Monday, November 28
She's her melancholy. I've not my words. And there's a ghost come calling from the dark.
I'd a wholly unreasonable pledge made, true - but still I've every intent of keeping it. We'd these drinks down, of course, more than several, maybe - but still, the drinking doesn't matter. I'd promised them I'd apply for an MFA program, a program in particular, a program across the pond. I'd no good reason to make such a pledge, in truth, no good reason except perhaps their words and the bolstering booze flowing so freely and this pride I'd been trying on as if it were a second skin I'd someday wear. Here a clarification may be in order: this isn't a cry - oh, praise me, praise me! soothe this ego! - but a matter of observation instead. It's not that I haven't communion here, in words; it's not that I haven't desire of words that are mine alone, my blood in typeface; it's not that I haven't a yearning for greater skills than these meager tools I call my own. Rather, there's this: I haven't the confidence and less so the skills. Instead, I've these exercises I've begun, carved out for myself - and these exercises alone. Daily I say I'll write - and near-daily I do. Several submissions I say I'll each month compile - and thus far, I have. Even if for each success there's a dozen failings, this routine I'll still call success.
Except.... except most often, it feels as if I'm trying to sculpt without touching the clay. Except most often it feels as if I'm trying to skip stones across a river run dry. Except most often it feels as if I've forgotten, as metaphors go, how to throw at all. Still, I'm trying... and maybe somehow that'll be enough?
Other worlds I lose myself in too: I've been running more again, and all the more aware I am that I've not so many years left on these joints, their aches perpetually and infinitely spilling forth. On account of these aches I'll train all the harder, trying to squeeze more out of the years I do have; I'll reach for the slights that spurred me on in years before, press on for the motivations I'd in these past few years allowed myself to forget. If I'm to ever realize whatever potential may or may not in these legs rest, I've a limited window, it's true. Of such truths I'm all too aware - and for it all the harder will I run.
'You're a better writer than I am,' she says. 'I'm not shitting you rainbows. You are.' So she says, earnest and plain-speaking, but other truths I've argued and will continue to argue: most of those who'll call themselves writers oughtn't, haven't any notion the gravity of such a name. And this is what I think of as I watch her parse phrases. She's writing the jumbled thoughts before the jump, of the long descent - to madness, to redemption, to death - and as she writes her face draws taunt with the sort of thoughts that precede tears, so personally does she take the story as she crafts it. And yet, this is what I think of: I think of what happens when a volcano meets a tornado and I think of what happens when circumstances meet a dreamscape context, all of it blurred by the moment and yet equally detached from past and present. A river of time washes over all of it, and for all practical purposes, words are useless. So too, maybe, are senses. I don't know what to think and I don't know what to say and I don't speak because I haven't a thought to give voice. Maybe I've been running too much - or maybe I've still too many to go, having not yet found my enough.
So I've finished this second round of drink, realizing that if I'm drinking more often it may yet be I'm drinking less. Perhaps this is moderation - what a foreign word! - or perhaps it's becoming habit. So many things, I think, half-drunk and happily aloof, are more a matter of perspective than definition; this, I think, is probably one of them. Likewise, she's a knack for running down - long limbs leaping miles forward ahead and down with each and every stride - and I for the climbs. Another thing I'm realizing: the way we'll tread this earth's as much a matter of genes as anything, maybe.
Or: I'm once more writing more and saying less, probably. Alas, I don't know how else to translate these living beating breathing jumbled days. In other words, your guess is as good as mine.
Thursday, November 17
Oh, today. I'd left the house and found the streets sheet ice, but running late, attempted to ride anyways. Three times in two blocks gravity won, hard; after returning my bike to the garage, I slipped and slid my walk into work. At work my coffee exploded as I microwaved it, the take-out cup disintegrating and coffee splatter everywhere. I'd a bit of a hangover from whiskey the night previous, and hadn't yet gotten to my then cold breakfast - but still, it was funny. Ridiculous is usually funny.
And the rest of the day came crashing in.
First we'd a less than stable student burst in, sobbing - one of the students with whom we've made the most progress, perhaps. Her words ran reckless and wild, near incoherent: her car was wrecked; the cops said it was her fault; it wasn't, she knew it wasn't; she'd been concussed and nervous and just agreeing to what they said; now her car was totaled and her day was ruined and the cops'd said it was her fault; how was she going to see her kid (who stays with grandma, thirty miles away, during the week) on the weekends if she didn't have her car? Slowly we calmed her, got a clean and clear statement written, tried to make arrangements for her. I'm a bit afraid we may have lost her for the quarter, though, just the same - and this after we'd in three weeks time fought her grades back from F's to B's and C's. There was hope, and now there's so much less.
From this we fell into the student who'd the night previous sent texts threatening suicide, and seemed well on her way to a full-fledged breakdown today. She shows all the classic signs of abuse, of course - and we've our suspicions she's still abused - but has social anxieties such that any help we've been able to find her has been too foreign to her for her to accept it. We've long ago run out of ideas, and hugs or an open ear are such small tools against such a heavy weight. I'm afraid for the futures it seems she's increasingly charting out.
And then we'd these two papers returned, both F's, both papers the English tutor and I had each labored over with their respective authors. Oh, but the grading! Sentences were marked fragments. Points mysteriously disappeared from totals. The one paper 'hadn't been turned in,' said the prof... until the student found it, graded, on the top of her pile. The list of nonsense went on, and on, and on, forty-five minutes easy... but then, this prof has been a nightmare since the quarter began. Of course the prof is tenured - in one of her classes, three of twenty-five are passing; in the other, nine of twenty-five. We arrange a meeting with the department head, will see what recourse's available. Progress seems a dim light on the horizon, but at least there's some hope here.
And then a text from the high school: the school was in lockdown; a body'd been pulled from the pool, unresponsive. Not many know much, and I know less - only that he was a freshman, and couldn't be revived. I'd worked briefly with his brother. It was a rough day for a great many students.
A long day it was, the sort of day that feels as if I were still teaching in St Paul. I forget how hard that year was, sometimes, forget until a day like today shocks me back into memory. And yet? I miss that green-tiled office building school, those survivor students. I miss our dysfunctional and broken community, our collection of perpetual fuck-ups and disasters and a million daily dramas.
It was a long day for a great many people today, and my day was so much better than so many others' - spilling a bike on ice isn't such a big deal; losing a brother, or reason to live, or access to your daughter all are.
I've my whiskey here, and maybe you've yours there. Here's to remembering the charities of yesterday and the hopes of tomorrow, and forgetting an awful lot of today. Tomorrow'll be better. Mostly, it has to be.
Monday, November 7
The days in which I'll use this space to brag of misadventures and misplaced bravado have passed, or so I'll hope, anyways. Though, if I'm honest, that may at least in part be the result of these past few weeks, which have given rise to far more self-deprecation than any auditioned false modesties; may it yet happen that I actually learn humility. I'll not count on it, of course - but maybe there's a chance.
Seems likewise that I've these chances at grasping health, but keep passing them up in favor of fatigue, anxieties and stressors their own dirty laundries with a knack for piling high. I've been especially poor at saying no this fall, even compared to autumns of the past, is what I'm saying. There's a bit of fomo, as he'd say, hoping everyone would like him better with his phrases less square1, sure, but just as likely some of this is the result of unreasonable hopes: that I'll rise insatiable again; that I'll prove myself invincible once more; that this skeleton's above and beyond the capacity for rust. It's not so, of course; these bones, I'm hearing, are well past the age at which such dreams are any longer seemly - but still, I wonder.
So I hoard the little victories, try hard to make them sound larger. I pretend to be more than I'm not. And I keep right forward, filling all the rabbit holes in this garden with the procrastination I keep shoveling on. Someday, maybe, it'll all make sense - but damn well you ought to know I won't wait around for the day it does. Instead: another run, another drink, another excuse probably too. I'll figure it out tomorrow, maybe. Or, more likely, I won't.
1. We didn't.