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There is something about the way your skin tastes, and it is now so familiar to me that I miss it when it's been awhile. Thankfully it never becomes such a long time between kisses that I forget what you taste like. I have forgotten what past lovers taste like—it is a mystery now that I ever loved anyone but you. Even though I find myself thinking about paying the rent or making good grades, the only thing that really matters to me is you. The way your eyes always look sleepy. The way your smile is so small.
When I am depressed, I cannot sleep. Last night my skin was tight and I could swear that tiny drummers were beating their tune out of my brain synapses. I smoked cigarettes in the darkest of kitchens, the floor reverberating under the weight of those same tiny drummers. No one was around anywhere. From inside my house I could see the stars, which is another benefit of living in the middle of nowhere. He was sleeping and finally I wound myself around him until his warmth put me to rest. Perhaps all I need is to quit smoking. Or not.
It seems as though I am being teased by this weather. The end of summer should be coming soon, but as I am required to go out of the house more and more, it seems only to be hotter and hotter. I am an anxious sweater-lover; I cannot wait for the changing of leaves and the tucking away of short sleeved shirts for cardigan sweaters. I have a special love for sheep because I adore the scratchy nap against my skin; it means that harvest moons will usher in the crisp clear air of autumn. Thank G-d for falling temperatures.
There is something about living in a new place; although you are surrounded by people on every which side, you are alone. But there is a solace in sitting in the coffeeshop, sipping on a mocha and wondering if any of these strangers will be your dearest friends six months from now. The woman sitting on the couch across from me probably doesn't know that I'm watching, but she looks like someone I'd be friends with. With her disheveled hair and sandals, I wonder what she's reading. It could be feminist theory or a Left Behind book. And I watch.
In a few days, the town where I live will be flooded with students. The dorms are opening this weekend, and throngs of excited kids with their new Todd Oldham stuff from Target will fill the dorms with striped bedsheets and multi-colored kitchenware. They will strut across the College Green in their new Abercrombie clothes and the cutest wedgie sandals. Their shorts will be shorter, their hair will be chunked and cut and layered in the highest fashion. It is not an education in liberal arts, but in trendiness. Count me out in my thrift store pants and tired Birkenstocks.
I take great joy in smoking cigarettes. I prefer it when the weather is cold. I ignore the rhetoric of the non-smokers around me—I am not giving them cancer. They will get it from the pollution of the skies before they get it from me. I even take joy in packing the new, unopened virgin pack; the rhythm of its cellophane-wrapped tautness smacking my palm makes my heart palpitate. When it is quiet, you can hear the tobacco and paper burning, crackling, sizzling slightly and the wash of nicotine streams through me. I take great joy in smoking cigarettes.
I have been on a diet since January. I have foregone my old habits of gas station snack food in exchange for five fruits and vegetables a day. On this program, I have shed forty-six pounds, and everyone says I am disappearing before their eyes. I barely weigh under 200 pounds, and I hate every ounce of fat that hangs from my misshapen form. The swing of my upper arms, the pouch of my belly, the whisper of a double chin I still fight, yet all I can think about is chocolate almond ice cream and large iced mochas. Fat.
Maybe I am my grandmother reincarnated. I love 1940's jazz music and I fight depression with alcohol and cigarettes. Lately it has only been cigarettes, as the alcohol makes me fatter than I want to be. My grandmother was a painter of murals, clowns and Spanish villas and vistas and vessels, and was the tired mother of five children. They were born over a span of twelve years and by the time she was alone with the last one, she was exhausted. My mother never knew her own mother as an adult—my grandmother died when Mom was only twenty-two.
Reasons to visit home: Kaldi's Coffeehouse, protesters outside Planned Parenthood, cheaper cigarettes, familiar one-way streets, childhood friends' houses, skyscrapers, the schools where I learned and taught, places I rode my bicycle as a child, my parents, friends, my grandparents and other family members, driving past places I used to work, my favorite Indian restaurant, my old bars, the jukebox at The Comet, falafel at the Jerusalem Café, seeing my old housemates' cars in the driveway. Graffiti, United Dairy Farmers, Graeter's ice cream parlors, the Esquire Theatre. Shoe stores I love, knowing the timing of traffic lights, and bands I know.
Kindergarteners know a lot of weird shit. The ones I used to teach in Cincinnati spoke like sailors and beat the living hell out of each other every chance they got. I had a kindergartener tell me that the official color of Dr. Martin Luther King Day was BLACK POWER. I had kindergarteners in class who couldn’t copy their own names off the colored nameplates at their seats, but they told me dirty jokes. The smartest child in my class wet his pants everyday. I figured that something was going on at home, but we never did figure out what.
So I was talking about the misery of being fat. I sit here, with a large iced mocha and a peanutbutterchocolatechip cookie. And I’m eating and drinking, hating myself, feeling the fat cells stretch, expand and multiply, and I’m bitter like burnt coffee grounds that I’m one of those people who has to think about calories and fat grams and I’m angry that I didn’t learn better eating habits growing up and I hate to see the “16” inside on the tag of my pants. Then I should shut the fuck up because 9 months ago, that tag said “24”.
I have no idea if I can write or not. I’m probably a lousy writer, only able to even construct a sentence because I haven’t been speaking to people as much as I would like to. But I always thought I was one of those people who was able to talk to strangers, and now I’m living in this strange town where I know almost no one, and I’m only strong enough to speak to my drug dealers—the college kids who sling espresso and plate up cookies I should never be eating. It’s not that I’m shy, just lonely.
Gratitude. I am awash with gratitude because I have a loving supportive partner in crime. Together we watch and discuss movies, he helps me with the crossword when he can, he cooks and I do dishes, we take turns cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, and walking our psychotic dog. Sometimes he drops me off where I am going, and sometimes I pick him up from work. We split the bills, we do each other little favors, we pick up after each other. I don’t know what I would do with out you, boy. I just don’t. Thank you for everything.
Talking Heads. That’s what’s on the radio in the coffeeshop right now. I love David Byrne. He’s one of the sexiest men ever. I went to Bogart’s and saw him in concert a few years ago. He changed his outfit more times than anyone I’ve ever seen in concert; he came out in a hot pink furry suit, and changed into a kilt and later was wearing a Mr. Goodbody bodysuit. It was amazing. It was the “Feelings” tour. I bought the album after I saw the show. I don’t think I have it anymore and I’m not sure why.
When you are fat, you become invisible. It does not make sense; you’d think that your added bulk would make you harder to ignore, but it doesn’t. You don’t get introduced to people, and you don’t get noticed. When you’re fat, you become part of the scenery—people look past you to talk to other people. You don’t get asked out on dates and if you do get hooked up with someone, it’s because they got to know you then decided that they like you a lot and your body isn’t that important. Sometimes it’s just nice to be objectified.
Someday I will be a mother. I wanna be the cool kind of mother who doesn’t embarrass her children. The kind of mother who doesn’t inflict herself on her kids, but they want her around. But I don’t want to go too far with it—I don’t want them to reject me because I am too cool. I want to genuinely be interested in who they are, and I want to be accessible. I will encourage them to go far away to college because it’s an important experience, and when I visit, I will insist on staying in a hotel.
Today I am smiling at strangers. To each stranger that walks by as I sip diet coke and type away on my laptop, I smile. Not the same “hi stranger” smile each time—I have been trying to gauge my individual smiles differently for each stranger. I’m hoping that one of these strangers will smile back, or even sit down near me and strike up a conversation. So far, strangers have sat near me but nobody speaks. I haven’t spoken either, due to the misconception of college-age people that talking to strangers means you are trying to pick them up.
Today was my birthday. It was a drag because I had work, then six hours of class. We went out to dinner and I ate a tasty steak. I missed home, mostly my friends. I’m twenty-five now, a quarter of a century. It’s not much different than being twenty-four, to be honest. I can’t wait to turn twenty-six because I have a fixation on even numbers. My birthday is the eighteenth, and my even numbered years are really good. Maybe this year, we’ll break the curse on odd numbers being bad news. So far things haven’t been good or bad.
The weather is honestly starting to change and I’m excited! Where I live, we are surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, and from my house I can see all of these beautiful leaves. They are barely starting to change, and I’m anxious. I like the drive between here and home so much more when there are beautiful leaves to see. The oranges are pretty, but the ruby red leaves are my favorite. I like the yellow too, but not as much as orange. There’s a bite in the temperature in the mornings now that makes me wish I never slept naked.
I am going home for the weekend. On Saturday, I’ll go to the dyke bar. I’ll have a couple of drinks and tell everyone that I don’t dance, and I’ll see familiar faces and stand in line for the bathroom because that’s what you do at the bar. I’ll smoke too many cigarettes, and probably bum a bunch of them out, which is good because it keeps me from smoking them all, and I’ll go back and forth between conversations and be grateful that these people like me enough to sit in a dark dyke bar on a Saturday night.
I wish that we were communicating more harmoniously right now. I can’t fix it now. We’ll get a chance to talk tomorrow and hopefully we can start to resolve some of these problems. I don’t know that you’re upset with me until you let me know, and when you carry around this baggage, it starts to weigh you down and you are less available to yourself, to me, and your thoughts and actions become tainted with your disapproval or worry and it starts to eat you from the inside out. I don’t want you decomposing before you are ever dead.
I wonder if I am too wrapped up in television. Tonight we’re taping the Sopranos. Wednesday night I am staying home to watch the season premiere of the West Wing, and Thursday I am skipping a meeting to watch Friends, Will & Grace, and ER. I’m a junkie! I used to justify it by saying that teaching school was so exhausting that I needed to just sit there and vegetate so that my mind would work the next day. Now I am a student again, and I feel the exact same way. Don’t kill your TV, give it to me.
Being back in school is very strange. I am finding myself far more exhausted from the work than I ever did as an undergraduate. Maybe it’s because I’m actually doing it this time. I have been so diligent about keeping up with my reading, but my eyes feel like they’re going to pop out of my head. I am so glad to be in this position, although I am complaining. It means that I’m not flipping burgers at Max and Erma’s. I’m not saying that flipping burgers isn’t rewarding. I’m just saying that grad school is. I love this place.
I can’t seem to get back on track with my diet. My habits have gone down the drain; I’m drinking way too much mocha these days, but it’s the only way I get my milk. Brian doesn’t drink milk and so I find myself reluctant to buy it because I will just drink it all the first day or two, and that’s too many points. I haven’t been craving the ice cream so much these days. I’m finding myself craving salt more than ever, and I have to learn to say no! Tortilla chips are an instrument of the devil.
We got some amazing weather. I actually wore a sweater two days in a row. I love that first sweater day—you can breathe clearly for the first time since February. That crispness opens up your lungs, your eyes, your senses to the changing leaves and students bustling through the hallways with jackets and book bags. Soon, we’ll be wearing our little knit caps and our cashmere scarves around our chapping necks. There is something magical about Autumn—I actually saw a chipmunk! There are squirrels everywhere in this town, including dead in the road. College kids drive like assholes.
Days and days have gone by, and I keep saying that I am going to quit smoking. What will become of me if I quit? It is part of my identity! Most would argue that it’s such a destructive part, but still—no non-smoker can understand what we feel like—this is how we make casual friends outside our buildings and coffee shops. You have smoke friends. You only talk for the duration of a cigarette, maybe two. You might talk about the silly president, or the weather, or your course of study. But for those few minutes, you’re bonded.
He says that I constantly amaze him. How fantastic is that? Could I have been more lucky? He is like Jem—truly truly truly outrageous. Do you remember that show? The dolls were bigger than Barbie—so they couldn’t really swap their clothes. I didn’t have any of those Jem and the Holograms dolls—just Barbies. Amanda had the Jem dolls, and they were scary next to Barbie, because of their size. But I digress. I’m showing my age. I think Jem was on after Thundercats. I was talking about him, not Jem. He says that I constantly amaze him.
I am feeling less and less homesick each day. I don’t want to pretend to be cured—I’m not, because from time to time I find myself thinking about a person I want to call and ask them to meet me at The Comet for a burrito and a beer, or a place I just want to stroll to on McMillan around the corner from my old house. I miss living in a big house with lots of people—I enjoyed having big dinners with salad and bread and six or seven people crammed around the table. I’ll be fine.
I’m starting to enjoy my colleagues. As a graduate student, it sounds silly to call them classmates, so I’ve affected the word “colleagues” and it sounds more important. I have actually socialized a little bit with them now, and I’m becoming more comfortable. I came out to a few of them the other night over a beer—but it was in a strange context where I was kinda being silly, but it felt good to get the words off my chest. I am in a program with mostly progressive types, so I don’t think anyone really cares. I sure don’t.
I was hit on by a woman in a bar the other night. She was drunk as a skunk, and it was very awkward for me—I tried to be polite, and I did not mention that I have a boyfriend. I didn’t think that it was the coolest way to handle it—just spouting out that I have a boyfriend, because that would’ve been embarrassing. I didn’t want her to think I was straight—because we know I’m not, but I’m in a committed monogamous thing, and that’s just the way it is. I don’t want to be rude.
The Tip Jar