A mouthful of cheese

Today, my paper clip came alive. It flew to me and alighted on my desk. We instantly fell in love.

We had a baby, and named him Jean-Wayne Chikatilo Flowbear.

When Jean-Wayne got older, he became arrogant and spoiled. He felt himself entitled to our undivided attention. He began to take us for granted. We couldn't get a moment's peace, much less a single word of appreciation for all the sacrifices we made for him. So we had another baby to spite him.

We don't quite know where Jean-Wayne spends his time anymore, but we have reason to suspect he's killing neighborhood pets burning the bodies in firing barrels.

The end.

I went shopping today for the first time in forever, and then I made one of those salads. The kind where the balance is a little off, you know, so you get in there with the fork without looking down and you end up with a mouthful of cheese, three olives, and a firecracker. But I'm eating salad, lately, because I'm feeling tugged by this vague but nagging urge to self-improve, which manifests itself in eating greens and fruits and roughage, and working out with half my heart and half my ass. Drinking sickly-sugary green tea instead of pop, which, for the fourth time in my life, I have to learn to call "soda" again.

I want I want I want a cigarette. I don't even really smoke, but I want to squash this trajectory or I might actually start feeling good, and could anything be more dangerous? From the first time I heard the Sebadoh, I started associating contentment with adequacy, adequacy with selling out, selling out with middle age, and middle age with irrelevance, which is tantamount to death. But, the intractable aging process continues, and I now own a potato masher, an apple corer, and a "Euro peeler," which is like a normal peeler, but more expensive.

I bought my first rug last week. I bought a fucking rug. From Target. I'm 99% of the way to being halfway to 50 years old. Body by Stouffer's. Rug by Target. The bourgeoisie is calling me, and I'm starting to resent poverty. Like the first time you think of somebody you used to be in love with and you realize, not only are you not in love with her anymore -- you don't even care how she's doing. "Wow, you went to Siberia? How'd that go? Welp, see ya later!" That's how I feel about being poor. I could be making 28 Gs and tucking my Oxford in every day. Wearing sock-suspenders and shit. But instead I make slightly less than that, wear whatever I want, and wake up at 2 in the afternoon. Misery, thy name is Flowbear.

We found out, recently -- us grad students -- that we don't get summer funding in our first year. This is the difference, for me, between a cartoony, Kanye West-esque break full of video hoes and summer-fun snow cones on the one hand, and grinding it out on my fucking leather ass, to quote Worm from Rounders, on the other. This news hit me two days before the lady who manages my building told me the garage fee isn't included in my rent, which is exactly the opposite of what she told me eight months ago, which means I owe garage fees for the last -- let me do the math real fast in my head -- eight months. I'd never before wanted so badly to fight such a powerful-looking woman. I was furious, but summoning all the c'est la vie I could, I said, "what are you gonna do." One thing that happens when I say this -- and it always blows my mind -- is that people actually think I'm asking them what they're going to do, and not just saying, you know, fuggedaboudit.

"The question is," she says, "what are you gonna do?"

She didn't really say that. I can't remember what she said, but whatever it was pissed me off. If she had said that, though, I'd be force feeding her spinach soufflé somewhere where they'd never find her, poking holes in her moles to see if they'd bleed. Running up and pushing the button on a dunk tank and, when she floats -- because, you understand, she's so fat -- yelling "She's a witch! Burn her!" over and over for eternity.

Not really. Is this mean-spirited? I don't pretend to have the answers to these questions.

I'm going to write a novel with an old wise man-type character named Phantom Smokeballs in it. He's going to dole out sententious, unhelpful advice to people just like me. "Roll with the blows, young'un. One day pain will make you a man." Then, one day, somebody's going to stab him, and when he doesn't bleed, a thousand ravenous English majors are going to set him on fire.

I keep having these daydreams. I'm talking to faceless professors, and I'm telling them, "I've hit a bit of a wall, mentally." They don't care. They stare at me, nonplussed but unimpressed. "I'm fatigued," I explain. Their black-hole eyes burrow into my heart and lay eggs. "I don't care at all about this shit I have to read." They gyrate against their wall-to-wall bookshelves, each filled floor-to-ceiling with broke-backed volumes, each cover-to-cover with blank pages. "I've memorized them," they say. They dip cotton-wrapped clubs in oil and light torches, like the mob in Frankenstein. The movie, not the book. "I fucking hate books," I say. They put the torches to me, and I go up like an inky paper doll. Burn words burn.

It's kind of amazing how mental fatigue can turn into emotional and even physical fatigue. I'm generally hyperemotional and spastic, one minute raving like a tazered monkey, the next a sulking, taciturn, grudging tool. But lately, I just feel kind of... withdrawn. And I think it's because I feel persecuted -- literally, persecuted -- by the workload of graduate studentry. At the risk of calling privilege poison, there's a certain irony one feels whilst feverishly and compulsorily studying the ethics of oppression.


To misquote that great author Stephen King: "I wish I could tell you that [Flowbear] fought the good fight, and the [Professors] let him be. I wish I could tell you that. But [graduate school] is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile. [Graduate school] life consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, [Flowbear] would show up with fresh bruises. The [Professors] kept at him -- sometimes he was able to fight 'em off, sometimes not. And that's how it went for [Flowbear]. That was his routine. I do believe those first two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him. "

Every Wednesday, I feel this deathcold wave hovering over me, threatening to break and crash on me like it crashed on Swayze at the end of Point Break, minus the Christlike undercurrent of self-sacrificial redemption. It's almost impossible for me to like any Henry James novels when I have to read 10 of them in 13 weeks. It's impossible for me to like books, period. And I was already on the fence. But it's not like they didn't warn me. Kids, don't go to grad school in English unless you really, really like to read.

"There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who [applied to graduate school]. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. [Educated]? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, [Professor], and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit."

Oh, of course, I'm being self-indulgent, and pathetically self-regarding. In six weeks, I'll be free as the wind blows-slash-grass grows, and it'll be fantastic, and I'll be glad. I'll marvel at how much I learned. I'll joice at my treasure-stuffed brain as it leaks its overflowing wisdom onto everyone that rubs it, and the queue to touch my throbbing noodle will be long, indeed (TWSS). The gauntlet will be run. The crucible will hang fire. The alembic will have made gold. The carcass bubbling in its own fat will have turned, not unlike Cindarella, into a delicious fried chicken.

But right now, goddammit, I'm exhausted.


Sisyphus said...

No money? No money as in they had sorta promised you something but it turns out not really, or no money as in youse guys didn't ask?

Ah well, same difference, really. Welcome to the land of the jaded.

Is the garage stuff written down in your lease? Could you go to some sort of legal/housing counsel? You know --- those associations which have lawyers that will give out some free advice. Our U has one on staff --- we get so fucked by landlords around here.

Good luck walking through the shadow of the Valley of Henry James --- even I didn't deal with more than one volume of that shit.

They don't care. They stare at me, nonplussed but unimpressed. "I'm fatigued," I explain. Their black-hole eyes burrow into my heart and lay eggs.

OMG. Your professors do that???!!!1

That's so fuckin cool!!! I can't wait till I'm a professor and I can play out my fantasies from Alien and Cronenberg's The Fly.


Anonymous said...

I was sitting in front of a banker today getting grilled about my credit in the hopes of getting a better rate on my car loan (at the suggestion of my boss), the whole time praying for an opportunity to deliver the line "you go on and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my time - Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a damn."
Shawshank madness, it is.

D said...

Ac Cog: I was somewhat... uncharitable to my erstwhile oppressors. The garage isn't in the lease. There was just kind of a miscommunication, since I'm renting a condo, and the garage fees are ostensibly supposed to be handled by the OWNERS of the space. But, you know, they haven't been doing that. Because I haven't been paying them for it. Because nobody told me I had to.

And, as for the school -- we're guaranteed 2 years of summer funding. Which, they told us later, starts in our 2nd year.

And, when you're a professor, I'm sure you can haunt your students in the guise of all kinds of crazy demons. You could even start wearing Ugg boots when they go out of fashion.

Incog: It just goes to show, Kafka didn't know shit about nothin'. He might have worked in a bank, but it wasn't no Bank of America. That's the real bureaucratic hell on earth. Only Morgan Freeman understands our horrible, terrible plight.