Intermission

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I’m in the midst of working on two serious, long-form essays–I’ll be surprised if they stay under 2,000 words so I could only post sections of them here–but I’m scattered. I’ve only been awake for an hour and just now got in my first sips of coffee, so my imaginary self-diagnosed ADD is going haywire.

The background on my laptop is:

nano

And my knee-jerk reaction:

RobinDaggers

…maybe I need a break.

 

Show up or shut up

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At 11:30 this morning I was Tweet-ranting from the back of the Belmont bus on my way into work. My voter demographic, my peers, failed to show up yesterday. The reason our politicians are always a few decades behind the rest of us is because the only people who consistently show up to vote are the Conservative zealots who’re terrified of change. At my polling place, I was the youngest person by at least fifteen years. And, look, I get it: democracy isn’t ever perfect. Two years ago, I voted in my first Presidential election while delirious with fever and drenched in sweat from a kidney infection. I was racked with convulsive shivers and couldn’t stand upright on my own and, honestly, all I wanted to do was go home and nap. I’m only eighty-percent sure I filled in the right arrows. So, yeah, I take every election result with a grain of salt; but I vote so I can take solace in knowing that if I’m there, giving half a shit about that ballot, then maybe I’m not alone.

This morning I felt alone.

Our final project in eighth grade English was a persuasive paper on a topic of our choosing. Mine was “Why President Bush and His Administration Should be Impeached.” Yes–I’ve been the liberal bitch in the room since I was thirteen. It suits me. So, even though I felt abandoned this morning, I wasn’t surprised. I was frustrated and disappointed. I was concerned for our immediate future. But, unlike high school, I wasn’t angry and desperate for someone to listen to me. I’m still not. I’m determined. I’m focused. I’m certain that I have a lot of work ahead of me these next two years.

Is it cheating?

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I wrote today (the 4th), but it was in my paper journal so only I know it’s there. For now. There are some things I’m processing at the moment that aren’t ready for the consumption of strangers. I don’t think it’s “cheating.” I’m doing this for me. You’re just along for the ride.

Rewind

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We sit on her bare floor, drinking beer from the bottle and eating pizza from the box. And I’m jealous. It’s just a studio, the living room/kitchenette small enough to fit in my current dining room, but still. It’s hers, one hundred percent. Within an hour after getting the keys she taped two things to the wall by the door: a street map of Prague, where we met two and a half years ago; and a poster of a snow-capped mountain adorned with “NEW ZEALAND…WHY NOT?” at the bottom. After a brief, perilous attempt to hang white icicle lights around her window, we decided they were better off down along the baseboard for the night. And now, as we scarf down four-cheese pizza at ten-thirty pm, illuminated from above and below, I think back to the studio I had in Logan Square and wish I could rewind.

After three summers and five semesters the only things on my walls were a couple business cards from theatres and artists, a printout of “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, and a list of advice for submitting manuscripts that I’d gone through with a neon pink highlighter–none of which I offered a second glance after tacking them up. Spartan as Gibson’s studio is, there’s still a significant dose of personality here that mine never had. I tell her as much.

“I was in class full-time and working around twenty-five hours a week on the Mag Mile, which means my commute was forty-five minutes both ways,” I shrug as an explanation, “so, I wasn’t home a lot. But, still. I didn’t really try to make it mine. I don’t know why.”

And then I consider my current apartment. The one-bedroom in Old Irving Park I split with my boyfriend is on a residential street, with trees and a courtyard and a balcony and the afore-mentioned dining room, and though it seems full of things the one piece I know is missing is me. I haven’t tried to make this one mine, either. I let Travis make it his because furniture costs money–two things I didn’t have when we moved in. But now I look up and I’m in someone else’s living room. And I wish I could rewind.

Momentum

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I get into this habit of thinking I don’t have time to write. I frame my days around my work schedule, which is inconsistent–some days are 10 am to 4 pm, some are 5 pm to midnight–which means my sleep schedule is inconsistent, which means, at the bottom of it all, I forget to be a person. I let words swirl around my mind all day but I can’t commit them to paper so they choke me out and then fade away.

It’s so easy to lose track of myself. Most days I feel as if I’m pirouetting on tight rope–I maintain a feverish momentum or else teeter over the edge. In my mind, there’s no net. Not even a floor of packed dirt thirty feet below. Just a pit. I know that’s not healthy or correct. Logically, I know. But if I could logic myself out of the pit, I’d have done it years ago.

I’m working on it.

The only way to gain traction is to dig in and grit my teeth, right? So, I’m writing an essay every day in November. No disappearing. No censoring. No losing track of myself.

Maybe I’ll finally get moving toward something interesting.

Transparency

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I disappear.

I don’t enjoy it. It isn’t something I plan. But it’s what I do.

I convince myself that I have nothing to say, that no one wants to read about the obnoxious baseball fans I have to wade through to get home after a Cubs game, or the Sisyphean struggle of trying to roll silverware during a dinner rush at the Vegan Place. Or what I thought about 101 Theory Drive and what it means for my future in science, if I have one. I convince myself that none of it matters. And then I work as much as possible so I have to take care of myself and leave the apartment and talk to people. And then I’m tired. We turn out the lights. Travis’ breathing is like the shush of waves against some distant rocky coast, but I can’t let go. I close my eyes and breathe with him, and sometimes I dip below the choppy surface, but I always rise up again, open my eyes and sputter, disoriented. When I finally do pass out, it’s to give way to tense, fearful dreams. I can’t move when the alarm goes off. I push my body out of the sheets like a corpse dragging itself from a swampy grave, and all day there’s a lump of cold iron chained to my heart.

It aches to breathe, to sit upright, to go for a walk, to lift my head and look the bank teller in the eye when she wishes me a nice day; and there’s an especially deep spasm when I return her customer-service smile with one of my own. The effort chafes against my ribs, where I’m most raw. She doesn’t know that sometime in the night the monster under my bed came up for air, dug his claws into my gut, and scraped it all clean. Hollowed me out. Left iron in my bones and around my heart. Does she know how much this smile costs? Does she wish she could disappear, too?

26 Days That Pretty Much Reset My Life

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Ten days before my last post, I started working as a server assistant at a little place in Lakeview that’ll henceforth be referred to as the Vegan Place,* which was a god-send for two reasons: 1) because it ended a five-week stretch of unemployment–my second this year, I’m not at all proud to admit–and, 2) I’m finally surrounded by great people. At least, people I feel comfortable with. My previous employers, most of whom are retailers, seemed to collect people I just don’t understand. The fashion-magazine/ romance-novel-readers and reality-TV-watchers who, though not stupid, are willing to let others spoon-feed them life without questioning where it came from. I never succeeded in those environments because I couldn’t stop questioning. Why a spoon? Why not a fork, or a spork, or a tiny snack bowl? And why do I have to wait for you to feed me? Why can’t I do it myself?

Anyway. The Vegan Place lets me feed myself–literally and figuratively–and I appreciate that. At this point, it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

If you follow my Twitter feed, then you’ll know that I just recently finished The Island of Knowledge, a beautiful work of science philosophy by Marcelo Gleiser, a theoretical physicist, professor, and author of other works of nonfiction that are now on my ever-growing list of need-to-reads. His exploration of where science was and how and why it became what it is now got me excited to read in a way I didn’t realize I’d been missing. I haven’t been that emotionally attached to a book since Seven Year Old Me first cracked open a hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. On the surface it might seem sacrilege to compare the two, but once you’ve read both it actually makes its own kind of sense. Both books kicked my imagination into gear and opened my eyes to what I want. I want to be a writer and a scientist. Not a crime writer, on the outside looking in; I want to be an investigator, on the inside looking out with the window flung open wide so I can run to the ledge and announce to anyone passing by how much more fascinating and complicated the world is; how romance novels and reality shows pale in comparison to the stories microscopes can tell.

On top of all this, my Fellowship broke: One friend moved to New Orleans, another to Michigan, and another returned from Europe and then left again with promises to be back soon. If I didn’t have Travis to be the Samwise to my Frodo, the Ring might’ve gotten really damn heavy.

So, yeah. Twenty-six days…has the dust settled yet?

 

*I’m still not sure how specific I want to get about my daily life here on the site. It’s connected to my other social media accounts, so it isn’t my anonymity I’m considering so much as respect for my employer and coworkers.