This morning I went to the DMV, so that I could take the test in order to get a learner’s permit. I went yesterday as well but my number didn’t get called by 4pm, which is the cut-off time for test takers (they made it to 311 and I was 314). So I gave my card to a Mexican family that seemed very pleased, which made me feel amazing. I went in again this morning at 8AM, paid $5, sat down in front of the computer and got 17 out of 25 right–68%, far below the required 80%. I messed up on really stupid things, like what a yellow stoplight means (you get ready to stop, as opposed to just get more cautious–I blame driving in Colombia for this faulty impression of mine!), or what to do when a blind person is crossing the street without a crosswalk during a green light. My friend told me that there are 35 questions, so I didn’t even last long enough to complete the test before failing irrevocably. I get three more tries, so if I fail on Monday (which I won’t! Postive thinking! I won’t! I won’t!), I have to wait 28 more days, and there goes any possibility of stress-free commuting for my job this July. Ahh, well. No point in worrying about it.
The idea of me driving is still very weird to me. I still can’t picture myself behind the wheel. It’s something I’ve put off for a very long time, out of laziness more than anything else. It helped that Corey was very anti-car and driving culture, and I am (was? no. am) as well, I suppose. More than anything I’m pleased about the idea of not having to take the Greyhound to Salem or Woodburn anymore, and of getting to go camping, hiking and to the coast when I please. In that sense, driving definitely represents such FREEDOM to me… though my bike definitely makes me feel free, when I can ride it (I hurt my knee in the same way as last year, by slipping on a puddle in a bar and dislocating. An injury dating back to falling down on the high school basketball court, this is the fifth or sixth time it’s happenned. So I’ve been quite immobile this week, which doesn’t really matter since the weather’s been so grey and horrid.)
Reading the DMV manual is pretty… I don’t think “fun” is the right word. “Interesting” is better. More than anything else, I’m enjoying the kind of language it uses: it feels so instructional. It’s just so different from anything I usually read! Sometimes the language is so blatanly obvious, it borders on the poetic and philosophical. Like: “Remember, children are often very unpredictable.” “Never discharge a firearm, bow and arrow, or other weapon on or across a highway.” (I like how ‘bow and arrow’ is specifically cited here, as opposed to being lumped in with ‘other weapon’!) “Do not leave an injured animal to die.” (Makes me think of Donnie Darko: “Every living creature dies alone.”) “Never assume another driver will yield the right of way to you. Be prepared to stop.” These phrases feel like quotes Melissa Bank or Lorrie Moore would place at the beginning of a short story collection, words that can be twisted into metaphors about life. “Driving is not the time to solve business or family problems, plan a trip, daydream, or read something other than posted signs. You need to continually concentrate on what is happening in front of you, behind you, and on both sides of you.” Talk about a Buddhist sense of presence and awareness!
Some other sentences feel like the incantation for a mysterious spell that I don’t understand, from a mysterious world I’m only just beginning to know. Who knew, for example, that when parking downhill, you must turn your wheels inward, and when parking uphill, they must be outward? I chant it to myself like a little dance: “downhill-inward, uphil-outward.” And I STILL don’t get the whole when you get to make a right/left turn during a red light thing–that really screwed me on the test this morning. Things that seem like they would be so instinctive, such natural, taken-for-granted forms of knowledge for everyone else, are just baffling and incomprehensible to me.
This week, I also tried reading Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs: I liked the first 3 chapters, got disinterested in the 4th one and haven’t picked it up since. So instead I reread Eat Pray Love, now officially one of my favorite books of all time (yes, it is! Shamelessly so!). God, I was going to write an entry just with quotes, but considering I underlined passages on basically every page, I don’t think that’s the best idea. This is the kind of book I might like to write someday, I think, with some Cary Tennis vibes thrown in as well. There’s a part (in Italy!) where she quotes a line from a Louise Gluck poem, which I immediately proceeded to look up, and then to love.
The Wild Iris
At the end of my suffering
there was a door.
Hear me out: that which you call death
Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.
It is terrible to survive
buried in the dark earth.
Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:
from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure sea water.
“At the end of my suffering, there was a door.” I love it.
I’ve spent most of day cleaning, rearranging and decorating my room. I’ve been helping my friend who’s going to graduate school this fall to clean up and pack most of his stuff. I’ve ended up taking (being given?) a lot of his things: the $900 mattress he bought as soon as he graduated (I’m going to pay him $200 for it in the fall, as soon as I have more money in my bank account!), a painting of a plantation that has a tiny Pan’s Labyrinth-like black demon hidden in the upper left corner behind a tree, towels, a sweatshirt. It was really crazy, going through his stuff and finding the essays that he wrote for Writing 121 at PCC, when he was learning English, or tiny framed photos of him in his band uniform as a kid abroad in Latin America. Possessions are weird; it’s like they don’t ever really go away, but just get passed on. Even when you throw them away into what you hope is the black void of your garbage can, they still just get carried away to a different site, to a dump under the earth, where they sit until Lord knows when.
So helping him sort through his stuff inspired me to do the same for mine, but unfortunately I ended up not throwing that much stuff away. Instead I went kind of crazy taping old documents and photos to the wall, some of them dating all the way back to high school… freshman year… my semester abroad in England… senior year. Now the wall looks kind of cluttered and crazy and I’m wondering if it’s going to make anyone who comes into my room (specifically me!) feel claustrophobic.
The family tree my uncle made me… drawings… postcards… thank you cards… photos… magazine cut-outs… I dunno. It makes me feel very high-school, in a way. But I haven’t really had this stuff out since graduating in May 2008: not in the Milwaukie house, not in the NE house, not when I was in Mexico or Colombia. So it feels good to put it up again, like I am reclaiming my space, marking my territory, making it my own. “From the center of my life came a great fountain, at the end of my suffering, there was a door.”