Autumn in State College. It was a real campus, the leaves turning orange, the sky gray. I stood on the corner of Allen and Westerly, talking and talking and wanting to talk forever into those big sparkly green eyes. I didn’t know I was starting new, but I was starting new.
And I was a flirt. And I was certain of my aesthetics. And I was terrified of being wrong. And I was hiding. And I was making decisions. And I was refusing to make decisions. And I was intensely afraid of being known for who I was afraid I was underneath it all.
The town was silent. At night, alone in those long, perfectly white, immaculate Wegmans aisles, I wanted to want to taste everything. I wanted badly to want.
So it came to this: a big jar of Nutella, the empty hallways of Burrowes Building after everyone had gone home, the big red barns, the cows down the road, the long stretches of I-80 curling out toward nowhere.
If you were cool in high school
you didn’t ask too many questions.
You could tell who’d been to last night’s
big metal concert by the new t-shirts in the hallway.
You didn’t have to ask
and that’s what cool was:
the ability to deduct
to know without asking.
And the pressure to simulate coolness
means not asking when you don’t know,
which is why kids grow ever more stupid.
A yearbook’s endpages, filled with promises
to stay in touch, stand as proof of the uselessness
of a teenager’s promise. Not like I’m dying
for a letter from the class stoner
ten years on but…
Do you remember the way the girls
would call out “love you!”
conveniently leaving out the “I”
as if they didn’t want to commit
to their own declarations.
I agree that the “I” is a pretty heavy concept
and hope you won’t get uncomfortable
if I should go into some deeper stuff here.
The pastel martini glasses hang from the shelf, eight in a row and clang-clang each time the door opens.
The stampede of feet never stop. From the couch. From the bed. Always there. The rhythm of people running up, running down the stairs. And then, of course, the voices.
A never-ending collection of hair forms on the linoleum-tiled floors. Cobwebs dance about the high ceilings.
A tunnel of warmth under the covers on my twin-sized futon mattress in my private tiny box beneath the sidewalks of East 85th Street.
Saturday or Sunday mornings in the sunshine, along the East River. Warm bagels, hot coffee, and the water forever clawing at the concrete earth.
Cockroach-infested, three-day-old garbage festering in the hallway with dead (oh! no that’s alive!) waterbugs scattered throughout.
And a back garden for barbecues in the deep summer or early fall with everything humid and heavy and wonderful and the mosquitoes biting their masterpieces onto my legs.
Ten minutes to midnight. Crack open the door. Wander outside into cold, fresh air in my puffy green coat and red hat. And walk toward the building with the doorman, standing still in his uniform, watching the mirror, waiting.
I want to read books that feed me, that go in my mouth and throat and down in my guts and nourish me or mess me up but feed me that way too. I want to read books a writer had to write, could not not write or she’d go effing nuts.
I want a book that will make me think or feel, even if it makes me feel shitty or like I want to go out and smash things like mirrors and windows and people’s skulls or maybe instead do something decent or kind, or thank someone. Or smoke and drink and have sex with people I shouldn’t have sex with or maybe even apologize for things I did to someone long ago.
Rebecca Brown, “Shut Up: A Manifesto Against Irony”
Quoted because I also, often, get sick of irony, of people not letting themselves be vulnerable and so remaining disconnected, isolated, unable to fully love and appreciate.