February 9, 1999 Tuesday
This semester is unlike any that I have since lived. If I would have to compare a similar semester to now, the one it most closely resembles was my very first semester here, during the slow, quiet summer of 1997.
What makes this semester so different? Collinsville is now stranded across campus in a job being an RA he takes too seriously, and one that frankly is draining him. Tom is now in his hometown of Quincy, Illinois, going to a community college called John Wooden. Tom has come down twice on the weekends already, but the weekdays in between are a long time. I dislike my floor without them here, and do not spend a lot of time with anyone. It seems like a waste, from what we had last fall. There is Max, who lives down the hall, who I will stop by and say hi to, but we wouldn’t be called close. Yet it is proven again that we are not given anything we cannot handle, and Craig Duesterhause, a really large guy and high school friend of Tom’s that we called “House,” lives down on the fourth floor has become a good friend. By that I mean that I’ll stop by and watch some of Nitro and Raw with him on Monday nights together. He’s a really good guy, and I’m glad to have him, but he liked all that more than I do.
Yet House is not a buddy-buddy type. Sadly, a lot of time in these first weeks I have spent alone, contemplating. That might be why I would compare this semester with my very first. It is looking like this is going to be a few months for just myself. I have wanted such a time, in some ways. A time to think, examine, write, read, compose, and draw has been put off for so long. Speaking of being put off for a while, this is my first entry in nearly two months. I do not apologize to myself or to anyone else for this lapse. To be honest, you might have been bored to tears reading my Christmas break, if it had been written (As a side note on that subject, I was able to see Colin, Reagan Potts, Jim Camp, and Lance while at home. Not many presents came my way because I went crazy with the Plastic last summer. Understandable. Mom did get me a quite a gift though, one I didn’t expect; she framed the large color pencil drawing from my senior year I called “Collage O’Me.”
Frankly, the thing I love most about this term are my classes. Surprised, aren’t you? Actually, I am too. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a speech class at eight, and a philosophy class at eleven, and a poetry class with Tama Baldwin at 12:30 (I have already dropped at English class I had at two).
Sometimes you just luck out with whom you get for a class. My Speech instructor is great, and he makes us all feel relaxed about the mortifying task of talking in front of a crowd. So far I have done a quick introductory speech about myself (talked about my accident when I was three) and a major speech about the infamous Order of the Arrow Ordeal, and just today he had us get in groups and tell jokes to show how we should use introductions.
I have met my professor for my Philosophy/Ethics class before. When I had gone to the philosophy group that one time–hot off of reading We the Living and Atlas Shrugged–I met Dr. Sue. She sat across from me, a short, middle-aged woman with glasses on her nose and her straight black hair pulled back in a tight bun. The first impression I got of her was that she was perhaps rigid. I still feel that way a little bit. To me, philosophy is handled best by someone who is open and wondering. Dr. Sue has always hit me as someone more suited to be teaching calculus. The class itself is good, and it might be a blessing in disguise that she goes agonizingly slow.
I have saved the other two classes and the one professor that teaches both for a reason. I had gone to Tama Baldwin in the fall (“Back to Reality”), not because I knew her, but because I saw her name on a paper in the hallways of Simpkins, and decided to talk to someone about creative writing. At the time I was in the middle of a bunch of poems I called The Edge, and although I had questions, I really didn’t know what they were yet. Simply, Tama is the greatest teacher I’ve had since Mr. Beres in high school, and perhaps the best I’ve ever had. She is exactly what I need right now. Tama is eccentric to say the least, interested in anything and everything that has to do with growth, beauty, expression, etc. When I sit in her class she excites me not only to listen and do, but also to breathe and live. She encourages us to find ourselves and where we stand. Like I said, it is just what I need, and perhaps it is fate that I have these two classes with her when I can also devote my unending time to following her advice.
The Wednesday night class from 6:30-900 might be the highlight of my week, but I say that sincerely and earnestly. It is what I have been looking and waiting for: a forum of other writers to grow off of. I’ve been waiting so long. The first thing we did for the class was the exercise where you tell two truths and lie with a stone-face, and the rest have to tell which is a lie. For the first assignment we had to write a story set in the very near future and our personal visions of that place. I hadn’t written a narrative since the half-completed Warped, and nothing even really good since “The Tale of the Two Deaths,” way, way back in 1996. It had been a while. It took until Friday night as I was drifting off to sleep to think of a story line, and I ended up only having two pages and about 1/3 of a story to turn in the next Wednesday. Again, Tama assured me that was alright. That was nice to hear, and made me feel more comfortable. Last Wednesday we had our first “workshop.” You see, we voted from best to worst all 18 of the poems/stories submitted, then the best three were critiqued. My story, tentatively entitled “Black Thursday,” was polled near the bottom. However I was pleased with the results. I also received a 2nd and a 3rd from two people, and that was just with only bits and pieces of a story. The way I looked at it, just imagine what I could have gotten with a complete draft! I have been ready with “Wake Me When It’s Over, Part 1 and 2,” to hand in tomorrow. Next time I want to get first.
Today was a very good day, and I am glad to be able to write that. The morning began with Speech, but it was entertaining. At 10:20 I had my writing conference with Tama about my work, “Black Thursday.” She said as I sat down that I had a precision and acuteness for narration, and the best grasp of scene of anyone in the class. I hadn’t mentioned it to her, but she said she remembered me from the fall, and she said was glad I had taken her up on getting in the class. The one thing she saw with my story that she said I should work on was that sh didn’t think it was the story I was meant to tell, and I had to discover what it is that is my story. That statement was more than a little mysterious, and although I believe I understand what she means, I want to ask her further about it tomorrow night. I admit, the entire talk today came to a stroking of the ego, but I’ll tell you, I also kind of needed it. The walk to class afterwards, to Morgan for philosophy, was great, and I had to smile. I felt like smiling.
In the afternoon I walked to the Macomb Public Library and got a card of my own. You see, I have wanted to read Flowers for Algernon again, but the huge Western library doesn’t carry it. Fortunately the small brick building that is smaller than the Elmwood library (surprisingly) had it. I got Flowers again because I had told Tama it was my favorite book, so she suggested I return to it. I also checked out Fahrenheit 451. Alex had strongly recommended it in the fall, and I am now getting around to reading it. The last book I got was Catcher in the Rye. Most people read it, I suppose, because it is an infamously banned book. I want to read it for two other reasons: J.D. Salinger is a character in Shoeless Joe, and John Lennon’s killer had the book in hand when the shots were fired.
I seem to have stumbled upon the subject of Alex. Hmm. Sometimes I do miss her, granted. I don’t know many besides myself that could sit through every second of the “Beatles Anthology.” And in some ways I feel like I let her down. I hear on a daily basis around here how men are pigs by disenchanted girls that often go after the wrong guys to begin with. I had a chance to show someone who a person could be liked simply for being them. I kind of blew that, maybe. Perhaps it’s not my fault, but it’s probably good to mention this, as it is interesting to see how feelings and perspectives change with some passing of time. If anything, I am just sorry I hurt someone else, and it would be nice to watch a video with her about the Fab Four. Nothing more.
What else. I might be the new sports writer for the Western Courier. It pays, so I think I’ll give a call. Also, there is some kind of new Creative Writing Society, and you better believe I’ll be attending Thursday night.
I really haven’t seen too many people. Aaron from the Fourth Floor is back after “taking a semester off,” as I’ve spent some time with him on the weekends. For the first time since coming back I finally spent some time with Collinsville on a weekend. He said he feels like a 90 year old man. He tries too hard, but it also means he puts his all into doing his best for himself and others.
There there is Friend Sara. It seems my year-and-a-half enigma of a friendship with her is over. A week ago I had dropped by Higgins to say hi to Collinsville, but before I could find him there was a fire drill, and 1,000 people had to suddenly go out into the cold. While fumbling around outside, waiting to go back in, I ran into Friend Sara. She was very friendly, and it was good to see the short blonde. We went up to her room and talked for quite a while. Later, she wanted to go to sleep, so I went across the hall and met with some people on her floor. The next night after coming back from something with said people from her floor, I saw her in the floor’s lounge. She hadn’t been able to go out that night because she had gone home for a rodeo in Springfield. I found her later, as I said, busily typing an email in the lounge. She didn’t seem happy. Actually, it was quite apparent she was ticked about something, and I believe it was me. I walked in quietly and sat down to her left, but she remained silent. I asked her if she was all right. A few sniffles, but nothing more. I got up to look out the window. She still didn’t talk. I sat back down. She finally asked me what I wanted, while finally turned to me. He eyes were filled with a hurt and confusion she didn’t want to disclose. I thought about what I could say. I leaned forward, she suddenly asked why I was looking at her email. Surprised, I quickly sat back in the chair. For some reason she was mad at me. Suddenly I felt cheated. For a year and a half I had tried to be her friend, but she had never fully accepted me. I mean, there were good times when I could have sworn we were very good friends. At one time last spring everyone on the Fourth Floor thought we were dating. That’s what has always been so maddening. We would come so close to friendship, but she would always pull away. I was sick of it. I wanted to know why, I asked, breaking the silence. “Why didn’t ever get ice cream?” (When we had first met she had sent me a few short emails asking we walk to the nearby Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins sometime). She turned again to me. That same look. Ouch. “Yeah,” she said, to the best of my recollection, “But you see, we’re just friends. Just friends that see each other every few months and say hi. That’s it. Does that answer your question?” It didn’t. I tried again. “Every time this happens to me, I walk away,” I told her. “I lose without ever knowing why. I want to know.” No response. I could see a picture of a drain, our friendship going down it. She only said, “Will you please leave?” So I did. You have to understand, Friend Sara and I were never close. I know little more about her than she’s a driven person from a small town in Illinois, that thrives on inspirational messages. That’s it. I guess I am sad about what we could have been. Oh well. I believe when I look back on these years I will remember her mainly for being on the very first people I met here, and, all-in-all, a friend.