Archive for January, 1997


24 January 1997 at 9:41 pm
by Jonah

It’s raining outside. My window is open, just like Mom suggested. I did
open it last night. Then I closed it this morning when I got up because
it was raining very hard. I guess she came up and opened it again this
afternoon when it was sunny, before it started raining again.

I was standing on one of the concrete benches surrounding the fountain at
school when the sun was shining. I was very surprised to find it warm and
sunny when I came out. “It was raining this morning, wasn’t it?” I said
from the other side of my sunglasses to a random girl standing outside the
snackshop. “Very hard,” she coughed vehemently. The sun was still
shining when I came back out after spending some time in one of the piano
practice rooms, script in hand, and mounted the concrete bench. From my
perch, I practiced my lines under my breath, gesticulating at the fountain
and pausing whenever I forgot what came next to look up into the sky,
where small clouds were being bullied by the wind into dashing across the
intermintant blue. West, I thought, then corrected myself. Southwest.
That means more rain. And the rain came. It is raining now.

“Joanna!” hollered Melissa from behind her sunglasses all the way over by
the parking lot. I glanced up from behind mine to look at her. “If
someone didn’t know you were practicing lines, they’d think you were
crazy!” “So?” In fact, people who passed by gave me a good deal of room
after looking up uncomfortably. Whenever a theater major passed by, I
began where I was out loud so they could hear. “I guess he can beat me if
he wants to!” I shouted at a pudgy girl with wire rimmed glasses I’ve
talked to but don’t know by name. “I tell you, I LOVE to have him beat
me!” “Practicing lines,” she understood, “Been there, done that.”

“In my opinion he’s the best doctor in the world!” I insisted to
Elizabeth. “We have class, dear,” she informed me as her companion stared
in puzzlement. I collected my things and followed a few moments later.

“What is this?!” Dr. Khokhlova shrieked excitedly when I walked into the
classroom. She always shrieks excitedly. “What’s wrong with you? You
look like a shadow!” If I’m capable of smiling wanly, I probably did so
then. The good thing about Dr. K. is that if she shrieks a question at
you and you don’t answer immediately, she’ll either answer the question
herself or else change the question and then answer it. I shrugged and
tried to figure out which desk was mine as she moved on to altering and
answering her own question.

I knew exactly what was wrong with me as I slumped there in my desk. My
stomach was all in knots. My brain was still smoldering from a
conflagration, smoke from the dying embers filling my glazed eyes, my
unhearing ears.

People kept asking me how I was, as if I could tell them. How can you
describe the feeling when your stomach has been ripped in half? “You
don’t want to know,” I’d say after a moment’s hesitation. Or, “I’m not
answering that question today.” “Why not? What’s wrong,” asked Dion. I
know her name is Dion because I looked on the sheet of new recruits to the
history and political science club and found out what it was. Beforehand,
I knew her as the cool chick in the Presidency and Congress class. I
liked her the first time I saw her. She has twins and a husband, who came
to class with her today. But she asked me how I was anyway. Maybe my
face begged it. I don’t know. I don’t think she’s asked me before. My
suspicions about liking her were substantiated when I asked her suddenly
one day this week, “What do you think, does the Dave Matthews Band have an
upperclass appeal?” She was silent a long while, and I was afraid I had
asked for too much, when she nodded slowly and said, “Yes, I think it
does.” I was amazed. There aren’t many minds on campus that will admit
to working like mine.

All the same, I wouldn’t tell her how I was today. I didn’t tell Paul
either, though I desperately wanted to. He didn’t ask either. He never
asks. He greets everyone else he knows with a “How’s it going?” but never
me. He knows better. And I wouldn’t want him to.

So I’m here with the light on, looking out the open window at the light
rain and punctuated lightning momentarily illuminating the slowly
darkening sky.

forgotten haircuts

15 January 1997 at 9:25 pm
by Jonah

I remembered a few minutes before 11 that I had agreed to cut Andy’s hair
today. Of course, I’d forgotten my clippers. He had bought me a pizza
anyway. We sat out in front of Cuyahoga and ate and discussed things.
Three guys approached us with pens and paper asking, almost shyly, “Uh,
are either of you an only child?” We replied in the negative. “What
about a musical instrument, do you play one?” “Nope,” said Andy. “I
do,” I said. “You do? What’s your name?” I wrote my name down in a
blank next to a line of text on one of the guys’ paper and told the other
one how to spell it. “Born in March?” I nodded and wrote my name
again. “Wow, we’re racking up on you!” As they started to leave, one of
them offhandedly read off, “Forget to put on deodorant this morning?”
“Yeah,” I said, as they looked almost pleased and all three of them
scribbled down my name. “What’s this for?” asked Andy. “An exercise in
getting acquainted.” “Well,” I said, “Then let’s get acquainted. You
all know my name by now. What’s yours?”

When they walked away, I said to Andy, “I may be the only person on
campus who would admit to that.” “I think you’re right, Joanna.”

I had some time till my next class, so I went to the BP, filled up my
tires, and bought some lip balm, O.J., and a lemon-poppy seed muffin.
Then I took all of that, except for the lip balm for me, and a gallon of
water from our well and a box full of pills and tea and honey up to Cris
Hyatt’s room. She tore into the muffin, since it’s the first thing she’d
eaten all day. I made her some tea in the microwave down the hall and
gave her instructions on what pills and drops to take when. Then I went
to the Russian Lit class.

I’m up in the computer lab now, since I have rehearsal at 4. A girl just
came and pulled out the chair at the terminal next to me. “Anyone
sitting here?” she asked. I shook my head in reply, as I was in the
middle of a sentence. After she sat down, and I’d finished my train of
thought, I said, “Someone is now.” “What?” “Someone’s there now.” “Oh,”
she laughed nervously.

Occasionally, people will ask me if I still have “that mouse” and I say
“He died.”

Parts of the ever increasing whole

11 January 1997 at 4:51 pm
by Jonah


Well, here it is, a little after midnight, and I’m sitting here at Boris again because we’ve got company down in the computer room. I wrote Myrrh saying I wanted his modem. He wrote back, “uh, are you ever in the Saraland area on a weekday?”

I shot back, “Honey, I go to UM. I’m in the Saraland area EVERY weekday.”

It’s just as well, I suppose. I have to be downtown at 9 tomorrow to help move theater stuff out of a warehouse and to the school. But if I do, I get to go to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, so I think it’s worth it.

Elizabeth and Karen talked me into it. I was sitting in Russian class, after sleeping through my first class of the day and reading the assigned story on the drive to school (I try to pick the route with the straightest roads), when the two girls walked in.

“Jonah!” cries Elizabeth.
“Joanna!” echoes Karen.
“You have a part!” Elizabeth continued.
“You got a part in the play!” came Karen.
“You’re in _Doctor_!” Elizabeth finished.
“You’re in _The Doctor in Spite of Himself_! rejoined Karen. Even if this fusillade had contained a pause, I’m not sure I would have been able to fill it. I was, to say the least, happy. Very happy. I got a part! And not only that, I was in the play by Moliere! And to top it off, Mrs. Kellum is directing it. Mrs. Kellum, the woman everyone in the theater department loves, the professor every theater major worships, the director they would lay their lives down for, picked ME!

We only got through the first part of the story in Russian Lit, which was good since I hadn’t finished it in the car. Liz had to run off somewhere, so Karen and I started off toward the theater department, discussing the American Myth class I sort of created. We had barely come out of the classroom when we spotted Dr. Allums at the other end of the hall.

“Hold on,” he shouted to us and turned to talk to someone else. Both Karen and I froze instantaneously.

“Should we stay like this?” asked Karen. I grinned without turning my head.

“We look really funny,” she observed but didn’t move. Dr. Bilbo, one of the science professors, made his unhurried way in our direction, looking at our frozen forms quizzically.

“Hi there, Dr. Bilbo,” I said.

“Hi, Joanna,” he remembered my name, though I’ve only had one of his classes, and that was a while back,

“Protesting something?”

“Yes,” I answered, “We’re protesting apathy. By standing still.”

“We’re ‘holding on,'” Karen corrected. Nicki came up and stared at us, walking all around. Allums eventually ended his far-hall conversation and joined us.

“Joanna, you’re such a literalist,” he complained, good naturedly as we finally came to ease.

“Yes, I even believe in a six day creation…”

“Oh, hush!” Karen turned on me.

“Is that a mock? Are you mocking me?” he laughed.

“I’ll mock anyone,” I answered, “Equal opportunity amusement.”

He told us that the class had grown to 5 professors and 5 students,
Dr. Buaas wants in too.

“Ah, Dr. Buaas,” I made the peculiar hand gesture, extending my thumb and curling my forefinger, this professormakes unceasingly.

“Have you seen the smiley?” Karen asked him proudly, “Come see!”

We ventured into the chemistry lab–without safety goggles–to look out the window onto the quad.

“It’s growing a beard,” I complained, indicating the new grass growth around the mouth.

“What is this,” asked Allums, who’d never seen it before, “Who did that?”

“I don’t know,” I lied. Nickie and Karen giggled.

Dr. Allums, who I think is a dean by now and at least a department chair, turned to me and asked, “Did one of our honor students do this?”

I looked at him blankly, “What’s an honor student?”

The giggles collapsed into guffaws.

“Let’s get out of here,” Allums turned to leave, “This place gives me the creeps.”

We left him and continued the trek to the theater department. Sure enough, my name was on the cast list… at the very bottom.

Elise, [someone’s] niece.

At the bottom was added a note that all of the female actors had parts, but they weren’t really sure which ones yet. Rehearsals started, [gasp] MONDAY from 2-4. Not wasting any time. Just as well. The play opens February 13.

Elizabeth was coming out of the department, so we all agreed to meet over at Barnes & Noble. Karen and I needed to get books for the class, and I needed to get a birthday present for my brother. I found a bunch of cheap, reduced computer games and selected four of them. Then I searched for Go Down Moses, Democracy in America, Moby Dick, and The Doctor in Spite of Himself. Inside the front cover, I didn’t find a character named “Elise” that was anyone’s niece. It seems I have been assigned a part created from thin air. I also found a copy of Sea Wolf by Jack London, which I’ve been listening to on tape in the car. I flipped through, checking the spelling of character’s and rereading confusing parts. Karen picked up whatever book looked interesting and added it to her dad’s Book Allowance.

“Let’s go to Old Navy!” Karen and Liz suggested. “It’s like Gap except cheap,” they explained to my confusion. I wasn’t against that, so we dumped the books in the car and walked down to the next storefront. I made myself at home in the flannel shirt section, getting one for my brother, and two for me and my sister, since I couldn’t decide whether to get the red and green one or the green and red one. They were all on clearance. That was the most important part. Karen spent the rest of her father’s book allowance on clothes.

“Which should I get?” she asked, holding up two small black shirts. I shrugged helplessly and mumbled
“flannel” occasionally. Whatever one bought, the other of the two roommates said,

“Oh, I’ll borrow that then.” I merely clutched my shirts.

“I’m heading to the checkout,” I told Karen, “My breathing is beginning to constrict.”

“But you have to help me decide which one!” she insisted. I grabbed my throat and wheezed. “Oh, all right.”

Liz called later tonight to tell me it was okay for me to show up at work day. Maynard got a hold of the phone to tell me how to get to the place. He was drunk, but he gave okay directions. I’ve been there before. Besides, how big can downtown be?

We watched Fargo at Nathan and Andrew’s place. Andrew and I attempted to make a fire in the fireplace with the free (and wet) wood provided by the apartment complex and some Thrifty Nickels he’d picked up earlier. The movie was a bit more successful. Steph and Denise said it was terrible, though Denise and I thought it would rock to have a cool husband like Norm. I thought the film was great. They made me leave at midnight, since I was driving home, though Mark and Shocka had just walked in.

Second Day of the Semester

10 January 1997 at 5:12 pm
by Jonah

It was hard to get up this morning. Whatever excitement I had yesterday
didn’t keep up with 8 a.m. Thursday. I even listened to the idiots on the
radio jabber, rather than exit my warm cocoon. But after a cup of coffee
(half of which is now in the passenger seat by way of a quick turn on the way
to school) and a couple of chapters of Jack London’s _Sea Wolf_ on tape, I
was ready for the day. It was a beautifully cold, damp, miserable type of
day, the day that automatically puts me in a good mood. I even greeted
people I knew far too cheerfully as I walked all the way across campus after
parking near the trailers and then remembering my first class was in the
library. Paul had an empty seat next to him around the round table type
classroom, so I plopped my bookbag down. He made some comment about
unfortunately not having much say on where I sat, but I knew he didn’t mind.

Karen came in to Hermeneutics later, so that, as she pointed out afterward,
we were the only two girls in the class. “Let’s argue the rabid feminist
stance!” she urged as she, Paul, Mashburn, and I sat around after everyone
else had left. “God is a She!” I exclaimed. “Whether we believe it or not,”
she went on, “we’ll tick them off!”

Walking over to the other building for Karen to get her caffeine fix from a
coke machine, I told her about the “American Myth” reading club/directed
study Allums and Schaefer and Mashburn are doing with us. “I want to!” she
exclaimed, “Can I?” “Ask Paul,” I shrugged. “I have no say in this,” Paul
kept insisting. “So can I come?” “Yes,” I finally decreed, “You can come.”
“So what happened to Bitter Greg?” asked Karen. She and Maynard made up
names for all the people in God and Suffering last semester. There was
“Genius Paul,” “Jonah,” “Fat Religion Guy in the Back.” But none of us had
seen Greg. “I don’t even know if he’s coming back,” I said, “He was tired
with school.” “He was tired with school,” agreed Mashburn, nodding sadly,
“He needs to be in an environment where he can say whatever he wants.”

I didn’t have anything to do for the next couple hours, so I accompanied Paul
to his Old Testament class. “I’m not in this class,” I said to Dr. Berry as
we entered the room late and he handed Paul a syllabus. “I beg to differ,”
he retorted, “You ARE in this classroom.” There wasn’t much to it, like all
other classes yesterday and today, just collecting and scanning syllabi.

Paul debated afterward whether to eat or buy books in the time left before
his next class at one. Like any good student, he chose the bookstore.
Rounding a corner in the lobby of Weaver, who should we see but… “Greg!”
we both shouted, each taking a hand and shaking it warmly. The recipient of
our attention shrugged, smiled slightly, and began philosophizing in his
Kentucky speed of speech. “I have to register,” he said, “What should I put
for my major? ‘Cause it don’t matter what I put, it’ll be somethin’
different on my diploma.” “Philosophy,” I said. “No, I was thinkin’ bout
somethin’ obscure that NO ONE would pick. Like fish harvesting in
Nicaragua.” That is, incidently, a real class offered at the Nicaraguan
campus. “What should I take?” he asked me. I flipped through my catalog and
pointed out things he might like, Con Law, Presidency and Congress, Russian
Lit, Hebrew Bible Thought. “Photography,” he said, “I wanna major in that.”
“You could take ceramics,” I suggested. “Ceramics?” “Yeah, make pots and
stuff. I’m in there.” “You’re taking it?” he laughed, “That’d be fun.”
Paul still had to buy books, so he left. Greg said he’d come to the
conclusion that nothing mattered. “But, you’re here,” I pointed at Weaver’s
tile floor.

I told him I’d started C.S. Lewis’ _The Great Divorce_. Greg said he’d
finished Camus’ _The Stranger_ over break, “I liked the guy. I wanted him to
die. But I wanted him to accept death, deal with it.” “I thought he
deserved to die, even though he wasn’t evil.” “No passion.” “That’s it! He
didn’t have any passion. He didn’t love anything. Lust and annoyance,
that’s all. And that’s what he died with, lust for life.” “Yeah! But,
that’s all life IS!” “Then what’s it matter?” I asked him. “What DOES
matter?” he asked, “What’s one thing that matters?” I was halfway out the
door, on my way to class, “It’s about love. In a cosmic sense.”

We ran into Karen coming in as we went out. That waylaid my advance to class
even more. Though almost all of the same people who were in Presidency and
Congress were also in Constitutional Law, they’d left the front of the room
vacant. I sat in the front, just left of the middle, seat, in front of
Melissa Lindquist, who was in turn in front of Tracy. The classroom was very
quiet, but then the three of us started talking about stuff. Schaefer ran
straight into lecturing, talking about the Articles of Confederation and
saying our first Supreme Court brief was due on Tuesday. Afterward, Tracy
asked me if was auditioning today. “Today? I guess so.” “Auditions are
open this time,” she said, “The thing is that so many of the majors aren’t
going to be available for The Doctor in Spite of Himself. So we’re desperate
for actors.”

So I showed up in the theater room after getting my syllabus from Ceramics.
Mrs. Kellum had us do a bunch of warm up exercises and then do things like
say, “My name is , and I am not happy about it,” making a
movement with our bodies each time we said a syllable and other
non-script-reading activities. Then Stephen and Sherrea, who are directing
_Ladies of the Camilias_, had guys and girls read different parts to that play.
I was pretty happy with mine. My “guy” was Maynard, who is incredibly
talented. I dunno if I’ll get a part or not. There are three plays they’re
putting on this semester all together, so I at least have a shot. But if
not, I’m sure I can use the extra free time! Like I have any anymore.
Finally got home around 6.

Man, I love school

9 January 1997 at 4:39 pm
by Jonah

Man, I love school.

Okay, okay, it’s only the first day. Nothing due… yet. No papers to write (this week), no projects to finish, no tests to take, no assignments to read. Well, okay, I do have reading assignments to complete by Friday, but no sweat! After all, isn’t that what school is all about? Reading cool stuff under the direction of someone older, smarter, and wiser? Every class is a directed study. Or should be.

And then, of course, there’s seeing everyone again. “Hey! How ya doin’?” “What’s up?” “Have a good Christmas?” Each semester is a time to start over, another chance. The first day of class is a prime time to say hello to everyone you might ignore out of familiarity later on. I say I can live without people. I say I could walk away. And I do. But, I forget how great it is to see them again.

“Do you know anyone who’s majored in General Studies?” asked a girl named Robyn, as I sat in the hallway, feverishly filling out my class registration forms. We got into a discussion about majoring in undecided before moving into the classroom. Paul came in too late to get a seat front and center (where I was sitting). “Hello,” he said. Someone greeted him with a “good morning.” He responded with something questioning the goodness of it. “Every morning is a good morning,” I insisted, “It just goes downhill from there.” He blinked in response. Too early for a good comeback, I suppose.

It should be a good class. There’s a bunch of fresh meat in there. Almost everyone was bunched around the front and center of the room. Dr. Schaefer asked how many presidents we’ve had. “Forty-two I answered. Each day he said he’d start out by telling us weird facts about a president. Today, was George Washington, who died while taking his own pulse. (Can you imagine it? “Uh, Martha, I don’t feel anything…”)

Paul and Marie and I stayed afterward and chatted while Dr. Schaefer listened to Wyatt and signed my schedule. When Marie mentioned taking the GRE test for literature, Schaefer said, “Dr. Garner has a bunch of anthologies she’s getting rid of. Would that help?” Paul and I perked up, “Free books?” We all followed Schaefer down the hall to the offices and ran into Dr. Allums, cornered him into Dr. Garner’s old office and made him talk about this literary club/directed studies thing. We invited Schaefer to join us and then snagged Mashburn on his way to class. The triumvirate all together. It was a wonderful sight. We agreed to meet on Wednesdays, starting at 3:30 till whenever. Allums said a couple of other people were interested in a directed study, so we might end up with quite a crew. Allums offered Moby Dick and Go Down Moses by Faulkner as his selections for reading in this “American Myth” course. Schaefer put out d’Toqueville’s Democracy in America, and Mashburn had to get to class. I’m very excited about the whole thing.

Leaving Paul, I went to stand in line at the business office to register for classes. Suddenly, something slammed into my left shoulder. I turned and saw Jeremy, uncut hair slicked back, a Van Dyke framing his grin, with his fists in front of him. “You wanna fight? Come on!” I rolled my eyes, slid my book bag off onto the floor, widened my stance, and lifted my fists. “I’m here to pick up my records,” he said, throwing a punch I blocked with my right arm as we circled in the crowded hall of people, “I’m not coming back.” “So I’ll never see you again.” “That’s right.” “What are you going to do?” I asked, testing him with my right fist. “Working in Atlanta,” he said, trying to slid a punch under my block, “Financial consultant. And my mom knows a couple of people in TV/movies production, so maybe I can go somewhere with an acting career… We better stop,” he straightened up, laughing, “There are too many pedestrians.” I wrote down our phone number and my dad’s work number for him while every other girl who walked past paused to screech and hug him. “I can’t remember the 800 number,” I apologized. “See! See, that’s one advantage I have over you,” he exulted, “_I_ can memorize numbers!” We stood in line, him to get his records, me to register.

I headed over to the bookstore and, miraculously, found all the ones I needed. As the lady at the checkout copied down the titles onto my bookstore charge, she observed, “Taking a lot of interesting classes.” “I hope so.” Carrying the plastic bag, nearly bursting at the seams, I met up with Karen and Elizabeth, who were on their way to Russian Literature and Culture, taught by everyone’s favorite Russian, Dr. K. Karen was evidently overjoyed to see me because she gave me a hug. We looked out onto the quad from our vantage point on the third floor of Weaver, admiring the green smiley face on the grass. “It’s spreading,” said Karen, indicating the green smudge around the mouth. “No,” I corrected, “They must have sown some more seed. See how the older grass is taller?” We returned to the room, my two companions talking non-stop until our professor came in. “Aren’t you going to write something up on the board?” asked Karen. I guess I achieved a reputation for pre-class graffiti last semester, so I found something suitable about death in the book of short works by Tolstoy and scratched it into the board. I decided the room was too cramped and boycotted the front row. No one dared to scab. This is my first class with Dr. K. that has been mostly English students instead of Political Science freaks. I kept drifting off into daydreams if I watched her talk, so I spent most of the class intently listening about patronymic names while sketching a mutant tulip on the back of the syllabus.

Karen and I went to the bookstore, where I showed her the hermaneutic stack and we harassed one of the track jocks, who ended up in God and Suffering last semester. Then, since I had parked way out by the office trailers where she works, I walked back over there with her to come home.

I had to pick up my plaster sculpture “Thing” from the special events office today, after it had been in the New Year’s Eve juried student art show. I realized when I went to the show with Denise just how selective the jury had been.

Tonight, I was positively hyper at supper. Makes up for being in the depths of depression yesterday, eh?