Early Night Ghosts

I think there might be rats in the walls. Or mice. Possibly cockroaches, although that seems far less likely, as the climate here isn’t very conducive to such insects. Then again, it might be the ghost, the Merry Field ghost that wanders about our halls and sometimes opens windows and doors that we haven’t touched. When I knock on certain doors in our flat, the doorknobs will rattle and there will be a little rustle from inside. When I call out, I’ll find out that the room’s occupant is out or in the shower, but definitely not in the room. So I back away slowly, respectful, giving the ghost its due. It doesn’t hurt me to be careful and I don’t lose anything by being occasionally superstitious.

Eight week begins tomorrow. The last week of Michaelmas Term, 2012. There is something alarming, terrifying, about seeing how fast these weeks have gone by. Each day has been long, sometimes tortuously so. Today, for instance, has been spent with a back-ache, fury and resentment and resignation moving through my gut, and a constant need to sleep rather than study; all of which have been, of course, pushed back so that I could read Henry Miller’s book, “Tropic of Cancer.” Which, by the way, is the first book I’ve read in a very long time that I actively dislike.

Listening to Duke Ellington, I try to soothe my back and chest aches with deep breaths and reminders that soon enough I’ll be going to bed. I have vowed to have an early night. One a week is allowed, is it not? I think so.

Seventh Week Stories

Seventh Week

Seven is a lucky number, supposedly. I misspelled the word “supposedly” at first, typing it out “supposefly” by accident. Suppose. Fly. Suppose I could fly? Suppose a fly? Suppose “fly”, the word? Freudian slip, I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me. You need to be clearer, if you want me to listen to you.

I am flying in less than two weeks now, though. Maybe that’s what the suppose-fly business was all about. I’m going to be flying out of my beloved England on December 6, a Thursday, in the evening.

Here is a story about things that happen in Oxford sometimes. My thoughts are in disarray tonight, and so putting things together in the following form should make things easier.

____

A crowd gathers in front of the Pret A Manger on Cornmarket Street. They are holding signs and chanting. They want Palestine to be freed. They announce to the world that they are all Palestinians. They don’t discriminate – they include anyone who wants to stand with them. They are all Palestinians.

Two girls watch them for a while before disappearing into a shop across the way in order to buy glitter, safety-pins and other basic needs for what is to be one of the biggest nights of the year. They aren’t the only ones. The city is packed with people in their late teens and early twenties, finding their way between the slow-walking, photograph-taking tourists. The students are easy to pick out. They’re the ones who don’t look awed anymore. They’re the ones whose eyes are slightly glazed, either with last night’s alcohol or with the weight of their own inflated thoughts. They have balloon heads, if balloons were always filled with shrieking confetti. They have concrete heads, if concrete could also have live worms crawling around in it.

The big night happens. There is a tent, there are lights, there are noodles and there is booze. There are lots of blackened eyes. Nobody gets as sweaty as they wish they would because even under the tent, it can get cold. One blond man in smart casual dress didn’t get the memo, he doesn’t understand what kind of party this is. He is escorted out by security officers before midnight, fighting them valiantly. His friends trail along behind the guards, drunkenly accepting the situation, not asking any questions.

Many things happen that night. There are plays and other parties and there is always something else to do if you go looking for it. There is also always work, waiting, sizzling like a popcorn pot on a low flame. It waits in your room and its smell reaches you eventually; the oil, burning, and then the popping noise as the guilt-kernels begin to smash against the metallic top of your brain. That’s when you know it’s time to go home. If you don’t, the house might burn down.

There is another week, the sixth or seventh or eighth really, but it’s named – officially – only the sixth. That’s acceptable. It is like any other week, except people begin to disappear. Some are in their rooms. Others hole up in corners of various libraries. There is a smell of hormones permeating the city, or maybe it’s Christmas, or maybe it’s just your fucked up nostrils. You remember to be thankful. You forget. You remember. You rebel. You remind yourself. You hate it. You’re thankful anyway. It’s petty not to be. There is too much that’s good, and anyone who doesn’t realize that… stop. No judging.

A restaurant is packed for a girl’s birthday. Her face is pasted on all of her presents, because her friends love her, think she is beautiful, and want to remind her of that. She laughs, but inside, she melts. Someone thinks I’m beautiful, she wants to sing, and as everyone hands the presents around, they all agree. She is beautiful because she is she, one of a kind, the only one. Each person is. Everyone is beautiful. This is a thing to be thankful for, in grocery-stores and markets, on buses and on dark streets where only houses are visible. The houses could be in Yonkers, or in Bronxville, or in Los Angeles or in New Jersey. But they’re not. They’re here, and they have their own brand of mist hanging in front of them.
Marshmallows, two bags of them, each bag mixing pink and white tufts of sugar. They go on some yams. It is the day after Thanksgiving.

Crowd of Latelies

Lately

Sunday. Woke up at an ungodly time in order to cram some studiousness into a day otherwise abandoned to the pursuit of catching up with a friend. Picked said friend up at train station – a new discovery for us both, this place – at noon, and proceeded to show off the gloom of Oxford. As friend is castle connoisseur and lover of old things, he found the city as bizarre and beautiful as I had at first. He reminded me of how taken aback I was, at first, by the strangeness of walking in and out of buildings dating back hundreds of years. It’s a kind of time travel. You get used to everything. At least James Bond does.

Monday. Errands achieved, story written. Majority of the day taken up, of course, in the pursuit of Faulkner’s sounds and furies as well as children’s specific reading disabilities.

Tuesday. I missed my Aba. I didn’t realized until I started vacuuming the apartment that I was channeling my inner Uriel. I love the way I find myself haunted by his thoughts sometimes. I hate how rare it increasingly becomes.
An interview on the subject of being, living and identifying as LGBTQ followed by an international talk with a friend followed by a sub-editing shift at The Oxford Student. Looking at this list, it seems to be so comprehensively communicative. I am not a hermit. I am not a hermit. I am not a hermit.

Tuesday night. Election obsession. BBC was shamed into becoming CNN. The Americans were entirely at fault, or virtue, for that. Those of us who stayed, riveted, to the screens in the Junior Common Room (JCR) were unabashedly nervous, checking our computers constantly, refusing all alcohol until after the results were in. There was a very drunk student near me who was, at times, amusing to watch; at others, I was close to physical violence, asking his less belligerent friend to get him to stop blocking the screen. When we realized, coming on 4:30am, that everything was over, Obama had won for certain, three of us – the three girls who happened to share an incredible literature professor last year – rose from our seats, chests heaving, smiles ripping at our faces. Everyone was cheering. We were hugging.

Wednesday. Lost to Faulkner criticism, I realized that I also lost another pair of black gloves, as well as the first two items of clothing I’d ever knit for myself: a purple scarf and a black and blue hat. I have yet to find them again. I suspect they have been swept into the trash or stolen. If stolen – I hope someone is enjoying them, at least. If binned – damn damn damn the waste.

Thursday. 3am. Almost finished Faulkner paper. 3:30am. Went to sleep. 6:45am. Woke up. Finished Faulkner paper. Went to school in East Oxford to read with a graceful, wonderful child. She was ten, and reminded me of myself at that age. She thought I was cool. I thought she was cooler. We hit it off. I wished I could teach her every day. Making a connection with a child like that – feeling like you’re getting somewhere with them, helping them enjoy and understand and retain a piece of written material – is one of the best, most uplifting, joyous and heart-swelling feelings I’ve yet to experience. It’s a terrifying kind of trust and power dynamic.

Thursday. Night. Danced behind the Sheldonian to the ghostly music floating out of it. Had incredible, romantic and passionate conversation about books at a bar that includes horrendous artwork in glaringly overbearing frames. Danced, danced, danced between sweaty people stuffed between sweaty walls.

Friday. Errands. A realization. I fucking hate thinking about clothes. I hate how they make me feel. I hate needing to think about them. I hate needing to be aware of them all the time. I hate dealing with them. They are not where I invest my money. I will always – always – feel like I’ve wasted money by spending it on clothes that aren’t practical and comfortable and that I can and will wear on a daily basis. I love the way other people wear clothes. I love the way other people have the patience for them. I love the way other people have eyes for them. I love looking at clothes. I am envious of their attitude towards clothes. I am jealous of their ability to enjoy clothes. I wish I had the patience for clothes myself, or the belief that there was a point to them. But I am perverse: take me in my ragged tank tops, my old sweatshirts, and my comfortable jeans. Take me in the same style of clothing, day after day. Or fuck off, don’t take me at all. As usual – I don’t want to be judged, but I am my own worst natural foil. I am not alone in this. I am one of many, a vast majority of us who trip ourselves up. Just one of the crowd.

Observations

1. The angelic royal (or the royal angel) and his fool are an odd couple. A prince and a man dressed in black motley, they spend much of their time together. Their height, when seen from afar, seems to be identical. Are they twins? Merely brothers, one a bastard, the other acknowledged and his birthright celebrated? Their story is knotty, twisted within the rumor trees which leak sap that sticks to my fingers. I lick it off, one finger at a time. Each one tastes different, and even the bitterest ones, I relish.

2. The mazes they told me about were only a myth. I know there are labyrinths there; there must be. But they’re empty now. The books are gone. They live in a facility, far away. Someone took Bertha out of the attic and put her away in a clean, white space, where she’s being taken care of. She’s fed three meals a day and she gets to watch television and finger-paint. She’s calm now. She doesn’t bite or growl anymore. But she isn’t really alive anymore either. The books are the same, locked in their cages. Their pages are safe, climate-controlled, but their smell is leaking away into the chrome and plastic and silicone. I’m glad that I don’t have to trample them under my dirty, leafy-wet boots, but I miss them. I miss Bertha sometimes, too.

3. I get less migraines, on the whole, but when I do, they are worse. Much worse. I am getting less acquainted with the sense of continual heavy pain. There are still the usual constant headaches, but they are the norm. The migraines, in the weather shift between ice and heat, are like the buffets and blows of a cruelly punching wind. My eyes roll around and I get confused. Stop it, head. Just stop it.

4. To the Owner of My Father’s Black Gloves: I hope you’re enjoying them. If you don’t like them, leave them on a bench somewhere. Maybe I’ll find them.

5. Balancing on a beam is easier when it is made of sunshine. Jumping between raindrops and fog makes me lose my footing. My lucky charms are worth exactly one cappuccino, and my bookshelves are the emptiest they’ve ever been.

6. There is a storefront in Gloucester Green designed as a deliberate tease. It advertises free books in the window. The door, made of glass, has a bold sticker on it, instructing pedestrians to PUSH. But it is always locked. I find myself smeared against that door, every time I walk by, peering in to see if the boxes upon cardboard boxes lined up in a neat rectangle on the floor have moved. They haven’t. Maybe whoever has the key will open up, one day, and will let me take the three books I’m allowed to take. Saving books from landfills is noble work. I think the books will be happier on shelves than in boxes, in a dusty shop, all alone.