Selections from an Upcoming Thesis

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

To spare you from having to read more garbage, I’ve decided to let loose a few more paragraphs from the thesis project. They come from just about the dead-on middle of the piece and are rather emotionally drippy, but since they form a complete little story by themselves, I though they’d work well here.

Without further fuss:

Wednesday Morning

Bbeep. Bbeep. Bbeep.

Knock knock knock knock. Knock knock.

I come halfway back into consciousness and then realize that the alarm’s going off and someone’s knocking loudly on the door to my room. I glance at the clock. 10:47. Shit. I flick off the alarm switch.

Knock knock.

I rub my eyes and get up to answer the door.

It’s Molly. “You’re alarm’s been going for an hour, James! We can hear it downstairs.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry about that.” I smell terrible. “Thanks for getting me.”

“No problem.”

She walks off and I shut my door back. My class started at ten. Depressing. I stand at the window for a couple minutes, watching the gardeners. I only see two of them, but they’ve got a couple shrubs planted, now, and a patch of pink flowers on one side. The street’s quiet, otherwise.

When I’m messy, everything in the room feels messy. Like, the dirt in my hair and the funk on my clothes accentuates each bit of dust on my books, each scratch on my desktop, the disorganized pile of papers by my bed, making them unpleasant to be around. Normally such things don’t bother me much.

I sit down at my desk to evaluate my options. I could declare the day a waste and wander down to FastMart for a forty of malt liquor. That would be rediculous, but would have a certain amount of style to it. My head’s so sleepy. Or, I could try to counteract the damage done by missing class by spending a couple hours going over the missed content and catching up with some other work.

Food would be good, but I hate going downstairs so late in the morning looking like such a mess — my hair messy, my eyes red and half-open. I take an Oreo out of my desk drawer and eat it. The sugar helps wake me up.

A small packet of photographs lays underneath the Oreos — photographs taken last Spring at a party in Julia’s back yard. I look at a couple of them. Nothing much. Just a few of us grilling sausage and vegetables. Julia and most of her friends eat meat — always a shock after spending so much time in this house. Here’s a shot of Julia fencing Carlos with sausage forks. Here’s one of Philip and Micah sitting in lawnchairs with cups of beer. Here’s one of Julia and her housemate Laura dancing on the patio. Here’s one of Julia and I standing together, looking like the cute couple that I guess we were.

We dated for a little more than a year. Maybe fourteen months. The relationship — the latest of a string of about four I’d had college — ended about eight months ago, back in August. Julia graduated the May before and had been accepted into a very nice graduate program in comparative lit out at NYU — an opportinity she’d been preparing for since she entered college and just couldn’t turn down.

Through most of the summer before her departure we skirted the issue — swimming, seeing friends, enjoying ourselves — and acted as if the day she would leave town would just never arrive. And August 24th seemed like a lifetime away from April, May, and June. Less distant from July. And by early August the reality of the matter had dawned on us clearly, culminating in the wrenching afternoon of August 22nd — two days before she had planned to drive out to New York for good.

I remember the date well because after the fact I wrote about the whole event in detail inside my coffee-stained cardboard composition notebook journal. The journal lives on my bookshelf, now, stuck between a Victorian Lit reader and a Milan Kundera novel I haven’t read.

We spent that sunny Sunday afternoon on a secluded park bench up at McLaren park, which overlooks campus and some of the buildings downtown. I knew what we would be talking about just by the tone of Julia’s voice on the phone when she invited me to come out with her. Cold. Like I frightened her.

Our conversation probably ran like a million other such circumstantial-break-up conversations have run over the course of the millenia. Of course we did not want to split up, but Julia couldn’t turn down NYU and I had to finish my degree here — and who knows where I might end up after graduation. I could end up going for a graduate degree, as well, and it might be five, six, or seven years before we would get the chance to live in the same town again together. A long-distance relationship spanning the rest of our forseeable lives would just not work. She dated a guy for a few months who just lived across the state and found that uncomfortable enough. I never have, but I could predict that I would not enjoy it.

Part of having a boyfriend or girlfriend is actually being physically near the person, doing the otherwise normal, mundane things of life with them. Having to set aside entire weeks or weekends to visit her, just hearing about her life and not sharing it — it wouldn’t work, no matter how strongly I felt about her right then, sitting on a park bench in McLaren park on a cloudless August afternoon.

Our conversation lasted about an hour, I guess. Neither of us had on a watch. The next couple hours and into sunset we just sat there quietly and watched the human traffic: guys playing frisbee in the grass, cars driving near the park and on the streets below, the few Sunday night lights flicking on inside buildings like earthly constellations as the sky truned from pale blue to purple to navy.

We leaned against each other a little, but didn’t make much eye contact. When we did, I felt as if I were already looking into the eyes of some faint ghost, some former someone already living only in some hazy sentimental picturebook of my memory — hardly real.

That was the last time I saw her before she left.

She called the night she arrived in New York. The new apartment was really nice — and close to campus — and her new apartment mate, a girl coming to town from Chicago to study dance, was very nice and cool and Julia thought they’d get along well. For a couple months we talked on the phone weekly, then those calls petered out to about once a month, and now I haven’t spoken with her at all since January. I think she has a new boyfriend, now, and is (for good reason) reluctant to talk to me about him. She has someone new to share her experiences with.

These days she really does just live in my mind and on the few photographs I have of her — and the few journal entries I bothered to write while we were together. I haven’t written in my journal since then.

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