Journal Entry: Four

Journal

January 16th, 2019

I slept for 2 hours last night. I am absolutely exhausted. I tried to stay up all day so maybe I could sleep well tonight. This morning Meghan and I walked to a restaurant called Pimm’s for a free breakfast sponsored by the university. I had a croissant and a cappuccino.

After breakfast, we went to an orientation presentation that lasted 2 hours. I barely stayed awake.

Anna is sleeping in Meg’s bed right now. We are going to lunch in the dining hall soon.

to the first boy who didn’t love me, please forgive me

Personal Essay

This essay was originally written for a creative writing class in 2018. We were encouraged to play with the format. Enjoy.

It is a debilitating mindset: between how it should be and how it is. It should be easy like peanut butter sandwiches or peeling back the tin covering on a jar of cashews. It should be easy like describing the sound of your voice to my mother over the phone. Telling her how in love with life you are. It should be easy like retelling the story of how your parents met to my mother during the same phone call with traces of your enthusiasm in my own voice. We should have melted together slowly like a chocolate friendship, adding caramel and nuts with every passing year. We should have dove into friendship like a bag of unwrappable Dove chocolate. Mutual interest would have helped, might have allowed me to justify less. 

“How do you feel about it today?” my friend would ask in the dining hall as we forked oily eggplant into our mouths. 

“I mean it’s the same. I still feel the same way,” I would solemnly reply, swallowing a forkful of slimy vegetable and the foreign taste of heartache. 

“He has a girlfriend,” she would remind me, suggesting that technically my feelings are irrelevant, suggesting that technically I shouldn’t be hurting so much. 

Other things that are irrelevant:

  1. Our first conversation was in late August. He told me the story of how his parents met. How easy it was. How peanut butter it was. How dripping with caramel and nuts it was. I remember the details well: the elevator ride, the chili dinner, the phone call, the years in between, the lasting friendship, a flight to Mexico. But, I can remember a lot when I want to.
  2. Our second conversation was in early September. We talked about ice cream. “Hands down…chocolate and hazelnut ice cream. I. LOVE. ICE. CREAM. *hands pulling on cheeks* I swear if a girl brought me ice cream, in any capacity, even a coupon for ice cream, I would marry her right there.” 
  3. September 17th: His 20th birthday. I brought him a plastic spoon and a pint of chocolate gelato.

I knew he had a girlfriend but I walked into my freshman year of college half-blind, breathing through one nostril, and congested. I would have fallen for a box of instant macaroni and cheese (if only it had a longer lifespan). Everything tasted raw and undercooked. Everyone looked sore and underdeveloped. He looked kind of different though, like a ripe avocado sun-basking on a windowsill. His voice tasted al dente. Like a noodle. Italy would be so proud of his perfectly boiled voice. I started listening for his voice in the library. The soft rolling of water. The bubbling of hot liquid. It was a promising game at first. I heard the sound and there he was. The pot reached a boil and there he stood in front of me, leaning over a large table, holding out his hand for mine. He treats his friends so well, I thought. 

More things that are irrelevant:

  1. I considered writing him a note. I crafted the first draft in my head during the second act of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Puritani. The Lyric Opera Theatre of Chicago doesn’t hand out pens and paper for their lovesick patrons. It started like this, “If ever there should be an appropriate time to be honest, I would tell you this…” There was never an appropriate time. 
  2. He was the ‘he’ in my first poem.
  3. I used to pray for people making hard decisions

September. October. November. Thanksgiving break. We were sitting on my God sized bed (God sized is when you push two twin sized beds together because you don’t have a roommate at the moment, thus, creating a space for sleeping that is a little larger than a king sized mattress). My friend, her boyfriend, and I. Tryptophan, carbohydrates, and glucose were still pulsating through our bloodstreams like a liquid Thanksgiving. 

“…I don’t know who he’ll take now,” said the boyfriend all nonchalantly. My friend and I looked at each other suspiciously. We were both shocked and stunned at the information we had just heard.

“Yeah, they broke up over break. He said it was a hard decision but the right one.”

You know the drill:

  1. I wish I could ship a care package through time back to my freshman self. Amid the chocolate chip cookies and extra underpants I would tuck some Vaseline for the congestion, eucalyptus nasal spray for the clogged nostril, and night vision goggles for the blind eye
  2. Swallowing excitement is not easy like hummus or whipped cream. Excitement comes in a big, hard shell that takes contractors and carpenters to crack. Then, once you’re granted access, the inside tickles your throat like cake frosting and you just want to spit it all out.
  3. I did not swallow excitement. I spit it like frosting. 

The opposite of natural takes place when a freshly single boy collides, against his will, with a girl who is 226 months single. It was a few days after his breakup. The interaction was a heterogenous mixture of awkwardness and interest. You could have put it in a bottle, shook it, and observed the cringe fester into a moldy ball. We talked about our shared love for God. I told him that I admired his faith and how he treats his friend, and how he is so in love with life, and how contagious he is, and how if he were a virus I wouldn’t mind contracting it. Needless to say, I jumped the gun like leapfrog for young adults. I should have given him space. [I think I need to give myself a little bit more credit here because about 20 minutes after this interaction my friend told me that her boyfriend texted her saying that freshly-single-boy proclaimed, “I fucking love Kelly. She’s so fucking cool.” Not going to lie, my only thought after reading that text was comparable to the first two lines of Queen’s song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in which Freddie Mercury states, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”]

December. The month of worsening symptoms. A faint cloud in my chest, a minor wheeze, a subtle whistle, turned into full blown bronchitis and I was SO in love with a boy who SO thought of me as just a friend that my bronchial tubes wouldn’t clear up to breathe in reality. Reality stayed outside of me but I was cordial. I didn’t ignore it. I waved to it. Asked how the kids were. Asked if the rents were coming for Thanksgiving this year. I treated reality like a coworker I’d never really get to know. 

It is a debilitating mindset: between how it should be and how it is. How is it? It no longer hurts. Reality is in me. I know her so well. She is less of a coworker, more of a friend. Reality lives at 8592 Berwick St, Westland, Michigan. She has three children under the age of seven. She’s introverted but loves to host Thanksgiving. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pie. Turkey. She makes it all herself. She’s divorced. She scoops the best ice cream cones. She’s very ambitious. She’s a great listener and obsessed with food trucks. She goes to yoga three times a week when the kids are with their father. We met at the end of January. I know her so unexpectedly well.

This is Reality:

  1. He was my date to winter formal. I wore a black dress.
  2. I guess he prefers red.

 

My mother has never been left on read

Personal Essay

Every morning I fight the urge to check Instagram. I know I shouldn’t start my day like this, but it is difficult to combat the desire. Typically, I succumb. I unlock my phone, open the app, and begin scrolling through pictures and videos that add little value to my mind. It doesn’t take a sociologist or psychologist to determine why this is harmful. People post their best photos on Instagram. They post pictures of when interesting or aesthetic things happen. No one posts a picture of their swollen morning eyes. No one finds the perfect angle to photograph a biology project that has caused so much stress they could cry. My Instagram feed is comprised of people’s best moments and accomplishments. It contains the pinnacle of their success and beauty. It seems that everyone is a happy, well kept, and ambitious. Sometimes it makes me feel inadequate. Sometimes I worry that my own posts make others feel inadequate. But, if you’re mindful and cautious, it is possible to resist the pressures of social media and not let it weigh you down.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the value of iPhones and social media as well. Whether it’s lost in a purse or peeking out of a back pocket, an iPhone provides limitless access to information on any topic. If you want to find a decadent macaroni and cheese recipe for dinner…google it. If you need to know the greatest common factors of a number…google it. If you’re wondering what time it is in Dubai…google it. In this way, iPhones provide our lives with immense ease but most of the time we take it for granted. Most of the time we don’t realize how we could technically learn a new language within the four corners of our phones if we dedicated enough time. We could learn the fundamentals of beekeeping or discover which fish pairs best with Pinot Grigio.

And what about the connectivity iPhones offer? What about their ability to make us feel like we are in the same room as someone thousands of miles away? Long distance relationships have never been more feasible. Phone calls. Texting. FaceTime. Audio messages. Voicemail. Email. Direct Message. All of these modes of communication foster love and friendship at a great distance. It is interesting to think about falling in love this way. How much can you really know someone through your phone? And what if they stop responding? Should you tolerate the pain or text them again? If you text them again you could come off as overbearing or needy. And that would be embarrassing.

My mother does not know the frustration of being left on read. My grandma does not know the emptiness of a Snapchat left on open.

Sometimes I think about all the time I’ve wasted being sad over not getting a text back when I could have been learning a language, discovering a new author or making home-made macaroons.

The next time I pick up my phone I want to see my eyes first. I want to see my reflection in the screen and remind myself of the magnitude of knowledge I am about to unlock.

Ode to Ballerinas

Personal Essay

I always wedged the small plastic container of almonds in the cupholder of my car. It made reaching for an almond easy and accessible as I drove. Keeping my left hand on the wheel, I used my right hand to pinch the almonds with my fingertips. It was always sad to no longer feel an almond. I liked to know when I was eating the last one. It allowed me to savor it, to feel its woody flesh uncurl in my mouth.

I waited to eat my apple until I got to the ballet studio. It was safer that way, I thought. Although sometimes, feeling impatient, I would take the risk and secure my one handed grip on the steering wheel. I’d take a wet bite of apple and quickly lower the fruit out of sight. I didn’t want a police officer to see my occupied hand. I didn’t want to be ticketed on account of apple consumption. More than likely, however, I just waited until I parked my car on the new asphalt in front of my ballet studio. Windows rolled down. Engine silenced. I ate my apple and listened to a moody violin concerto on the radio. Sometimes I would cry. Sometimes I would think about how poetic it all seemed. 

Since high school got out at 2:10, I was always the first dancer to arrive. Besides my silver 2009 Fusion, the parking lot was empty. Most classes began at 4:30 so the gut of parking lot traffic didn’t begin until 3:45-ish. I always parked in the same spot, facing the road. Beyond the road was an open field of dead grass and drooping cattails. When cars drove by I watched whatever vegetation was closest to the road tremble and then resume stillness.

I never thought to park my car anywhere else until the ballet studio’s owner, a tall woman with a thin neck and sharp cheeks, hired a new instructor from Russia. The instructor had a round, pale face and wore peachy blush. Her lips were always colored with some spectacular rose hue. She was thin. Very thin. If she didn’t wear a long sleeve shirt and vest everyday I swear her protruding bones would have made some of the little dancers grow teary eyed. She seemed healthy though, always full of energy with long, strong nails. She used her nails as a tool in class to remind each dancer to activate their glutes. I remember the first time her nails tickled their way along the back of my thighs and up my butt. I thought she might rip my tights with how sharp it felt. She spoke no English. We interpreted her corrections through hand motions. Sometimes I would look down the bar at all the other dancers and see them nodding. I would smile to myself. I too liked pretending that we were in Russia. 

I started parking my car near one of the large tinted windows of the studio to watch her plan class. She used the wall for balance. Her limbs floated like dish soap bubbles. She seemed to exert no effort in elevating her leg above shoulder level or dipping so far back that her head tapped her bottom. And isn’t that the job of a ballerina? To make it look easy and irresistible. To make it look like absolutely no effort in the world is needed to extend your limbs to inhumane levels and all the while make it look enchanting, graceful. 

There was a queen size bed in the room with her. A brass frame arched on both ends. There was a mini fridge with a bowl of clementines on top. A pair of pajama pants hung on a chair. A bookmarked novel rested on the bed. By now she was jumping, warming up her ankles, increasing her heart rate. I then realized that she lived here. That the dead grass and drooping cattails were her morning view, observing how they tremble while drinking coffee. During the day, in the quiet long hours before anyone arrives, she probably counts the cars as they drive by. She probably knows just where the sunlight hits the floor. Everything smells like her perfume. And like me and all the other dancers, this ballet studio was her home. 

Herself in Numbers

Poetry

I’m learning to count behind the numbers

where Quantity keeps an inventory of all the ages you’ve been. 

You’ve been three, four, eighteen and twelve.

Thirty four, nineteen, seven. 

You’ve been behind the numbers without knowing it.

Like a slow reader trying to keep up with his classmates.

You are here.

They are there.

And this…

is where the numbers start to love you, lean into you, grow curious about you

this is where the numbers stare at you just like you’ve stared at them trying to calculate all they can do

I promise, Quantity does not want you divided away from her

You are not multipliable. 

You do not need to be added with something else to have value

You are value.

And Quantity only wants to take away the moments where you do not feel her 

Quantity only wants you to feel her.

Behind the numbers, behind the months, behind the letters

there is an inventory of growth that looks just like you.

It remembers the first time you heard an echo

The first time a laugh made you snort or cry

It remembers your first reflection

and it will remember your last.