having finally escaped by earning a full scholarship, she had no intention of ever going back.

Halfway through her Junior year, she moved out of the school dorms and into her new home. It had needed much airing out after twenty years of standing empty, and furniture, too. She’d scoured both the flea markets and the Internet for cheap, secondhand stuff, and she  sanded, repainted and lacquered some of the wooden pieces she’d found. In fact, she’d spent her entire winter break on making her new home as perfect as could be. This was another reason why she loved it so.

Another reason was that she was hardly ever in it. The commute to school on two buses, the time she spent in classes and in the library studying, as well as her job at one of the administrative offices kept her so busy that she would normally arrive back at her house at ten and leave the next morning at around seven. Out of those nine hours, some six were spent sleeping, and one was spent in a morning haze of coffee, toast, shower and make-up.

The two hours she had to herself every night before she fell exhausted into bed were her treasures. She didn’t allow herself to study, review material or read anything that had something to do with her major – which was history – or her minor – which was philosophy. She spent the time reading comics online, watching films or taking a long, hot bath.

It was a perfect life, really, and she often felt ridiculously lucky.

But everything changed when her brother got out of prison a week before graduation.

Studying, Studying, All-Nighter, Apology

I want to apologize in advance for having been absent from commenting. I have been writing a paper for my history course (Classic Greece) all day. And I mean all day. I woke up, ate, wrote, ate, took a brief break, wrote, ate, napped because of coming up all-nighter, ate, and now I’m writing this.

Funnily enough, my all-nighter has nothing to do with my course. No, it’s a voluntary night of studying that I’m spending with two friends. Today is Erev Shavu’ot, which is the eve of a Jewish holiday. I honestly don’t know very much about the holiday, except that it’s something to do with the harvest; that there’s a modern tradition of eating cheesecake during it; and that there’s an ancient custom of studying Jewish philosophy, lore and writings of several rabbis throughout the night.

My friends and I are taking the custom and making it OURS. We’re going to read each other poetry, study random Wikipedia articles, play instructive games, talk about philosophy, and generally make an intellectual pajama-party out of it.

Hope you all have a good Tuesday, and I’ll hopefully be back on schedule tomorrow!

A Taste of Conference Work

Although I’m taking time off from school – or maybe because of it – I still think a lot about my academic work. Over the last few months, I did more research and reading about obscure and interesting subjects than I dreamed was possible for such a short span of time. I found it immensely satisfying, challenging, and frankly fascinating to read things that I would never have picked up on my own without the structure of research and coursework to guide me.

Now, at Sarah Lawrence, the most important and unique part of the system is conference work. This is basically independent study and research that is done for each course, with the professor supervising the process and helping out when and if needed. I thought I’d give a small taste of what this is like. Below is the handout I gave to our class, as instructed by the professor, towards the end of my writing process of what turned out to be almost twenty pages of essay, end-notes and bibliography:

Elizabeth Barton, The Holy Maid of Kent, and Anne Askew, Protestant Martyr

Political and Religious Importance in Early Reformation England

  • Elizabeth Barton – In 1525, Barton began to have visions and make prophecies. She soon joined a nunnery after an impressive public healing in a chapel in Kent, and became renowned in England for her prophecies. She prophesied directly against King Henry VIII, predicting his downfall should he marry Anne Boleyn. Executed on April 20, 1534, for treason.
      • What was her political role and what goals did she set out to meet? What political role did she play in her arrest and death? Was she autonomous in her actions or merely being influenced and used by her mentors?
    • Quote: A warning from Thomas More: “Good Madam… I shall beseech you to take my good mind in good worth… many folk desire to speak with you… But some hap to be curious and inquisitive of things that little pertain unto their parts; and some might peradventure hap to talk of such things as might peradventure after turn to much harm…”
  • Anne Askew – In 1545, after being kicked out of her home by her Catholic husband, Askew traveled to London where she was soon apprehended and examined for her Protestant beliefs. She recorded her examinations – the first in 1545 and the second in 1546 – and her manuscripts were published after her execution on July 16, 1546, by John Bale, a Protestant activist.
      • Were her words her own, or were they edited? What was her political and religious significance, before and after her execution? Was she used by others or working as her own free agent?
    • Quote: John Bale praises Askew: “Soch a won was she… whose harte the lorde opened by the godlye preachynge of Paule… “