Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Moved

By this time, Caro had already moved her mattress to the floor. 

We had been living as a couple in my apartment for over a year. My mattress had been too hard, the one she had had too soft, but when we put them on top of each other, the bed was just right and we even called it our “happy little cloud.”

By this time, though, Caro had already moved her mattress to the floor.

I had noticed a change in Caro after I got back from a one-week vacation in Italy with my mom. Instead of coming home at normal times, Caro began coming home very late at night. She began talking of needing space and an apartment of her own. “Do you realize that I have never had an apartment of my own?”

One evening after work I came back to our apartment to find that she had taken her mattress off mine and had set it on the floor. She told me that this was where she would now sleep. She just needed more space of her own.

By this time, Caro had already moved her mattress to the floor. 

One morning, not too far from the end of our relationship, I was sitting in bed reading while Caro was just waking up. She often slept later than I did. There, lying on her mattress, she rubbed her eyes and looked at me. I decided to get up and join her on her “bed.” We talked lightly and easily; there was no rush; it was a Saturday morning. At one point, I began reciting William Butler Yeats’ "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." I know the poem by heart.

"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade . . ."

When I was finished reciting the poem, Caro said, “That’s nice.” Upon hearing that, I began to recite another poem, but she immediately stopped me. “No, don’t ruin it,” she said. "Sometimes less is more." She had really liked the piece, I guess, and had wanted to let it, and only it, sink in.

By this time, though, Caro had already moved her mattress to the floor.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Safe Travels


The first thing I thought when I boarded a bus to take me home from work today was that the guy sitting closest to the door looked weird. His eyes just looked strange, and I didn’t like the way that he looked at the person who had boarded the bus prior to me. There was a seat open next to this strange looking guy, but I decided not to take it for obvious reasons. Instead, I walked to the rear of the bus and took a seat next to someone there.

When the bus began to move, I took out my phone and began reading the online Cliff’s Notes for Hemingway’s short stories. I had just begun to read the criticism for another of the stories when I was interrupted by the man sitting next to me. He had taken one of his earbuds out of his ears and was holding it toward me, like an offering. He wanted to know if I would like to listen to his music with him.

At first, what this man had just done didn’t even register; I was too busy trying to figure out whether I knew him not. He was in his early 20s, had red hair and glasses. My first thought: “Oh, no. I just want to read my Cliff Notes in peace. Did I just sit down next to someone I know?” But then I realized that in fact I did not know this person; I did not know this person and yet for some reason he had just asked me if I would like to share his earbuds with him and listen to music!

“I’m fine, thank you,” I said, declining the offer.

“OK. Safe travels,” he said. He then put the one earbud that he had had held up to me back into his right ear.

Though I was shocked that a stranger had just asked me to listen to his music with him, the words that he used after I had declined his offer soothed me -- “Safe travels.” In fact, I kept repeating this phrase of his over and over to myself, almost like the recitation of some mantra, and doing so neutralized any feelings of awkwardness that the interaction had produced in me.

It wasn’t until I had gone back to my reading that I caught a whiff of alcohol. When my seatmate had asked me if I’d like to listen to music with him, I hadn’t smelled any alcohol. But now after he had opened his mouth to speak, I did, and that made things clearer for me.

I do admit that before having smelled the alcohol I had created a story in my mind about this man and why he might have asked me to listen to music with him. Perhaps he had seen me reading a text in English and was listening to music with English lyrics and for some reason, some crazy reason, thought that I, a total stranger, would like to listen to his music with him.

But now it was clear. This man had been drinking.

When I got off the bus, I made sure to say bye to my seatmate in a hearty fashion. After all, he had wished me safe travels. But he didn’t reply. He didn't even look up.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Chess Game

I'm super proud of the following chess game, maybe the most proud out of any chess game I've ever posted on my blog. Reason being . . . well, there are a few. After the game, when I analyzed my moves with a computer, the computer said that I played with 93 percent accuracy. That is really hard to attain, no matter how hard one tries. Also, I played with a lot of patience. I first dealt with and repelled many of the black threats to the queenside before turning to black's kingside. Often when one plays chess, one wants very badly to attack. However, in certain positions one first has to concentrate on defense before doing so. Also, I have studied the opening that is played in this game, the "Sicilian Defense," for many years, and I was able to apply a lot of my knowledge. Enjoy.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"ANNA"

I can still remember how my 3rd grade classroom looked. It was a big room with desks in the center not in rows but in islands. We sat at islands made up of about five desks. Some of the desks faced the blackboard, which was in the front of the classroom, some faced the windows, but from all of the desks one had a good, clear view of the blackboard.

On the walls of the classroom there were displays featuring work that we, the students, had done. Some of the best art projects were hung up at these displays, as were top-scoring quizzes. There was a sheet of oaktag on one of the walls, the one next to the cubbies, and on this sheet of oaktag was a list of all our names, and next to our names, stars. For every “100%” we got on a spelling test, we would get a star. I had always thought how easy it would be to steal stars away from other students and put them next to my name, but never did.

The teacher we had for 3rd grade was Mrs. Bell. Mrs. Bell was nice but she was a person who could be stern. You didn’t feel like you could just do whatever you wanted in Mrs. Bell’s class. I remember one time I was with my mom near a local bank and we ran into Mrs. Bell, and I thought that perhaps I would be in trouble, but Mrs. Bell said nothing bad about me to my mom, and the whole interaction went off without a hitch.

In those days, the teachers in the elementary schools were almost religious about checking homework and Mrs. Bell was no exception. When we wouldn’t do our homework, she would write it down in her book as an “X,” and if we got enough “X’s,” it would affect our report card. The fear of getting an “X” was enough to make me think twice about not doing my homework, and to the extent that I can remember, this system of Mrs. Bell’s was mostly successful.

Nevertheless, I remember a new rule that Mrs. Bell instituted after enough students had repeatedly failed to do their homework. Instead of coming around to check to see if we had done our homework or not, Mrs. Bell said that she now wanted us to come to the front of the class, where she would have a desk set up, a desk separate from her main one. We were to come up to that desk, where she would would be sitting, and show her our homework. If we hadn’t done our homework we were still to come up to the desk, and it would be there that we would report that information.

Obviously, this new system was designed to strike fear into our little hearts. It was one thing to tell Mrs. Bell that we hadn’t done our homework as she passed around the class with her marking book. It was another thing entirely to have to stand before her and report that we had not done what we were supposed to have done. How awful that would be, I had thought many times, having to report your dereliction of duty to the teacher while the whole class listened on!

In fact, it was the fear of such embarrassment that lay behind an act of subterfuge I carried out one day in class.

You see, in order to prove to Mrs. Bell that we hadn’t done our homework while waiting for our turn to be called up to her desk, she had told us that she wanted our homework always to be signed by our parents.

Normally, this was not a problem, but on the day that I actually hadn't done my homework and needed to do it while waiting for my turn to come to her desk, it was a big one.

After finishing the homework -- I think it was a spelling assignment -- I sat at my desk and wondered what I could do. Well, there was only one thing to do. And that was forge a signature. But there was an inherent problem with this idea. My mother had a flowing signature, with curves that were graceful if not flamboyant, and I would never be able to reproduce such a thing. However, my grandma had been up in New York visiting us from Florida and I had remembered how she would often talk about her arthritis. I didn’t know what arthritis was, but I knew it was some kind of disease of the bones, and I knew that it was painful. I also knew that it could affect the way a person wrote, especially if the person had arthritis of the hands. So, on the top of my homework I wrote in all capital letters, as straightly and as neatly as I could, “ANNA.”

Finally, it was my turn to go up to the front. After handing over my paper to Mrs. Bell, I waited a few beats before explaining that the reason why my grandma had written her name in such a strange and primitive way was because she had arthritis. I remember thinking I was going to be caught. But, instead, Mrs. Bell just checked my homework and didn’t say anything, and I was able to return to my seat in due course.

It wasn’t until many, many, many years later that I realized how brilliant I actually was that day.

The Relationship Is Over

This is just a little writing exercise. Enjoy.

One day while walking downtown I ran into a person I knew, and we began to talk about his relationship. He told me that he and I probably wouldn’t see each other again for a long time because he was getting ready to move to his girlfriend, who lived about 500 miles away.

I told this person that I was very surprised that he was moving away because he had always told me how much he loved the city that he and I lived in. He said that he knew, but this arrangement he had worked out with his girlfriend was for the best. His girlfriend, he said, had children who still attended grade school, and she had a job that required her to work where she currently worked. He said that the plan would be to live in this new city with his girlfriend for some time and then to move back to the city that he and I both lived in and loved. Again, I was surprised by the news, but I wished the man the best of luck.

A few months later, I saw this man again, again by chance. At first I hadn’t even remembered our conversation about his plan to move, but then it dawned on me: Wasn’t he supposed to have moved away? I asked him what the situation was.

“That’s not happening anymore,” he said, referring to the move.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because the relationship . . . It's over.”

“What? Really?"

“Yup, it’s over. The relationship is over.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Chess Game

I'm very proud of this chess game. Even though it ended after my opponent made a blunder, I feel as though that blunder was the product of all the pressure that I put on him throughout the entire game. I have the white pieces.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Amanda


When I was in high school, I knew a girl named Amanda. Amanda was really sweet. On my birthday during my sophomore year, she surprised me in study hall with cupcakes that she had baked for me. Before that, I don’t think any friend I had ever had had ever baked for me, and the gesture obviously made a big impression.

I remember one Saturday night during my sophomore year, I went over to Amanda's house. She had a den and I remember that we sat there, listened to music and talked. The only song I remember listening to that night with her was Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.” I don’t remember exactly what we talked about, but it was a wide-ranging conversation. I do remember that we ordered Chinese food and, unfortunately, it got me sick.

A few years later, when I was a senior and about to graduate, I asked Amanda to sign my yearbook. This is a tradition that we have in the U.S.: getting your friends to sign your senior yearbook. The unwritten rule of this tradition is that you, as the signee, must write a sincere message. I remember exactly what Amanda wrote. Apparently, during that wide-ranging conversation we had had that night, I had told Amanda that I liked being creative not only in one way but in many ways, and I never wanted to limit myself when it came to my creativity. Amanda remembered my saying that, and in her message to me wrote that she will always remember that night in her parents' den and how I said I never wanted to limit myself creatively. But the best was how she ended her message. With an imperative: “Don’t ever limit yourself, Chad.”

Friday, September 20, 2019

Break on Through to the Other Side

Standing in front of the grave of Jim Morrison in Paris the other day, a thought I had struck me.

Jim Morrison is buried in the Pére Lachaise cemetery, a massive burial ground located in the east of the city.

Many famous people are interred at Pére Lachaise (pron. pair-le-CHEZ), among them are Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Gertrude Stein and Edith Piaf.

Nevertheless, despite all the famous people buried at the cemetery, the grave of Jim Morrison is the only one that is walled off by Plexiglass.

Which was the thought that had struck me.

Standing there in front of The Lizard King’s tombstone, I thought, “Wow, out of the thousands upon thousands of people buried at this centuries-old cemetery, only the grave of Jim Morrison, a 27-year-old American musician, is walled off by Plexiglass.

It was an interesting thought, and after a while at the gravesite, thinking on this thought and others, I decided I’d had enough and to be on my way.

But I still wasn’t satisfied with this only-Jim-Morrison's-grave-is-protected thought of mine. How could it be, I wondered, that this guy, this crazy musician, out of all the people buried at this cemetery, is the only person whose grave needs to be protected by Plexiglass? How could it be that out of all these writers, politicians, poets, dancers, philosophers and architects only Jim Morrison’s grave needs to be walled off?

And then it hit me.

You can’t fuck to architecture.