Holly Graduates from College, Acts I-II

My goodness, I have such a graduation story to tell you!  It has everything: action, drama, ugly robes, copious hugs, celebrities, public speaking, a trip to the ER …

Obviously, then, it’s going to take me a while to write out such a saga.  Bear with me.  It’s a long story.

I’ll be publishing it in parts.  Both for my sanity and yours.

Act I. Prequel

About a month ago, I broke the overhead light fixture in the bathroom in the house I’m renting (with three housemates) from a former UMM professor.  This was bad for three reasons:

1. I’m renting the house.  And the former UMM professor is currently trying to sell the house.  And a bare lightbulb in the bathroom looks kind of sad.

2. I’m renting the house.  And that means I put down a deposit when I moved in to ensure that if I broke or otherwise damaged any part of the house, my landperson could keep the deposit and use it to pay for repairs.  The light I broke may not have been very expensive (not that I know much about lighting beyond my enjoyment of that glowing section of Menards), but it was probably enough to justify my landperson keeping my deposit.

3. The light fixture I broke (not the actual bulb, but the globe that fit over it) was made of glass, which is sharp, hard to see, and generally dangerous.

Knowing this, I swept thoroughly.  I made sure to get the corners, the sink (where the light initially landed and shattered to almost cinematic effect), the tub, even out in the hallway, where I suspected small pieces had flown and were lurking.  Throughout the next week, I swept a few more times, and picked up tiny individual pieces that I had missed.  But by the week after that, I had mostly forgotten about the incident.  There were no more random glitters as I brushed my teeth, no more ominous crunches underfoot.

Act II. Or So I Thought

It was the morning of Commencement.  I had slept fairly well the night before, due to the NyQuil I was still allowed to take because of a lingering cold.  I was mostly concerned with not thinking about my impending speech, and so I showered, washed my face, and brushed my teeth with almost zombie-like coolness.  On the way out of the bathroom, I took the same route as usual: I stepped over the threshold and turned immediately left, then left again around the low-walled stairwell, and then turned right into my bedroom.  Somewhere along that route–I suspect not far from the bathroom–I felt a sudden stinging in the bottom of my left foot.  I thought, as had happened before, that a small piece of gravel, tracked in from outside, was stuck to my foot, pressing its sharpness against it.  When I looked, I didn’t see anything but a small cut, which was bleeding profusely.  Strangely, that part of my foot hurt a lot when I put weight on it, which was what initially led me to suspect that there was something in my foot.  I was running a little late, and so didn’t have time to do much besides apply a band-aid and note with satisfaction that my fancy graduation sandals forced me to walk on the middle/inside of my feet instead of on the outside, where the wound was.

In Which I Call for Help and am Answered by Tim

I am happy to report that the saga has ended.  My truck has been pulled free of its icy prison, and is currently resting happily, if tiredly, in the back alley driveway.

Really, the only unfortunate part of this ending is that I didn’t procure it myself.

Yes, friends, I caved and called AAA.

But only after another afternoon of scraping, gas pedal tapping, and boiling pot after pot of water to pour on the stubborn ice.  My housemate, Jordan, came out to help after a time, which was cause for additional optimism: Jordan recently bought (and maintains) a motorcycle.  Jordan recently started a business consisting of himself and a friend performing oil changes for college students who can’t afford to go to the local shop (or, heaven forbid, the dealer).  Jordan had some ideas.  He went to the garage and returned with several small planks of wood and a dirty towel.  The idea was that the planks would give the truck some leverage, and that the towel could fill in the watery tire grooves for added support.  It was a valiant effort, but after watching the planks shot forty feet from the truck by the force of spinning tires (I got out of the way, or else I would undoubtably be typing with my right leg missing below the knee), we decided that a tug was the only hope.

The AAA man was nice on the phone.  “I’ll send my son out,” he told me gently, “he’s going to delay his meal and head out there.”

“Oh, he shouldn’t do that!” I exclaimed, horrified at the prospect of the son, stomach growling, turning away his dinner in favor of helping an automobile-impaired college student who had managed to get her truck lodged in front of her own house.

The man insisted, though, and within a half hour, his son Tim was hooking a tow chain to the back of my truck.  One good yank and then a push from Tim, his right shoulder braced in my front wheel bed, and I was free.

I thanked Tim, drove a victory lap around town, and then went to the grocery store for a celebratory (and much-needed) shop.

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Johnny Cash Trumps Grumpiness

Typical of Bag End, I can only guess at what’s going on downstairs.  I was reading for 1950s History, poring over Nightmare in Red as if watching a Soap Opera (I am convinced that the Red Scare and The Days of Our Lives are equally ridiculous), when the music began.

It took me a while to recognize the song, but eventually, through the foot-stomping and clapping, I picked up the notes of “Folsom Prison Blues,” played amateurly on someone’s acoustic guitar.  Yes, friends, there is a party downstairs.  There is homemade curry.  There is folk music.

Somehow, even though I’ll have a mountain of reading to do tomorrow, even though they’re not exactly my friends, even though they’re positively drunk, I cannot bring myself to go tell them to keep it down.  Not when they’re singing Johnny Cash.

They’re singing 4 Non Blondes now.  I’m officially going down there to join.  Talk to you tomorrow.

In Which I Am Unflatteringly Honest

There’s a party going on downstairs, one that smells like Argentine steak and wine instead of beer and cigarette smoke.  The voices are happy to be reunited after a long Winter Break, they’re giddy talking about what they’ve done and what they will do.

And I, concussed, am up here by myself.  Uninvited, and thus trapped.  There’s no way out of this darn house for me except to go down the stairs, which open up in the middle of the dining room, which is right where everyone is.  I can’t think of anything more pathetic than for the third housemate to tiptoe out into the rain, past everyone who is having fun and spearing hunks of beef with water-spotted forks.

This is not one of my finer moments.

Anyway, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go.  Few people are back in town yet (classes start Monday), and a casual walk would quickly be rendered miserable by the rain and the cold.

So I’m up in my tower, reading book after book and casually keeping tabs on the voices wafting through the vents.

This really hasn’t been the most flattering post, but as much as I’d love you all to believe that I’m some kind of superstar, getting myself into pickles, even of a social nature, is sort of my forte.  Also, I’m cranky and tired and frankly needed to write this down or go crazy and rampage through the party wearing sweatpants and my Gatsby crewneck.

Rain in November: A Brief Story

“I’d forgotten that it rains in November,” Holly said profoundly, leaning chin against palm and gazing out the window.  The neighbor’s plump yellow lab was crouched under the lilac bushes, as usual.  The bushes had lost their leaves over a month ago, but Francis seemed unaware that his cover was blown.  Anyone who walked down the sidewalk was greeted with what Francis considered to be a surprise attack.  It always ended up being mostly slobber, and some hardly menacing woofs.  Satisfied, Francis would then slink back into his prickly cave, looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was watching.

Holly was supposed to be writing her Grammar and Language paper.  She was supposed to be doing an online activity for Teach for America.  She was supposed to be researching Virginia Woolf, researching fortune in Renaissance romance, cleaning her room.  Instead, she had freshly painted toenails and about a thousand new recipe ideas from Pinterest.

The rain was hypnotizing, it was dulling.  Droplets of it splattered Francis’ exposed yellow nose, which was, to his great chagrin, turning grey at the edges.  Fat, wet globes grazed the Carnegie library across the street, flattening out before slithering down the brick walls.  Cars went by in slow motion, their drivers rendered sweaty and sleepy from seat heaters.

And inside, Jordan and Natalie studied in the breakfast nook, their woolen feet propped on the bench opposite.  A small fly threw itself again and again at the exposed lightbulb in the bathroom, which someone had left turned on.  Holly considered rearranging her bookshelf: classics at the forefront, popular fiction shoved behind.  Jordan pulled off his tam, ran his hand against the back of his head.  The fly grinned in delight as its papery flesh sizzled against the fluorescent.  Holly applied lipstick slowly, filling in every pink groove with red wax.  It tasted like those little bottles of juice Mom used to buy for her and Amy every so often.  Once the neon liquid was gone, one could bite into the soft plastic.  Natalie typed a few words into her laptop, considered Jordan, considered the window, considered the cupboards and the paper bag full of recyclables.  The fly rested on the toilet seat, staring up at the white-yellow globe, felt its rapid heart swell with adoration.

Below, Francis tucked his tail more securely under him, felt the rain let up.

Orlando

It’s just past 4 p.m., and I, most blessed of women, am reclined beneath quilt, reading Orlando.  He frolics about Elizabethan England, writing poetry and serving the Queen and staring curiously at peasants frozen in the cold (which, Woolf tells us, we don’t have anymore).  And I listen to the sound of Grace’s mother arriving downstairs: “Here’s the living room, here’s the table, which is actually worth about $3,000 (we have to be careful with it).  Here’s the kitchen, which was clean yesterday.  Here’s my room.  The clothes on the floor are clean; I don’t have drawers, so I have to keep them there.”  Her mother replies that it’s okay, it’s okay, she’s not here to judge our quality of life.  There’s a ring around the bathtub and the floors grit a little underfoot, but she won’t say anything, because we’re in college, and because all she wants is to take her overworked daughter out to dinner.

I, dutifully, line up my tasks: annotated bibliography, Orlando, Urania, Lexicon, OED worksheet, MLA worksheet, Teach for America application.  I’ve accidentally left my Christmas lights on all night and all day, and slowly they are winking from blue to white.  Like dying stars, I don’t realize until it has already happened, and then I run my eyes up and down the string, counting the changes.  Seven whites so far, four light blues.  The rest shine steadfastly on, lighting the corner while I read Orlando.

Savage Weather

The weather, my dear friends, has been savage today.  It’s been raining, but what’s more, it has been cold and windy and raining, which makes everything so much worse.  It’s gone past the romance of rain slapping window panes, has skipped over Brontean moor weather.  It is officially savage outside.  You get one step onto your doorstep, pause to hear the inhale, and are almost blown backwards by the exhale of water and wind.  Clothes wrap soggily around ankles and wrists and knit hats droop against heads and it’s worth an extra look to the left and to the right at every cross walk because the cars never seem to slow.  I’m not the kind of person who minds bringing up the weather, as trivial as it may seem to everyone else.  In fact, pulling together a mental tally, I’ve probably made a variation on the same comment to five separate people today: “I don’t mind the rain, but when it’s rainy and cold I’m just miserable.”  I tried to say it with the lightest touch of wry humor, as if, oh dear, I’m wringing out my sweater, but it’s all very funny.  It is all very funny, but I’m careful to make it seem so, because worse than the girl who talks about the weather is surely the girl who complains about it.  As I clipped home in my boots-while heeled, they’re the closest to waterproof I’ve got-I passed the place where the railroad tracks cut across my street.  And there, on the ground, was the candy-striped beam that flashes lights and blocks the tracks when trains come by.  Its wires were still connected to the post, and it lay so peacefully that I wasn’t sure if it had fallen at all; perhaps some men had come to work on it before the rain started, and set it down when the rain came.  Perhaps they were in the coffee shop on the corner, dunking scones and watching me ponder their half-finished project.  I stepped carefully over the beam and continued home, briefly considering calling the police to make sure it really was all right.  Its wires were still connected, after all.  Now I’m in bed, and my blue Christmas lights are on.  The storm windows are continually crashing against the house, and I keep mistaking the sound for the sound of someone climbing the steps, or slamming the front door.  It’s funny, this house, because while we don’t often see each other, and while I’m not sure if we’re all even friends, there’s a comfort in knowing that every one is home at the same time.  Grace will be studying in the breakfast nook, or playing Zelda while Jordan looks on.  Jordan, when not watching Zelda, has Latin music turned all the way up, and is making squash soup or pumpkin pie (like he did on Tuesday).  Joey likes to know what the rest of us are doing, and grins to be part of it all.  But otherwise he strums his guitar in his room, and takes a running leap down the stairs, which crash and echo the same way my storm windows do.  I’m often not here, but when I am, I’m studying on my bed, or considering the mound of laundry rotting in my closet, or crying over a Keats movie (like I did on Wednesday).  We’re all here now; I hear voices from downstairs.  It’s still savage outside.  But we’re all home, you know?