I’m reading a book Samantha lent me about one’s “inner child” which has gotten me thinking about childhood, about never getting to fully relax as a kid, because everything was an angst-ridden, responsibility-filled process of doom. I don’t remember many moments of sheer play; I remember lots of craving for comfort and safety when adults were absent, sisters were crazylike and I couldn’t play kickball to save my life. I don’t know how things like this shaped my psyche. I think people should be able to shape their present selves no matter what their pasts look like, or at least give the present as much credence as days gone by. But it did make me think about the reasons I covet time spent swinging on swingsets, wearing old sneakers and pigtails.
I just got the loveliest package in the mail from Deanna: indie publications that she picked up at a small press fair in Buffalo, plus a cool button and a paperback novel. It arrived as I was healing last week, and I have to say, I’m sure it sped the process along.
A group of about five kids, probably 5th or 6th graders, stood in the median of a busy street near my apartment yesterday, jumping around and waving pieces of poster board. I squinted to get a better look at them, thinking they were perhaps advertising a car wash. Instead the kids held signs that said things like “Honk for Peace” and “Save the Environment”. I wondered if they had heard about the 60s for the first time or something. But their committment to their generic slogans was palpable. As I crossed the street, a driver (ironically in an SUV) honked. They jumped and waved their signs with even more enthusiasm, rubber-band-leg kids with a cause. To two pixie girls in sundresses I said, “I like your sign,” and they both beamed back at me. I thought back to the environmental club that I founded in elementary school. I was really interested in saving the planet, too — so interested, in fact, that I organized a campaign to sell candy bars to raise money for an environmental organization. Unfortunately cases of candy bars sat in my basement for months, eventually eaten by my family, because I was too shy to actually sell them door-to-door.
Speaking of sleepless nights
You haven’t truly lived until it’s 4am and you can’t sleep because everything hurts so you think hey, I’ll get some… something from… somewhere for this and you go to the kitchen for ibruprofen or maybe a magic drug appeared in your cabinet as quickly and mysteriously as your illness appeared… but then your knees buckle and when you grab the edge of the counter, your thumb joint buckles too. See, I’ve been sick lately and went to the doctor last week and was prescribed an antibiotic called Bactrim. Two days after starting it, I woke up with all of my joints locked up and painful. I spent all day trying to figure out the mystery: arthritis? meningitis? dengue fever? Finally I remembered that once, long-ago, I’d had an auto-immune response to another antibiotic (huge rash everywhere; lots of fun in D.C. in 2003). It turned out that the two antibiotics were chemically related, both called sulfa drugs. And a “lupus-like syndrome” is a rare side effect. Leave it to me to be rare. Basically, my immune system was attacking my own tissue. So I spent much of today angry at Western medicine for poisoning me, drinking water to flush out the drug, and saying random rant-y things to my body like, “stop eating yourself!” Luckily it’s slowly getting better.
I didn’t sleep last night; the room was hot and stifling, I couldn’t sleep with a top sheet on, I couldn’t sleep without one, so I daydreamed and drifted in and out of thoughts. And completely unbidden, I had a series of vivid flashbacks to last year, complete with physical responses of anxiety and depression, things I haven’t thought about since last summer. I thought of Isiah running from classroom to classroom with a pointy umbrella, part farce, part threat. I thought of Starr, who got pregnant and missed so much class time that when she got back she did almost nothing. I thought of Makita, with the one perpetually bloodshot eye, who had a learning disability and so pretended she was one of “the bad kids”. I thought of Steven, who was so smart-aleck charming that I just couldn’t be angry at him even when he asked a million rude questions. I thought of Denzell, who walked around with cash strapped to his legs from dealing drugs and was so intelligent he barely needed to pay attention in class. I thought of Laron, who pretended all year that he couldn’t write and then wrote one brilliant thing which I forgot to even praise. I thought of Clinisha, who wanted me to adopt her, and who kept getting into fistfights with the girls on her block. I thought of Daija and Jason, the best comedy duo in town. I thought of the sickening feeling of fifth period, with everything out of control, and Toyia crying until someone blew in her eye to make it feel better. I thought of threatening to send someone to beat a kid up; of Michael, the sweetest kid with the sparkliest grill, who disappeared halfway through the year. I thought of fighting with the gym teacher across the hall over whose desks were whose, and of the walls I never finished decorating, and of the kids I never got to see again. I checked the clock: 3:45am. I rolled over and realized I was too hot to be held, even though that’s what I wanted, and that time would keep moving even if it felt so slow. I wondered about the theory that memories are held in the body, and I thought of all these thoughts having been squirreled away in odd places, like my spleen, until summoned by the subconscious. This morning I realized that June 8th last year was the last day of teaching classes.
I should not go to Starbucks
My thought process this afternoon…
Before ordering a Frappucino:
1) I have a headache and could fall asleep right now and am too warm to think clearly.
2) What’s cold and full of caffeine?
3) Why, a Starbucks Frappucino. The masses love them. Plus there are many calories in there, so I won’t have to worry about missing lunch.
During the ordering process:
1) Somehow ordering one drink requires twelve syllables, which I am managing to inexplicably flub.
2) I will cover my errors and let the barista know that I am not the Frappucino-ordering type by slipping in a sly, “Oh, ha ha, I so rarely get one of these…”
1) I hate myself. Starving children could have used that $5.
2) I hate myself. I am like everyone else.
3) I hate myself. Why do I care if I am original or not?
4) I hate myself. I am so unoriginal.
5) This is so tasty.
6) Brain freeze.
7) Large doses of caffeine and sugar make me angry at the world, including bad drivers and middle-aged women tottering along on bicycles with baskets.
8) I see now how people manuever through the world with aggression and purpose. They’re just a little bit angry. Is this good or bad? Perhaps I would get more done and be less put-upon if I were a little more angry at everyone.
9) Nauseous, too much caffeine and sugar.
10) I have a headache and could fall asleep right now and am too warm to think clearly.
The great ones pay for their genius
Benjamin Franklin took a few shocks at the end of that kite string. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. On a smaller scale, I paid for my cooking genius last night with a few burns on my right arm. See, I made this dip. I know what you’re thinking — dip is dip. How could it have been a true expression of cooking brilliance when its main function was to pair up with lime-flavored Tostitos? But I swear to you. It was some dip: chunks of canned sweet potatoes, a can of black beans, a cup of salsa and some shredded cheese, all microwaved together. And served with lime Tostitos. Constructed completely of what I happened to have in my cupboard. I was so convinced of the utter genius of this dip that I began to consider myself a cooking marvel. In fact, I think the line, “I was born to cook” actually crossed my brain.
Then I began making my second dish of the night, potato salad from my Irish grandfather’s simple recipe of potatoes, hard boiled eggs, mayo, vinegar and celery. I had exactly one hour to complete this second leg of my cookstravaganza before my guests were to arrive, so I peeled the potatoes and chopped the celery at top speed, so in the zone. When it came time to boil the eggs, I thought, “Why look up how to boil an egg? It can’t be that hard. I was born to cook.” So I put three eggs in water and let them boil. I didn’t know how long to cook them for, but I guessed. I guessed wrong — when I lightly cracked one, I saw that it was still runny. But by this time my hour of cookstravaganza was winding down and I needed to speed things up, so I put them in the microwave.
Never, ever put a whole egg in the microwave.
I took the little bowl of eggs out and lightly tapped the shell of one. [INSERT SOUND OF GUNSHOT HERE]. I screamed, naturally, and Eliina came running in to find egg splattered on the ceiling, all over the walls, and all over me, a la I Love Lucy. By the time Caitlin and Jade arrived, I had taken a quick shower but was trying to avoid dealing with the three hickey-sized burns on my right arm because who needs to throw more effort into mending an act of utter stupidity? Jade took one look at me and made me slather my arm in aloe and then hold an ice pack to it for the rest of the night.
Everyone loved the dip.
Moments of utter summer
-On a pier, watching the sunrise over Lake Michigan and feeling like we could be breathing water and walking on sky, the horizon and lake became so fused
-Stopping for lemonade whenever humanly possible
-Lazy lay-in-the-grass barbecues that include grilled corn on the cob with lots of butter
-Being excited about the air conditioning in a movie theater