Day Thirty-Three’s post was a superb example of me strung out on coffee. I’m assuming that the majority of viewers scanned down the entirety of the post, mumbled, “Crap, this is long,” and got the heck out of dodge. Or, they stopped right around the time I was rambling on and on about how I’d posted a video clip.
Now I’m tempted to copy and paste the bottom portion of Day Thirty-Three (awesome number 33 is, by the way), because the content, in my not-so-humble opinion, is very interesting, like the part when I express how I feel sorry for isolated globs of toothpaste. You might want to see the last part of the post, at the very least. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the gross-factor. Just saying.
I also am remembering my blog rules; and thought I should, (nasty sh word that it is), remind my readers (my friends, my good buddies, my pals) that there really are no rules in blogging. Just incase someone was thinking my powerful prose, I spat out while inebriated (smashed out) on coffee, was inappropriate in length. (Did you know coffee is not made from a bean but from seeds? Who knew?)
I love that there are no rules in blogging. Still I find myself doing what I always tend to do in walking life: analyze others’ style, breadth, subject matter, and quality. But then I reason, with LV (little voice in my head), that the act of Me breaking full force out of this self-inflicted mold, that of the Jell-O-mold of a fear-based conformist, is exactly why I am authoring this blog in the first place! (Now I’m picturing green Jell-O; now cellulite; now thinking I shouldn’t have had that apple fritter and cheese puff yesterday.)
For today, before I ramble on any further, or let Crazy Frog and Brain escort us on a three-hour cruise to cellulite land—as enticing as that sounds—I wanted to share a bit about my college experience. While you venture down melancholic lane, I’ll be heading upstairs to steal some sips of my husband’s coffee and watch the telly. (LV still has that whole British dialect going on from yesterday.) I’m wiping my tears after this one, so consider yourself forewarned.
A Lonely, Heart-Broken Pillow
Through the following seasons, the sharp point of fear worked its way into me like the microscopic barbs of a seed-bearing foxtail. I was confused and greatly disappointed. I believed with the coming of adulthood, by at last leaving my mother’s house and striking out into a different land, life would somehow get easier. I expected the load I’d carried from my childhood to shed itself in layers, to ultimately fly away effortlessly, to disperse across the sky like the seeds of a dandelion.
Beyond the reach of my youth, I thought the answers would come, just as I’d expected my favorite show to appear when I turned the television knob. I wasn’t silly enough to think I’d have all the answers but I had hoped to have enough of them. I’d hoped to be less embarrassed in conversation and to effortlessly make friends. I assumed I’d finally feel comfortable speaking to others, be able to offer a gentle pat or welcoming greeting without questioning my every action, and wanting to run the other direction. But neither my age nor relocation altered my existence. My weaknesses had followed me as surely as my suitcase, had hitched a ride in the trunk of my second-hand compact car and settled down for the long ride.
The college campus accentuated my misgivings. At the sound of my own voice, I noted how my inflection and intonation adjusted to a given circumstance, how around particular classmates I became increasingly goofy and outlandishly witty, and how around others I was much a quiet hermit. I noticed, too, that I adjusted my persona, shifting my attire, my mannerism, my opinions, my likes and dislikes, to match the climate of a given room. Once again, like in all the years before, I tried to become the girl I thought people wanted to see.
In the years to come, I would often think I missed the road to the joys of young adulthood: that after skipping over the innocence of childhood, I’d taken a detour and passed up the potential fun of college life. The chances were there, the opportunities, the choices, but they remained out of my reach. Where there might have been pleasure and friendships, there was only barren land. I knew the cracks and lines on the campus path like no other. There wasn’t a time I looked up to smile or wave, or interact outside of the classroom walls. Most of my passing time between classes was spent hidden in the bathroom stalls or staring at the mirror evaluating the flaws of my reflection. I had a set route, leading from one bathroom to the other. I knew the hard sidewalk, the cold toilet, and the dirty mirrors. Those were my archetypal symbols for college.
My only pleasure was found in the everyday eating of the egg-salad sandwich that I would purchase from the roundhouse campus deli. Though I feared I wouldn’t be able to open the relish or mustard package without making a mess, feared standing in line to purchase the food, and even feared the moment I’d have to make contact and pay for my sandwich.
I remember wondering how all the students could look so happy, interact so freely, toss a Frisbee, and wave a casual hello, without fear, without effort. I wondered why I couldn’t look up, couldn’t smile, couldn’t be comfortable in my own skin. My only refuge came in pretending. Inside the classroom I played the role of the perfect student. There I could speak. There I would raise my hand. And there I would be admonished and criticized by others for acting like the teacher’s pet or monopolizing the discussion. There was no place for me.
Even the process of getting to the campus, after I awoke in the morning, was terribly complex. My worry list was far-reaching–stretching to the moon. The freeway, the off ramps, the speed limit, the fellow drivers on the road, each and everything terrified me. Finding a parking spot, terrified me. I was terrified before I even set foot on the campus that I feared.
I escaped through my imagination and creativity. I receded so far within the depths of my mind that I was able to bring out something of substance that represented the soul of me. But I was always hidden behind something. Always hiding.
During a children’s creative drama class, I had to write and perform a monologue about an inanimate object. The purpose was to bring the object to life. Which was easy for me, as I already thought most inanimate objects were alive.
I wasn’t like the other students. Not at all. I was the one voting to watch the movie Gandhi, while the rest wanted Tootsie. For the monologue in drama class, one student stood up on stage dressed as a rock and finished his performance with: “I felt a chill go up my spine when she skipped me across the river.” Another girl, dressed in pink to represent an eraser, said, “I like the way it felt being rubbed all over the paper.”
I was the last one to perform. I was dressed in black, with my head sticking through the center of a bed pillow. I still remember cutting the hole in my father’s pillow. When I stood on stage, snickers came. I breathed in, holding the edges of the pillow with my trembling hands. I began in a soft, wavering voice:
“I had a good life. David took me everywhere when he was a boy. In his room we heard bedtime stories and played fort. Each week his mother dressed me in a fresh casing. My favorite one had cowboys and horses. He was the best boy in the world—nice and smart and full of life. David used to say his prayers as he rested his head on me. Sometimes his friends came and stayed the night. Once David swung me in the air to hit his friend and another time he playfully threw me at his dad. Several times he hid his baby teeth beneath me. And later, as David grew older, I even got to see a little kissing.”
The audience chuckled.
“Eventually, David and I want to college where we studied into the late night hours. I was so proud when he became a teacher; it was then he would prop me up against his apartment wall and correct papers. We were so happy. But then something changed. Something the doctors couldn’t figure out. Something that made David cry.”
A lone tear slipped down my cheek.
“David started coughing. He started being sick a lot. He started being home a lot. Then he began losing weight. I wanted to speak to him, to help, to fix him, but I am but a pillow. I have no voice. There were days my David could not pull himself out of bed. It was then that we spent much time together, but it wasn’t the type of time either of us wanted. I sat by helplessly, as David’s energy slowly seeped out of him, leaving him emptied and a mere shadow of himself. I could feel his head and his arms on me, so much lighter, so much weaker. He became like a skeleton. I worried. I worried terribly. I cried silently each night, as I watched helplessly. Not even able to whisper: I love you, Dear David. After the sores came again, covering his face, David’s family arrived, and took us to their house on the high hill. I’d thought then, David would get better, with the love of his Ma and Pa, with his dog Rascal, with all the visitors. But he didn’t. And no one could help him. Later, at the hospital, loved ones came for several weeks, each of them in their own way trying to make us feel more comfortable. I absorbed the tears, grateful that I could at least offer this in support. Most of the tears were David’s. But sometimes I caught others. And I stared out then, to David’s loved ones, with as much love as I could muster. In time the sickness took over. My Poor David could barely breathe. But I stayed right beneath him. Always. Until there came a moment he could no longer fight. It was then he clutched me tightly, and I caught the last of his tears—heard his last breath. He whispered, ‘I love you, Mommy.’ I listened, when no one else could. Later they took my David away, to a place they wouldn’t let me go. And I didn’t get to see him ever again. They never brought him back. And now there is only me—a lonely, heart-broken pillow without his little boy.”
On my last line, I wiped my tears while the audience stood up and applauded. The whole room was weeping.
When class let out, the professor explained how her close friend had just died from AIDS, and how very grateful she was for my performance. I can picture myself back then, a skinny little thing with my long auburn hair swept in front of my wide dark eyes. I remember the drama professor asking why I always hid myself with my hair, when I had such a pretty face. And I remember feeling shamed by her question, feeling as if she could see past my façade.
After class, I carried my hollowed-out pillow across campus, keeping a brisk pace with my eyes glued to the ground.
During my undergraduate years, I would never become what I had hoped to become. I wouldn’t be a cheerleader or live in the dorms. I wouldn’t attend one college event. Not one. I wouldn’t be in a sorority. In the first four years at school, I would make only one friend, a girl who would stop returning my calls after a few months. College would remain to me a dark hallway; a place I was forced to pass through to earn an education. A place I’d wear different masks and costumes, while pretending to be whomever I needed, in order to make my way through to the other side. A place where the real me was only seen once, that I can recall, on that one day I stood a lonely, heart-broken pillow.