Octubre

Monday. I need weekends of nothing. My body was stiff with stillness. From under use. I tell myself there will be more days. Longer fall days to walk & breathe in. I hope that is true. I needed to stay put. To feel the stillness round me. To unthink myself and be only.

The house was damp all day. Sinking into the floor. A pool of wet air. I wore socks but my feet were still cold and stiff. Hard to stand on.

I feel so free when we are together. Like I’m living outside of my skin. Beyond the boundaries of my body. It makes me feel strange. Makes me feel like we are strange–that our life together must be strange. But strange is only a word I’m using in place of a word I do not know. I feel in a way I can’t quite grasp. I am unable to explain how I feel when we are together. It is a good feeling, but it is a feeling that is strange to me. Unknown.

We made a morning of it, yesterday. We drove to Not By Bread Alone. Unaware that it is always closed on Sundays. We rerouted to Cheesecake Heaven with large coffees–a stuffed peanut butter cookie and an apple turnover between us. He was disappointed in the turnover. So was I–the filling seemed fake. Canned.

We walked through Woodman’s. I made sweet potato black bean chili. Simple yet satisfying. That is my new preferred style of cooking. Simple. Satisfying.

I went to the library. I flipped through books and read and sat. Needing the hushed space in the room to fill my lungs. Needing the quiet to settle in around me. Breathing in the dying pages. Needing to feel anonymous and unnoticed. Unimportant in the big, well-lit space. I felt comforted. I felt like I belonged. I felt silenced.

He made salmon, spinach and squash for dinner. We ate at the table facing the dark street. I wonder what we look like from the outside. If we look strange. I always wonder.

He is like a baby dinosaur. Too big for his body, yet still small. He makes noises from the back of his throat. His teeth are big and sharp. His mouth is usually open. I have never seen a baby dinosaur, but this is how I imagine them. Small, fully grown creatures. In miniature. Cute, tiny monsters. Harmless but scary looking. Unappealing.

She said to remember the one who can talk to the dead. She said she shouldn’t have assumed I cannot talk to the dead. She apologized. I clarified for her. But maybe I should have admitted she was a little bit right. There are times, sometimes, when I wonder– if this is not talking to the dead, what is it? My imagination.

I cannot talk to the dead, but I know to what you are referring.

He didn’t know what she meant, but he liked the reading. It made him happy for me, excited. I had never received a reading in public before. It was quite the vulnerable state. Can you see the inside of my mind like I can?

Monday. We slurped bone marrow alone at the bar. There was no one to make small talk with. The wind blew and the people drove to the stadium. We sat at the bar alone crunching on crostini until we had no excuse but to go home.

Sticky fingers

9:30pm. I’m in bed. Bedtime in my world. Some days it’s all I can stand, waiting for bed. The warmest, safest, freest place in my life. I want to stack up all the time to have all the time in bed.

Is this stuck? What is stuck? I feel stuck when I watch the news or when I read my social media feeds. The same fights, the same gaping holes, the same lack of anything interesting. The same feeling of overwhelmed. The same disgust in my face in reaction to the world. This has not changed in all my years of living. Is this stuck?

I can retire in 32 years. In 32 years I will be 63, which means I will be twice as old as I am now. I have my whole life yet to work, but I’ll probably live 30 more years after I retire, which means I have only lived 1/3 of my life yet. Which means I haven’t even worked 1/4 of my working life yet. But I find myself tired of the routine, tired of the questions, tired of the sameness of it all. I see the same people. I have vaguely similar conversations, at least about the same topics. I worry about the same things. Everyday, something so familiar is waiting for me.

I sleep, I eat, I dress, I drive, I think, I smile, I talk, I feel. Is this stuck?

I come home and feel the same way as I do most nights. I have the same feeling about my housemate as I did the day before. We have the same arguments. He talks in his same thoughtful, distracted way, while I listen in my same critical, attentive way. Is this stuck?

It has been raining for days. The same night sounds comes through my open window. I wrestle the same insecurities I always have before bed. Was I enough today? Was I too much today? I set my alarm for the same time, I write in the same spot. Is this stuck?

What if life is only about making peace with the stickiness of things? What if life is the wet leaves falling from the sleepy tree and we are only the sidewalk below. Waiting for something to stick.

Even though the season will change, it will all eventually happen again, won’t it? Maybe life is being grateful to have so many things happen again, to be able to rely on the repeat, on the cycle, on the grace in being able to count on the things.

Or maybe life is having the courage to disrupt the sameness of things, because it can always carry on without you. But since you’re here then what? Break some shit? Maybe life is getting stuck to learn how to get unstuck. Over and over again.

How can you be so tired when life is so long?

Not my problem

The house smells funny. I don’t know what he cooked while I was away. He says he did a lot of cooking and cleaning. The house is just as untidy as when I left.

I don’t know what I’m more excited for–to sleep in my own bed or to finally cut off my fingernails. I don’t know how to explain how good it feels to have love to come home to. To have nonconflicting feelings about coming home. To want with all my want to be home and to know what home means. I don’t have to give anything up to be home, to want to be home, to have a home.

Before, I wanted all your problems to be my problems. Do you remember that? How I would poke and prod and beg and plead. Let your problems be my problems. I thought that’s what love meant. I am relieved now, to feel your problems exist beyond my orbit. That I have no desire to reach for them, to house them or include them. I don’t want to know your problems; they are not my problems. I feel separate, distinct. It’s more than being patched up, it’s like I’m all new parts. My armor is intact, rebuilt, refurbished. I am fine now. I am good now.

When in California

“There is no black and white. There’s only gray. You have to live in the gray or you got no kindness in your heart. You gotta see the gray.” -from Kerry Egan’s book On Living.

Sitting with Natalie at the bar was like this. I remember when we met, trying to hold an awkward conversation in the third floor hallway of McKinley. I felt old and jaded and was desperately seeking dry land. Natalie seemed confident and capable and like she had the whole world in her hand. So young yet so sure. It’s funny to think how close we are in age. How not young she was then but how young we both were then. How unaware we were of how young we were. I sit at the bar with her, I eat ice cream with her, I walk with her and I listen listen listen. My thoughts scrambling to keep up with the words I want to speak. My thoughts ticking off her words like little flags in a book. Here and here and here. I want to come back to. I want to remember. I want to make note of. What a relief it is to know someone across the country is seeing what you see, is feeling what you feel, is coming to the same conclusions even in a different temperate climate. Even if the days seem longer or shorter or brighter.

To not see someone for 4 years and to feel like not a day has passed seems like a shade of gray. A state of gray. To easily fall into conversation that matters and laughter that shakes and to instantly make new memories even as you seek to be standing in your old. It was a wonderful place to be. It was a wonderful thing to know. It was heart swelling and life giving. It made me feel like I am doing something right. I have not been just fluttering about. Alighting here and there. I have been stopping and breathing and reaching. I have been held in return. I had gotten a hand to hold. I have made it. Something. A connection, a bond, a friend. I thought life would be something that would happen to me later, that would catch me by surprise, but it’s been happening all along.

Fashionistx

I love to shop. No, I love clothes. I hate to shop. I love to dress. The feminist in me, the minimalist in me, the socialist in me rolls my eyes at this bit of myself, who will take a U-turn to get a closer look at a nice top or a sleek jacket or a cute boot. It’s like I can smell it: the possibilities.

I love shoes. I have the perfect sized feet for shoes. Average in length, thin in width. As I get older, I need more arch support, but nothing excessive.

I have broad shoulders. I love a strong collar, a sharp neckline, anything that’s going to make my shoulders cut away from my waist and my jaw.

I blame my father, who has always taken such pride in his appearance. As a child, I used to love to hang out in my father’s walk-in closet while he was at work. The t-shirts and sweatshirts folded neatly on the shelves; the curve of jackets hanging in the corner, ranging from suit to fall. I loved the pairs of dusty shoes sitting side by side. Little soldiers awaiting their call of duty. I loved the color coded, then style coded layout of it all. From casual to most special. I loved the variety, the multitude of lives represented in my father’s closet. Here he is on a Monday, here he is at a wedding, here he is on a Friday night at the movies.

I don’t know if this is me projecting, or if there is some truth to it, but my love for looking good is also how I’ve associated myself with the latin culture, with my mexican and iberian peninsula ancestors. It’s my father brushing his shoes and shining them up, securing his baseball cap squarely on his head, trimming his beard hairs and blow drying his hair just so. He always encouraged us to take pride in the way we looked, to spend time and effort on our external appearance. He always conveyed that the way we looked would determine how we were treated. The better you look, the better you’ll be treated. You want respect, you better dress for it. It’s why I hate rich white kids who dress like trash. What a waste.

I don’t have any happy memories of shopping with my mother, but I have many, many of shopping with my father. I think we have shopped in every city I’ve lived in. His tentative question, “do you want to go to the mall?” And we would plan our weekends in Tucson: mall then movie. We would organize our meal planning around it. Dinner at Red Robin with milkshakes and then a couple hours roaming the halls of the two story, white tiled mall. My father helping me to carefully consider a dress, or a pair of jeans, or which color of converse tennis shoes. “Mm, I don’t know, baby, what do you think?”

I love clothes. I love opening the doors of my wardrobe in the morning and having shirts of different textures and colors and styles. I love putting things together like a puzzle, figuring out which stripe with which cardigan with which shoe. I love walking into a room and noticing a head turn, a lingering eye, “Oh, I like your…” That wistfulness in someone’s voice, that they want to wear what you’re wearing. That somehow they want to convey the image you’re projecting. I know. I know because my father taught me how to do it. My father shrugs on his sweaters and I feel the motion in my shoulders. Getting ready to face the world and for the world to have to reckon with this. With this fine looking piece of material that fits me so well. I don’t even have to say what I’m about, you understand from my clothes. Or you think you do. And that’s what I want. My father taught me that. If you look good, people will treat you good, and then you can be safe. Then you can be what you want. Then you can come home and hang out in your chonies and be free. Put on your leisure clothes and forget about the rest of the world. A whole other side of pride.

Some inconvenient truths

I hate having fingernails. I hate cutting my fingernails. I feel like I am constantly cutting my nails. At least once a week, I find myself carving out time in my schedule to snip at them. I can sympathize with cats. I mean, I get it. If I were a cat, I’d be constantly scratching at shit. It’s how I am now, the second I get space between my nail and my finger. I’m scratching and picking at everything–mostly myself. And then I find myself constantly picking at my nails. Trying to get the weight off the ends of my fingers. It’s unnatural–having space there. Just thinking about it gives me the willies. I hate having fingernails.

For all of my life, I have underestimated my intelligence. I don’t know if it’s something about my personality traits, some weird combination of my Meyers Briggs and my StrengthsFinder. Something about the way I was raised. Something about my genes. Or if it is only because I am, in fact, of above average intelligence. But I always enter a room assuming everyone else in it knows more than me. And then I am often disappointed to learn that I am smarter than most of the people in the room. In some way. I can almost always identify a lack in the other person. A speck of dust on their intellect. They might be better at numbers, or at talking, or at laughing, but in turn, I am better at thinking through the big picture, or at waiting, or at focusing, or at recognizing how another person is feeling. It doesn’t take me long to make sense of the yin and yang of it. How me and we fit together or don’t. Minutes, maybe. Half an hour.

I have always been this way. I have always been able to read the room, to get the things. To make sense of it all even sometimes without needing it explained to me. I might not be able to explain what I know, or how I know, or why I know, but I can feel it in my brain. The scaffold, the foundation, the structure of it. My knowing.

I did not go to any elite schools. I went to shitty public school for most of my life. In elementary school, in the white farming town where I lived, I recognized from an early age when I was smarter than my teachers (1st grade). I did not think less of my teacher. I just didn’t understand why she didn’t know more things. I didn’t understand why she would correct me, or get impatient with me, or blatantly disliked me. I couldn’t help how I thought and what I knew. I couldn’t change the way I was. I just was. I also didn’t understand why the other kids didn’t like me. Why they mistook my curiosity and my earnestness and my eagerness to learn as an insult. Why they felt threatened by my knowing. I just knew. I didn’t understand why it mattered to them, or that it really had any effect on their lives at all. Why do we have two words in the english language that are so fucking similar: affect/effect. Who the god damn invented this?

But anyway, what happens is, I walk into a room assuming that everyone is at about the same level intelligence-wise. What inevitably happens though, is that while my eyes are wide and I’m waiting for someone to drop some knowledge, I find that I’m the one dropping knowledge. I know the things and have to tell everyone else. And that is… That always comes as a slight shock. And then I get…disheartened? Impatient? Almost self-righteous. Am I superior to these people–not necessarily. My better brain does not make me better, as I feel everyone has something to contribute. Most people. But I get like, disappointed, that no one gets it. That often, people don’t get it. The it that I get. It’s not there within them. It’s only there within me. I’m living it. I get it. I have it. They don’t. And I get angry, and disappointed, because it’s lonely out here. The only one with it. And also, why? Why don’t they have it? What is it about our experiences that has determined that I will get it and they will not? Whatever it is, that thing that inevitably shapes, marks, starts the chasm between us.

It was a problem in college. It was a problem in high school because I was bored all the fucking time, without being able to pinpoint why I was bored. I felt like I tried really hard in my classes, but now I realize it’s because I was either a) memorizing everything or b) teaching myself. I thought I was dumb, stupid, less than, because I was bored, yet I was trying so hard. I wasn’t trying so hard because I was stupid. I was trying so hard to mask the boredom. It was my coping strategy. If I spent all my time trying, and thinking about the trying, and planning to try, I would not have to think about how little there was to try at or for. I would not have to think about how different my trying was from everyone else’s trying.

In college I became a bit of a snob. I was tired of being the smartest, and when I got to college I thought everyone would be smarter. Smarter than me. I was ready for it, to be blown away by the intellect of my peers. To have some hope. To feel like, I was finally not alone in this world. There would be so many others like me in college.

This was not the case.

I idolized my professors from afar. Too afraid to get to know them on a personal level because they were smarter than me, and I didn’t know how to interact with them. I was intimidated, never having interacted with anyone really smarter than me. And also, still not really aware that I was slightly above average intelligence. I felt like I was constantly proving myself in their presence. Not realizing that they recognized my intelligence. Not realizing that they thought I knew. All this time, I was so used to being bored, but didn’t realize the cause of it. I just expressed boredom. It hung around me, hung off my skin, seeped out of my being, like a poison. My professors attributed my boredness to my intelligence, but no one bothered to tell me that’s why I had perfected the bored posture, the bored look, the bored walk. I had fallen down the rabbit hole of boredom, unable to recognize what had led me there in the first place. Like depression, like how I feel when I’m depressed, that I don’t know my self anymore, that I am somehow detached, separate from myself. Boredom had done the same thing to my brain. It detached me from myself. I was so bored I could not see myself anymore. I could not recognize my own patterns. I was unrecognizable to myself. If someone had bothered to tell me, hey, morales, you’re fucking smart; my whole life would have been different.

Working at colleges & universities has freed me from that chained bored state. I did, and have, found people of equal/superior intelligence. I loved graduate school. I loved the caliber of it. The level. The expectations. Here was something I could really fuck up. Finally, if I wanted, I could fail. What a thrill. I didn’t have to do all the trying, but it was still happening everywhere I went and with everyone I met–the learning. Suddenly, a community I could learn from. People with things to say I didn’t already know.

It made me a little sad, as I met more people and learned of their opportunities, learned of their elite educations and the things they knew, that I had missed out on all that. If only someone would have told me, if only I had been able to see myself for what I was. You belong here with these people. Maybe I would have tried different things. Maybe I would have done different things. Maybe I would have ended up in some of those spaces, and met myself sooner. Life would have been way less lonely. I would have been way less bored. What a waste, right? All the time I spent being bored.

Is this sounding like a humble brag? I really hope not. This is honestly one of the most frustrating things about myself. One of the things I critique myself the most on. See yourself for what you are. See your brain for what it is. But I don’t. Like I can’t.

So tonight, I went to this terrible lecture, and I found myself thinking. Challenge me. And some days at work, I meet with a student, who can’t seem to understand the ways of the Internet, or of reading, or of having a question and finding the answer, solving for x, like 2+2 is 4….and I feel… like how the fuck are you not getting this? Who has allowed you to be this stupid? This lazy? How have I ended up over here with this brain and you’ve ended up over there with your brain and we’ve ended up in this world, in this space together. How do all the people not know all the things that I know? How do they not get it? How do they live? Not knowing? Why are they not angrier that they don’t know? That they don’t get it? Yo, someone needs to tell you–you’ve been shortchanged. You’re out here, all alone and dumb and clueless and you don’t even know. Aren’t you worried? I’d be worried. But no, of course, that’s not the world we live in. The world is built for mediocrity. At least, the human made world is. Social constructions.

And I’m over it. I have zero patience anymore for being bored. For finding myself stuck in a place where my time is being wasted. When my brain was so hungry for so long, and I am not going to spend another fucking second of my life not getting the stimulation I now know like an old friend. Don’t waste my fucking time. There are so many more things to learn. I could be learning right now. Instead, I could be learning.

Why am I so willing to feel this way, this angry way, yet also find myself so easily slipping into another person’s way of knowing, way of being, and sympathize with that, and understand that, yet at the end of the day still feel empty, realizing I didn’t do anything to challenge myself, to feed myself. I just spent all day looking at you, looking at your brain, and maybe feeling a little sorry for you, maybe feeling a little patronizing. Maybe feeling like… you’re so cute with your dumb brain; how nice it must be to be you…only to be left feeling like, well shit, there goes my day and what did I get out of it? What have I learned?

And then I’m bored again.

Some inconvenient truths. I don’t like fingernails and I don’t like boredom, but I don’t like being the smartest person in the room, so I dumb myself down a little bit, so I play nice, so I act like I don’t know when I know. So I let myself slip on your dumb skin for a little while, just to see, just to get to know you. Just to meet you where you’re at. But then I come up for air and my tank is empty and you don’t even know I’ve been wearing your dumb skin this whole time. The chameleon in action. And I’m left with very little to show for stepping down, for hiding out, for blending in.

I don’t want to blend in, because it’s never mutual. The feeling is never returned. And then I have to? And then I go to?

Pains

I have never been raped. I was 12? 13? when I was physically assaulted in a bathroom. I told my best friend about it years later, when I was 15, because she was dating the boy who had done it, and I wasn’t sure if the way I felt about it was right. I wanted her to affirm my violated feelings. She did, but then later confronted the boy about it. She told me after the fact, told me he felt bad about it and had apologized to her. I was mortified. I felt so betrayed. I said nothing to her, or to him when I saw him next. I just pretended none of it had happened. I let my cheeks burn while my throat closed in.

I still think about that person in the bathroom a lot. I still think about how I went to my friend’s after and showered multiple times, coming out pink and slick. She told me I looked like a rat. She might have been on the phone with the boy. My memory of her is blurry now. I asked her for some ibuprofen and crawled into her bed. Anything to make the night end. Anything to distance myself from the person who was in the bathroom. Anything to numb the terror I had no words for, despite everything. Despite my love for words.

When I worked at Illinois, I had an advisee who told me about her friend getting raped. I asked her about it from time to time after she told me. How’s your friend? There was something about her story…it’s not that I didn’t believe her, I believed her. I just couldn’t tell if it had happened to her or to her friend. I couldn’t tell if I was doing enough. I kept listening. She kept crying.

I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is. I know that people are messy and people are stupid and people are fucked up. People experience fucked up things and people do fucked up things. People create pain. People are pain. I hate people. I want to be with people. I want to know people. I don’t want to know any people.

Maybe we should all be crying.