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Back again. Been a while. I feel like I've written this same entry after every break and, as always, wonder if this break has been the longest. But what matters is that I'm back. And happy about it. After a very successful NaNo with a complete first draft that may actually become something I feel like I can start remembering that beneath and above and throughout everything else: I am a writer. And so I will return to the habit that keeps me at my best: my morning visit before life kicks in, to start with one hundred connected words.
Dust motes floated through the seventies tinted ray of the overhead projector that was older than every student in the room and probably their teacher. The lights were off. Another day, another lockdown, another turf war in the street outside, no yellow brick road here. The world outside the bars kept at bay with standard classroom talismans: twine holding die cut letters clothes pinned carefully to it (from the bottom, her kitschy twist on the old tradition) spelling the month's theme, student work dangling in mobiles that spun lazily in the spring breeze on the days she risked open windows.
She imagined a force field. It was more interesting than leaving no reason for why the room had never been grazed by a stray bullet. Her classroom on the first floor, the only one in the rarely used hallway. The only other two a social studies room right at the entrance, the room for adjudicated youth next door. With an overflow of new students into their limited space the principal had offered her the larger than most room. "By the back staircase?" where anything was currency for blowjobs from the girl so long gone no one called social services anymore.†
At the table at the far end of their room, it's size and set up not allowing for a "back", sat the quintessential weird girl. Teeth like misaligned paving stones, glasses thick and smudged by fingers that had a regular pass on the commuter flight between her nose and mouth. Twisted fat finger braids sticking up at points scattered around her head, secured with mismatched bobbles giving her an alien medusa sort of look. She was so timeless, in a way, her look would have fit in any decade. "Miss?" They never understood to wait when raising hands. "Yes, Juniper?"
She wanted to sing the song. Restless from the lockdown, it would be fun. They were going to do the dayís lesson outside but, as usual, the plan was foiled by bullets. The states, alphabetically recited, a simple rote activity in the key of Turkey In The Straw. Rather than singing about boobs or ears hanging low, the kids would sing borderless geography. It made them proud. The traditional version was sung twice, the second time twice as fast. Here, the kids rapped the second time through, percussing with pencils and shoe soles , air and lips and finger snaps.
The force field kept the bad out and the good in. These kids behaved. These kids thrived. These kids did their homework and wanted to share the poems they wrote, the stickers on their map quizzes, their knowledge of the thirteen colonies. It was a precarious dance of give and take, of ignoring the backpack of guns because it wasnít an issue, of doing your homework because it was ignored. ďOf course, but letís finish looking at Jacobís poem and talk about the assignment. And then weíll sing it,Ē She kept her promises, never dangled them Ė proverbial carrots on sticks.
"Everything okay in here?" The voice, deep but gentle, came from near the teacher's desk. Thirty six heads inclined slightly to see who it was then quickly returned to their partners and poems, feedback and insight currency towards keeping grades high. They always struggled with the poetry unit. They always loved and remembered it most. The teacher, crouched at one table, reacted differently, still put off by the appearance of the city police in her classroom. "We're fine, officer, thank you," she went back to Langston Hughes. "What are we working on?" The cop took a knee next to Juniper.
She spiraled from the center out, checking for understanding, engagement, interest. Questions popped like popcorn from an uncovered pot. She caught them expertly. The spiral's tale ended at her desk, her blue ribbon for efficiency intact, at which point desks were cleared, blank slates for the next activity. Juniper's crooked teeth a beacon of eagerness, "Miss?"
Could they perform the states for their guest?
She hadn't noticed the officer still standing by the door, a smiling, silent sentinel.
"The students would like to sing for you,"
He called his partner into the room to double the size of their audience.
Flickering fluorescents and colorful bulletin boards, a formula yielding horror movie esque tableaus at night failed during the day to create any atmosphere except pathetically underfunded public school. The cocoon of the classroom dismissed the squalor of the rest: students singing, proud of something other than brand name sweatshirts and unstuffed sneakers. "The back door was open," he leaned down and nearly whispered after praising them. "Kids prop it," she shrugged and smiled, her four foot nine inches even more dwarfed than usual next to his nearly six feet. "I'd like you to make sure it shuts after me,"
When I saw the mail on the coffee table from the dining room I noticed two envelopes. Big ones. One I was expecting: a book sent to me by a writing coach so that I could check out his style. Iíd been waiting for it, eager to start dreaming of novel revisions, agents, publication.
The other was from the only non-work friend I have in Michigan. Well, not anymore, she moved to Maryland. A mostly blank notebook, some thoughts, a challengeÖ only she, of everyone I know, would ever think to do this. Iíve been chewing on my first entry.
ďI canít even remember it accurately anymore, and Iím not that old,Ē I wept in my therapistís chair about two years ago, comfortable in the tiny cocoon of her office, my weekly safe haven for over a year until I realized that dealing with it is often more painful than not, ďBut I know Iím sick of lying about it,Ē
My latest hang up was over my childhood, a patchwork of fabricated tales, pieces torn from othersí quilts and carefully knitted into my own once they or I moved away. Iíve never told the truth about those years. Should I?
For some reason I often hear, in my head, the sound of running. Breathing hard and pounding echoes of footfalls and then, ďWhat am I doing? Oh yeah, Iím chasing this guyÖ wait, no! Heís chasing me,Ē Itís a scene from Memento, one of my favorite movies, and Iím not sure but I think it happens when Iím in the middle of too many things or just because I like the line and the scene. But I find that life is often like that in my line of workÖ sitting down and mid-to do list finding myself lost. Iím crazy.
Itís Friday the Thirteenth. I just realized that. God, I love Friday the Thirteenth. I donít know why. Maybe because Iíve always been drawn to things spooky and sinister, the unknown superstitions that have lost meeting yet lurk in my shadow as I walk alone in dark hallways. Black cats and steps under ladders and spilling salt and sweeping feet. Broken mirrors and hair tied to cemetery guarding trees. While Iíve never been an occultist, never even really played with a Ouija Board more than a few times before getting utterly freaked out, I love the mystique of the lore.
Puzzles. This snowbound Saturday will bring a flurry of them: The Room 2, The First Door, The Walk (if I get motivated enough). And then some reading of my book on revisions so that tomorrow I can get up bright and early to write with S before (hopefully) spending quite a bit more time writing. Puzzles and writing, writing and puzzles...
If only Kris would chill out and quit hopping around. He doesn't seem to be able to do that, though. He's been loud and active and fidgety all morning, thus making me feel guilty and unable to just relax.
The snow came later than expected and is still falling, a blanket of quiet over the yard and cars. Knowing us, we will use this as an excuse to spend the day also hunkered under quiet blankets with books and maybe some television or a movie to keep us cozy.
If it had come a tad later (or earlier) we'd have had a snow day.
I'm choppy in thought today... Too much occupying my brain between the naughty teenager and home buying woes. Thoughts of doing The Moth and where my book is. The coach said mid-December. I've heard nothing.
Buying a house in the current Ann Arbor market sucks. I find myself living in a home I hate, purchased in 2008, in an area that seemed okay until we lived here a while. Weíve been trying to find a new house, one that meets our needs, downtown. 4 beds, 2 full baths on the Old West Side. We found one that was perfect but someone offered cash. The current contender keeps having things added to it. I want out of my current house but it might be less stressful to just stay in a house I hate but own.
As is the case this time every year, I am ready for break. I can tell by my complete and utter lack of focus, motivation productivityÖ I need that two week time to recharge my batteries. Between work and NaNo and hosting, three things I love dearly) my brain is kind of fried. Not fried, but fuzzy. Everything has a haze around it and blends into everything else. I canít decide on what to do when Iím at work because Iím thinking about break. I canít decide what to do when Iím home because Iím thinking about work. Four days.
My ďI need vacationĒ funk is growing, seeping out of my pores and between every synapse, corroding any sort of positive thought with my deepening need to be done with work for a little. Every little thing annoys me, from the laundry Iím behind on to the cat who wonít stop meowing. The cat has not stopped meowing since February 22, 2000. Why does it bother me now? Because everything bothers me now.
Some things should bother me. Like a letter addressed to me yesterday, handwritten envelope. An overdue bill for someone else in side. No note. No explanation. Hm.
Cutting him off was easier and more difficult than Iíd imagined. Iíd thought the easy part would be the
- Iíve always had such an easy time doing. The hard part would be after. The need to justify. To apologize. A desire to reconnect. Years of random contact a hard habit to break. Then a span of weird dreams, attempts to connect-the-dots. Instead, I agonized for days leading up to it. Days. And the doing was hard Ė the bad behavior, on both our parts, came back. Guilt. Anfer. It was all about
. But since? I havenít looked back.
Last night I dreamed that I was going to prom with the guy who plays Elliot on Law and Order: SVU. The irony was not lost on him. The dream also involved a very cool gold dress, pink and green hair, and the body I had in my twenties. And soccer.
Before I went to bed last night I had a tickle in my throat, couldn't stop coughing. I woke with a stuffy head, sore throat and pain in my chest. Chest cold? My holiday break starts in fewer than six hours. 90 school districts closed for weather. Thanks, Universe.
I'm at the end of a short but violent bout with the flu. Like a ninja it came, crept in Thursday night, a tickle in my throat making me think I had swallowed a hair. But in the morning, Friday, I felt upon first swallow the soreness in my chest and throat. The heavy head and dull ache behind eyeballs. I slept most of the day, tucked under my favorite blanket on the living room couch, in and out of consciousness, snippets of conversations as I rolled over to hunker down for more sleep. Swallowing pills and thick syrup elixir.
The fever was the worst part. Oddly, it didn't announce itself the usual way: bone rattles and teeth chatters and a gripping chill. Instead it settled over the couch, a thick blanket. Malaise. I was cold. Coughing. Hazy. We found the thermometer and after sitting uncomfortably under my tongue (is my tongue's underside misshapen or does everyone find it hard to fit the metal tip?) the beeping introduced 103.4. It had to be a mistake. I forced Kris to wash and disinfect it with Listerine before taking his own: 98.3. I was sicker than we both thought. More cold/flu meds.
There's really no difference between the cold and the flu according to anything I can find. Well, except for one thing that has given me the diagnosis in retrospect. The flu can leave you feeling tired for days. Bingo! While the fever and aches are gone the congestion and residual cough is hanging out. Along with a general malaise. Mix of actual and manufactured Nquil hangover tiredness. Lethargy. Grogginess.
But at least the sickness has passed. That was awful. Sickening and overwhelming and hot and wet and stinky.
The tiredness I can navigate - break leaves time open for naps.
Last night's dream... A white apartment that I got to through a cavernous gray, cinder walled garage. Like the one from the movie the other day maybe? A or B 3? But it was pretty and white and sort of a mix between my place in Brooklyn and Alli and Mike's place above Powers. Kia had decorating tips that made my bedroom into a weird studio/classroom/workspace and Ali maybe had lived there because there were photographs, coffee cups and spoons of hers everywhere. A carpet from my own place in Bennington and the sheets from my bed now, but twin-sized.
I love the mornings when I remember my dreams. Part of my writing habits goals for 2014 includes dream journaling. And I need to be less formulaic about the rules around where I write, just like I read in page after page. It doesn't matter if there are grocery lists and reminders and doodles and a phone number and also brilliant prose. Just as long as there are words. And there will be. There are. I feel like something good could definitely come of my better habits that I've been cultivating. The writing habits I had in Brooklyn and before.
We are hosting again this year. A boy this time. It's different. Lately I have felt bad because I have been so sick that his break has been boring. Although, as a teenage boy, I think he loves the completely unstructured mush of lazing on the couch, eating whatever, and watching bad tv. We are exhausted and can't do much of anything and Kris has been working, took Monday off but worked Tuesday and back at his desk today. I will take Tom to the movies today, redeem myself even if I'd rather just lay on the couch and read.
We played a lot of games over break. Pandemic mostly, getting quite good at it. A few games of Elder Sign that were painful. Mille Bornes and Farkle got the prize for "best time had" and were how we spent a huge portion of New Year's Eve. My OCD (actual diagnosis) peeking out to say hi - the old time annoyance with my mom touching the dice I needed to roll again. She found it funny, as did everyone. Even I did a little because it is such a stupid thing this: one of the oldest compulsions in my memory.
"I'm a little OCD about that," the phrase annoys me. It's not cute or clever or charming to have actual compulsions. A desire at your core to do something really bizarre, something that would make a first date be the last or friend stop coming over. And while my own OCD is under control and only rears its head rarely, I find I can be sensitive to the trend of accessorizing with mental illness. I don't touch the doorknob. I don't flick the lights to stop people from dying. I do get horrible pervasive thoughts during stressful times. Not fun.
Here are some actual examples of living with OCD:
1. Staying up late convincing yourself that the tiny twinge you feel in your side is something horrible and not being able to shut it off.
2. Not being able to stop thinking about a particularly scary scene from a book/movie to the point of panic.
3. Obsessing over relationships.
4. Control freak tendencies.
5. Hating being touched by strangers to the point of not being able to go someplace crowded because of panic.
6. Freaking out if someone, anyone, touches you while you are eating.
It is a constant companion.
Like when I was a teacher I have completely fucked up my sleep schedule this break. First I was sick, then the vestiges of the flu impossible to throw off had me napping. Then I was lazy and bored and embracing break. New York was better but only being back two days has me staying up too late, napping in the afternoon. It stops today, no matter how tempting. Work starts again Monday and I need to be up early. Write, exercise, breakfast, get ready, go.
Kris and I joined a p90x3 challenge group for our 2014 fitness initiative. Scared.
If you really allow yourself to think about it, the human body is an amazingly gross machine. I find myself thinking about the amount of waste it produces and the oddly good job it does with disposing of it. Our pores constantly secreting, trips to the bathroom, balls of earwax, the multiple forms and types of mucus. And yet, for the most part, these things leave us without mess or embarrassment. We could learn something from our bodies. Driving back to Ann Arbor the amount of garbage lining the exit ramp from the LIE to the Clearview was mind blowing.
The Tip Jar