august, 2002

I awoke yesterday morning feeling very Zen, cicadas chirping outside Joanne's window and Alyssa meditating around the corner. There is a box fan in the window, but I hadn't noticed it the night before, and the night had mercifully been cool enough that I awoke merely serenely hung over -- peacefully thick-headed -- and not sweaty, too, as so often happens in the city. A sense of well-being filtered in through the leaf-bedecked Banana House windows on the lower floor, and once again I wished for blue tiles.

But even the duplicate goodness of Puilly-Fuissé / Yuengling (not Mark's mouse) / clove games of pool the night before (followed by a bat episode in Alyssa's room) and the lazy Swarthmore summer Banana morning could only go so far towards helping me to forget the reason I had leisure enough to spend the night in the first place -- my left wrist hurts to type on, so much so that I can't go to work. Capital-F Free Time is glorious at first, but so quickly becomes the unbearablest of all. Without my wrist, unable to work, type (I'm doing this one-handed on the Dvorak layout, slowed triply), or play viola, I feel like I have no mouth and I must scream. Reading, listening to music, and the occasional movie are about all that I can do, and with the heat regularly in the hundreds, resultant poor sleep, and no sense of purpose, even the fascinating books I'm reading (reättempting Gödelescherbach; Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy; the slightly less gripping Dialectology) don't hold my attention so well. Please let the orthopod on Monday be magic!

One of the very few interesting, well-done dailies out there, Rabi is more eloquent than the rest of us put together. Her entry from yesterday contains a typically Rabian lush paragraph, which I present here not only for the inherent value of her prose, but also in stark contrast -- antithetical -- to my own state of mind this morning:

... eventually I closed my eyes and fell into a series of lush and fragile little fantasies: midnight picnics with gewurztraminer and soft red raspberries and pansy petals; birthday candles flickering like a drowsy baby's eyelashes; symphony concerts with two harpists and everyone dressed in white and no one in the audience; bedtime stories with irregular rhymes that can make you forget to be afraid of sleeping if you hear them read them just so, when the air is warm and smells of empty clementine peels.

I can't remember the last time I felt like that ... or perhaps the problem is I can, and quite clearly. The gewurztraminer was Australian with riesling; the raspberries were fed to each other from a fruit vendor in the main square in Munich; petals on the blooming Harvard Ave. were shaken onto my head, but due to some kind of metaphysical "allergy" on his part, I wasn't allowed to shake them back. This is almost a mockery now, as I simultaneously wonder how much I should be thinking about this, and agree there are no "shoulds," that I can simply move to Zurich to resolve this all. There were no harpists in my dreams last night but one in the morning obits; instead of bedtime stories I unhappily thought myself to sleep last night, the following nightmares I'm sure provoked by a similar (though wildly different) situation as last year 'round this time, give or take a few months. This time I did not dream of stomach-curling blondes, but voracious sea monsters, leggy shaving cream models with skewers, and alligators. Waking out of one dream did no good, as as soon as I'd go back to sleep, another Loch Ness beast rose up from my fitful subconscious and terrorized the next few hours. I eventually gave up, and rose at 7:30, retrieved the paper and read about a dead harpist, my body all the while still trying to sleep.

Eleven-thirty A.M. Sunday morning, had you walked into the Standard Tap at 2nd and Poplar in Northern Liberties, you would have seen me with Ming and Nina at a back table, three-inch-thick french toast and goat cheese omelets in front of us, the charcoal washed off Nina's hands, arms, and feet from crawling over sketches as big as I am and bigger that morning, marvelling at the Japanese engineering marvels of square tomatoes and watermelon.

One A.M. that same day, or technically the next, you would have found Peter and Keith and me quaffing oolong and inhaling noodles, our dialects of Bluestreakese almost mutually unintelligible, at the corner of Race and Something in Chinatown, to the tune of bad karaoke upstairs.

Twelve hours and forty-five minutes later, if you had been strolling down the forty-one hundred block of Locust, you would have seen me and Abby on her front stoop, a cheese-dripping galette each devoured, drinking woodchuck and smoking.

The weather's back into the high nineties and I'm still upset at what's taking place across the Atlantic, but my wrist is getting steadily better, I'm up to forty-odd words per minute on Dvorak, and I have friends to distract me from / with whom to fight my demons.

Even though my twelve-minutes-fast clock read 12:30something as I went to sleep last night -- not bad for having gone out to a bar on South Street the night before with Alyssa, Mark, and Seanius, feeling both very short (even with Sean!) and very Swattie, sipping at Bombay Sapphire gin-n-tonics and deciding to move to Berkeley together -- and even though my hours were to be indeterminate today, as John's away, and I can do my four hours whenever, I set the alarm for 7:30 in order to nab the paper before the neighbors do. Successfully nabbed, still in a dream and bleary-eyed as I may have been, it will now provide my afternoon's entertainment -- an hour for the paper proper, perhaps, and that much or longer for the (Thursday) crossword. I'm seriously considering getting it at the bookstore this coming semester, taking advantage of the student subscription rate and picking it up there every morning, then taking an hour in Kohlberg before my morning classes start to read it and eat breakfast. Mm, I can just taste the newsprint!

So as it was, I turned off my snooze button and slept until 10:42 minus 12, and woke much less groggily. After a brief five-minute fit of guilt, during which I'd somehow convinced myself that sleeping in was bad, that I needed the morning, that now I was going to be late to work, I realized that none of the above was true, and that by waking this late, having a leisurely breakfast of bagel, tea, and underwater Prague (~Times; deluge across Europe), I was actually making better use of my day than I otherwise might have. By staying at work till four (I'm still only able to do half-days with this wrist; trying not to push it), I would then get home late enough to be occupied the entire afternoon with the paper, the books I'm reading, paperwork here and there, and dinner. Even trying my wrist on viola if I have time. Time perfectly laid out so as not to have time to get bored, and to go to sleep in time to wake up early.

This division of time, allowing for long readings of the paper and time to lie supine on the living-room futon, listening to Beethoven 7's second movement and thinking, are all indicative of how ready I am for school to start, for fall to come, to see people and to take classes and to dance to Mark's beats in Olde Club on Sunday nights, play pool on breaks from the Sun Lab, sit in Paces with bottles of wine and seniors. I move back in a little over a week, and I am ready for it.

In the meantime, though, I have to think about these fellowships, what I'll be doing after graduation, and how I'm going to get there. It's absolutely paralyzing, as I keep rejecting what ought to be good options out of hand, simply because they don't fit into the small, blue-tiled, coffee-drinking, European utopia I've conjured up for next year. And I want to enjoy it -- not move to Boston where there's a 3-year violin-making program, because I don't get a good vibe from the city; not move to New York, because I'd be scared to death to try to survive psychologically there; not just stay in Philly out of inertia. No, I want to go to Europe, and somewhere Francophonic or German-speaking, because no matter how cool Italy or Amsterdam or Helsinki could be, those would all involve (to greater or lesser degrees by an order of magnitude, granted) learning a new language. And at this point it makes sense to me to finally cement one of the two I've studied a lot. I need to write a Fulbright and a Watson in the next few weeks and be done with it. In the meantime, it's consuming my thoughts.

I slept in this morning for the first time in almost a week. Between packing, moving, driving to Boston and back, learning how to help freshmen set up their computers and configure DHCP, and a liberal sprinkling of alcohol and pot and general chilling, it's been an almost school-year-like sleep schedule of late.

Not to say that I haven't enjoyed myself, mostly. The night after Jenny and I cooked a mushroom stew from the Vegetarian Epicure (vol. 2) and spent the rest of the night finishing the bottle of red we got to accompany it (Rosemount, the same vineyard as marTin and my favorite white -- this one half cabernet, half shiraz), and then a little more, until I woke up at 7:30 the next morning when she handed me a glass of water. A hangover is not the ideal state of mind or body in which to pack and move from Philly to Swarthmore, but Mark had some herbal remedies for that problem, which alleviated the headache. My new room in Palmer (304) also upped my mood, being large, weirdly shaped, and having more natural light than I remembered -- I'd last seen it decorated with some graduating senior's posters and ugly sheets, not living up to its full potential. I'm now working on that. Posters and paintings and drawings and six-foot Vitamin Water signs I stole from the 7-Eleven going up; illumination in the works (need to retrieve my three-headed lamp from the Barn); going to borrow Raf's power drill and fix my couch; finish unpacking.

The unpacking process was interrupted by a day on Sunday, when I also missed a day of dormtech training to attend EJ's funeral outside of Boston. Eric Johnson -- duct-taper of his initials on his wall; slacker who got straight A's; hallmate freshman year; smoker of hookahs on balconies and all-around nice guy -- killed himself last Wednesday, a week ago. Just lay down on train tracks. I can't fathom it, I can't believe it, and yet it seems to be real. He hasn't popped out yet from behind some bush to announce it was all one big joke; Paul is having to go through the boxes marked with EJ's name that he left in storage during the summer. Conversation keeps turning to him and falling silent. There's nothing to say, no one to blame, nothing more we can do, or could have done. So we sit there and contemplate it silently for a while each day. Sunday's exhausting road trip up and back (13 hours in a van total; up before the sun at 5:30) was good in that we talked about him a lot, and congregated from different ends of our respective summers to Boxford, MA, to begin to speak about EJ in the past tense. Which is still mind-boggling.

But the world keeps turning, and the new crop of freshmen (class or '06! that's my sister's year!) arrived on campus yesterday, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, as we all were three years ago. It's cute to watch, and I'm glad I get to interact with them in a dormtech capacity, but I'm very very happy to be here as a senior. I knew this would take four years, this academic gestation. I'm glad to be here, I'm glad to be a senior.

all this ©nori heikkinen, August 2002

<-- July || today || September -->

back to front