The nurse didn’t see fit to tell me until later that I had bled all over arm, armrest, and

the corner of my sweatshirt.  She could tell, I suspect, that I was a little green,

and so withheld until it was over.

Then she called another nurse over to mop me up,

While I looked the other way and breathed deeply.

Still, I knew.

It’s not the needle, really.

For Cam it is.  He went pale on the way to the snack table and had to be bolstered up

and ushered over to a corner cot.

For me, it’s the bloodletting.  The concept of draining blood,

independent of instruments used.

It’s the bag full of warm blackness, which the nurses toss around like it’s a water balloon.

It’s the stacks and stacks of them, sorted and labeled and shipped away.

And so when I spurted (when the needle was removed, or so I am told),

It was too much.

I was a carcass draining, and it was too much.

Naturally, I fainted, even before I could make a joke about Find Me My Smelling Salts.


Third Time’s A

This is what happens when I venture out in public:

I went to gas up my mother’s minivan this evening.  Drove up to the pump, got out, walked down the side, and promptly noticed that the gas tank wasn’t there. It was on the other side of the van.

Embarrassed, I quickly got back in and pulled around to another pump.  Got out, walked down the side of the van, and realized that I had done the exact same thing again.

By this time absolutely certain that the cashier was cracking her gum and smirking at my struggle, I ducked my head and tried for a third time to park on the correct side.

You know what they say about the third time.

On the drive home, I sang “Sweet Caroline” loudly.  I drove past my high school and smiled because I don’t miss it there one bit.  The line of headlights behind me alerted me to the fact that I was going ten miles per hour below the speed limit.  I accidentally re-smashed a road-killed possum.  And then I arrived home, where my parents were waiting.

Fall Break is a wondrous thing.

Mi Sofa Es Tu Sofa

My gentleman caller and I were hanging out last night, and when it reached 11:30 and no more Virginia Woolf could be absorbed, nor more Latin American history terms memorized, I walked him downstairs to the front door.  The living room was pitch black, and so I was naturally startled when a voice emerged from the darkness: “Hello?”

“Uh, hello?” I said, gripping my cell phone, and hoping the screen wouldn’t crack if I used it as a bludgeon.

“Is Joey asleep?” The voice spoke again.

Whew, so he wasn’t after me.  I wondered how proficient Joey was with a cellular bludgeon.

“Yes, I think so.  I’m sorry, who are you?”

My eyes adjusted, and I could make out a figure laying on the couch.

“I’m Josh.  From Minnesotans United for All Families.  Joey said it was okay that I stayed over, but the house was dark when I got here, and it looked like everyone was asleep, so I just made myself comfortable.  I hope that’s okay.”

“Oh, of course it is.  Sorry, I didn’t know we were expecting anyone, but of course it’s perfectly fine.  Make yourself at home.”

Then I said goodnight and awkwardly retreated upstairs, shaking my head.  Only at Bag End do twenty-something-year-old politically-active visitors show up in the middle of the night to crash on our couch.

In other news, one five-hour copy editing session, two Social Science Office work shifts, two midterms, one two-mile run, and a 3.5 hour car ride are all that separate me from Fall Break.

I can do this.

Old Business and New

Saturday night, I forgot to tell you, I accepted a miniature cupcake from a tray thrust at me by strangers wearing red white and blue and dangling a large American flag out of the window of their minivan.  They had apparently been circling campus for the past hour and a half, because, although we denied them the first time they slid open the door and shouted at us to take a cupcake, the next time they stopped us (we were walking in the opposite direction; Play in a Day was over) we shrugged and chose vanilla cupcakes with globs of orange (or was it red?) icing.

“Are you college students?” I asked them.

“Some of us are,” the boy in the middle seat began, grinning at me from under his spangled hat.  But he was interrupted when another party of walkers was spotted: “Forward!” the driver bellowed, and so forward they went, cheering and letting the flag whip parallel to the speeding van.

The cupcakes, although cold, we delicious, and I think I can safely say that they weren’t poisoned, as I am able to type this post with minimal numbness.

To counteract that potentially poor decision, this morning I woke up at 4:45, struggled into yesterday’s jeans, sweater, coat, mittens, hat, and the longest scarf I could find (for optimum neck wrapping), scooped up backpack and gym bag, and caught a ride to campus.

This week is the first inaugural Mental Health Awareness Week at UMM, and as MCSA is the main planning squad, MCSA (or fifteen of us, at least) met on the Mall at 5:30 to put out the shoes.

It was early, and it was cold, and the sprinklers came on in the middle of the operation.  At one point, Annie held up a pair of women’s shoes: “Look at how huge these are!  Who has feet this big?”

I walked over on my size 10.5 (11 on a poor day) feet.  The shoes were too small for me.


Anyway, each pair of shoes we arranged on the Mall (there were 1,100 pairs) represented a college student who committed suicide last year in the United States.

It ended up being a powerful display; the shoes scattered around reminded me of gravestones.  Eerie.  It was fun, however, to watch the sun rise and the students trudge to class and do double takes as they walked past the Mall.  Some decided to cut across as usual, picking their way carefully.  Most chose to circumvent the memorial, instead craning their necks to read the signs we had posted.

Making Friends at Work

Things That Happened Today:

1.  I got The Birthday Package From Home in the mail.  I retrieved it at noon or so, and because it’s now 11:53 pm and I’m still on campus, it’s safe to say that I’ve been carrying a box roughly the size of a microwave around for twelve hours.  Mom, Dad: I hope you didn’t get me a puppy, because there’s a good chance that he didn’t make it.

2.  I helped a freshman (oh the glorious first few months of classes when it’s cake to spot them in a crowd) unlock her mailbox.  She was almost crying at the Post Office, and I can remember only too well when a letter from home was enough to open the floodgates for the rest of the day.  I thought she might hug me when I finally clicked the lock and wrenched the tiny door open, but instead she shuffled her mail into her eighteen-year-old arms and skipped away.

3.  I worked a Higbies shift during which I a) made a berry white mocha cooler for the first time b) took about ten minutes to make said cooler, as I had never made one before c) finally blended and whipped and drizzled said cooler into perfection, and d) proceeded to drop the entire thing on the floor, where it burst rather spectacularly, drenching my legs and feet in a wave of pink froth.  The orderer, who looked like she wanted to burst out laughing, said no when I told her I’d make her a new one.  “I’ll have a white chocolate cooler instead,” she said.  I emptied the sugary juice from my shoes before making her the drink.

Head for Shelter

Storms come up quickly on the prairie.

One minute you’re walking home from campus, chatting with a friend, and the next the wall of black that was in the distance seconds ago is looming overhead, bending trees and tossing hail the size of golf balls.

We ran, my friend and I, to the only refuge in sight: the liquor store.

Amidst the glinting bottles we waited, dripping onto the linoleum and ignoring the stare of the cashier.

He didn’t even ask to see our I.D.s.

Just Around the Riverbend

Yesterday morning, fresh out of Estes Park, Colorado and well fed on a three-bed room with two TVs, we went whitewater rafting.

It was my sister, my Mom, and I in a boat with two elderly women, a little girl, and a guide.

Our guide, to give you a visual, sported the most spectacular neck beard I’ve ever seen.  As if that wasn’t enough, he rafted wearing 70s flared pants, striped in the colors of your grandma’s living room, and laced at the front.  He did manage to guide us successfully through level four rapids and around formidable-looking boulders, however, so perhaps the George Harrison look wasn’t so bad after all.

The rafting itself was fantastic.  While you’re rafting, you feel just as badass as you had hoped to feel.  Your personal flotation device (or PFD, as the lingo goes) is pressing on your ribs and giving your back the appearance of one who’s recently escaped from a certain belfry.  Your helmet is reminiscent of the bowl haircut you sported in third grade.  Your Keens are wedged firmly into what can only be called a ‘toe cup.’  But you are planted proudly on the unpuncturable vinyl of the raft, with two hands on the paddle.  Your abs and shoulders dig into every stroke, and soon, you’re instinctively leaning into every rapid, anticipating the bump from every underwater rock.  You’re clearly queen of the river, even though it’s your first try.  You’re unconquerable.

And when the little girl commences screaming at every slight ripple of water, you seriously consider raising your paddle and whacking her out of the boat.

Being a true river queen, however, connotes a certain amount of mercy.

So you sit tight and hum Pocahontas under your breath.

A Good Find

While searching through my word document files, trying to find post material, I came upon something I had jotted down freshman year, shortly after finals week:

May 25th, 2010

For his biology final, my friend Sean had no idea what some of the short answer answers were.  So he made up answers.  He wrote stories in the blanks.  He told puns and jokes.  He drew pictures.  He generally had fun with the fact that he was drawing a biology blank. 

I know all of this because he told be about it shortly after taking the final, on one of the last days we were all freshman together in Morris.  I was probably stressed and carrying a heavy load of anthropology flash cards in my pocket.  Despite my state of mind, however, I was struck by what he did, and even more struck when he sent me the note his professor wrote on his graded final.  Enjoy:

“I doubt that your grade for Fun Gen will come as a great surprise, but (from the footnote you wrote) I did want to reassure you that I took no offense at your answers on the final exam.  I scored the answers to written questions starting with the back section (rather than the front page), and your answer to “Why are you a chordate?” made me laugh out loud.  I trust you won’t mind that I shared it with a few other people, including one prof who then commented “now that makes me want to start grading exams”.  So your good humor brought a little light to others as well.  And so this brings me to what I most want to say.  Sure, I am sorry that I could not inspire you with the fire of curiosity to understand how living things work, but knowing biology is not terribly important for most people’s lives.  On the other hand, being able to maintain, in the face of adversity, a sense of humor, charity, and respect, are wonderful qualities that anyone would aspire to but too few people have.  They are a gift you will bring to people throughout your life, and I am grateful for the chance to have met you.  You will know, then, that the grade you got in Fun Gen was solely a measure of what you learned in the course, and in no way my judgment of you.  And I trust you will recognize my sincerity in wishing you the very best.”


I’ve Found My Grounds

This morning was the third morning in a row to host a 3 am thunderstorm, and I’m afraid I’ve developed a routine: leap out of bed at the first boom of thunder, frantically unplug all electronics (fan included), get a drink of water while peering sleepily at the sky, and then fall back into bed, grateful to have a few more hours before my alarm goes off.

Unfortunately, said routine leaves me exhausted throughout the day, and when I’m exhausted, I tend to do stupid things.  This afternoon, for example, I was making my way through the tunnel toward the post office (to drop off a package for work).  A man walked by in front of me, and in the nanosecond of distraction it cost me to smile and say hi, I ran straight into a wall, face first.  I know he saw, because I could hear him chuckling around the corner.

And then, making dinner, I left the stove burner on and promptly set and oven mitt on top of it.  I wouldn’t have noticed until the whole kitchen was on fire, but my roommate smelled something burning and came to investigate.  The poor mitt is currently recuperating by an open window, and I’m sure she resents me greatly for the large black char that has taken the place of her lovely stitched holly berries.  Ironic, I suppose.

I just finished reading The Great Gatsby, and then spent a few moments basking in the perfection of that novel.  The beginning and ending mesh together, as if the middle were one tooth of a cog spinning very slowly, until on the last page another tooth fell into place next to it, with an echoing ‘click.’  I sound stupid now, but I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that I still like Gatsby.  I’ve been saying that Scott Fitzgerald is my favorite for years, based mostly on one read in eleventh grade.  I’ve always felt a little guilty about this, as if I’ve had no grounds for my claim.  Now, twenty-one, I’ve found my grounds.