Last Week of Classes

You know it’s that time of year again when…

1. You spot a student toting around a liter bottle of Mountain Dew and a styrofoam cup.

2.  There are suddenly no open seats in the library.

3.  Facebook whining abounds.

4.  Pajama pants are the new jeans.

5.  Procrastinating on one paper consists of working on another.

6.  You cannot talk about everything you still have to do without the seven people nearest to you jumping down your throat, bewailing seminars and presentations and cumulative exams.

7.  The line at the coffee shop is a mile long, especially after 9 p.m.

8.  The library begins to offer free five minutes massages, and turns the poetry room into a sanctuary of meditation and smelly oils.

9.  The expressions on people’s faces, once you get past the red eyes and pale cheeks, are identical: a healthy combo platter of frenzied, weary, and grimly resigned.

Also:

IMG_0362

Everybody pray.

Marathoning

I needed to write my Virginia Woolf final paper last night, and my friends, I was struck down by apathy.  Otherwise known as senioritis, otherwise known as the senior slide, otherwise known as post-Thanksgiving culture shock.  Suddenly, it all seemed futile: writing papers, doing readings, sitting through lectures, even serving on student government.  How would any of this help me with my life’s work?  I wondered.  How was it relevant, and why was I killing myself with stress and fatigue juggling it all?  Further, why did my intelligence have to be dependent on a literary paper, or a history exam?  Why are we forcing our young people to compete like this, and to stretch themselves so thin that they can hardly breathe?

Giving up, I went to bed at eleven.

I skipped two classes today so that I could stay home and write, but still, I couldn’t come up with a good idea.  A little of the apathy was gone, but the desperation that replaced it was even more paralyzing.

Now, sitting in an empty classroom in the social science building, To the Lighthouse propped open with my cell phone, Mrs. Dalloway marked over with pencil, I finally have an idea that could potentially become a ten page paper.

This is a small gain, however, as there are five more papers ahead.  And two exams. And a senior seminar presentation.  And a job interview.

The worst part about finals, let me tell you, is not the actual work: it’s the anticipation of the work, and of the effects said work will have on your well-being.  It’s knowing that you won’t sleep, will eat whatever’s quick, and will not have any social contact outside of class and the library.  It’s like a marathon:  We prepare ourselves for it, we put ourselves through the intense stress of the actual event, and then when it’s over, we feel triumph, but we also wonder (maybe in the back of our minds) why we ran in the first place, and whether we’re really better for it.

I don’t know, folks, but I’m gearing up at the starting line regardless.

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.

A Procrastination Poem

I’ve been at the library for weeks and months,

or maybe two hours.

I’ve bobbed up and down several times, up to check out two movies

(needed to write my paper on the cinematography of The Queen and Gandhi),

down again to write a paragraph, hammering at my thesis with bit-blunt nails

I would rather sink into this uncomfortable wooden chair

And watch Helen Mirren do her best

But instead I have to focus on the way the light bounces off her hair

and the reason why she stands behind the couch instead of sitting upon it with the rest of them.

Why should I suffer so, you wonder?

Folded into coat and scarf in the corner of the first floor?

For my GPA, of course.

And to graduate with Honors, and to get into grad school and to earn my masters and doctorate

and to eventually sit in a far more palatable chair, doling out papers such as these

to poor juniors who would rather

just

sleep.

Rolling The R’s

I slept until 1 pm this afternoon, only stirring when a poster fell in my room.

Since then, it seems, I’ve been staring at my computer screen, flipping between a blank word document and various non-related websites.  It’s the first paper of the semester, a mere 2 pager, and I’m procrastinating with everything I’ve got.  And so it goes (Jeopardy clue yesterday: in which novel is that phrase frequently repeated?).

It’s due at noon tomorrow, it’s only a literary analysis.  I’ve had to write dozens of them.  It’s on a book that looks like this:

Maybe I should just write the thing.