April has been an interesting month. No, not cruel in the least, just… interesting. What’s happenned?
Well, I went to Idaho to visit a university there, and decided that in the end it wouldn’t be the best place for me. And so, it looks like in the fall I am moving to England, to do something I put on my Things to Do Before I Die list that I first wrote in 2007 while tramping around my first solo traveler journey in Mexico. I am pretty excited. I feel very certain that this is a good choice for me.
What else has happened? I reread Mario Vargas Llosa’s Los cachorros in Spanish (ahh, memories of middle school and los escandalos of reading a castration scene…) and Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge. Right now I am slowly but surely reading my way through two big heavy books: The Case for God by Karen Armstrong and The Stand by Stephen King. So one dense history of religion and a #1 best-selling horror novel abut a killer plague and the end of humanity (two of my favorite subjects).
IDK why I dig apocalyptic fiction so much. Sometimes I wonder if it has the same effect on me as classical Greek tragedy, providing a cathartic release. Oh BAM, I think, reading a scene in which someone coughs in the back of a movie theater, y’all infected now! Too bad suckers! A kind of “not me, them” sort of release. Maybe by writing or reading about these horrors on the page, it makes us feel like we’re better prepared to deal for them in real life. Not that I think that an army-made killer virus is going to break free anytime soon, but still.
Uh….. OK. I guess that’s pretty much been my April. To end this post, here are some photos from Idaho and a piece I wrote recently in my writing workshop. The prompt was Clouds gathered.
Clouds gathered. She unlocked the gate. I had just arrived in Idaho ten minutes ago, and I had no idea where I was going to go from here.
“Did you bring your receipt?” she asked. “or something at least showing that your scholarship money was deposited?”
My OCD was making it hard for me to not want to jump over every crack in the driveway leading us up the long college lawn. “Yeah, I have it,” I said, trying to make my voice sound casual. My only hope was that it was in the knotted Safeway bag in my backpack, along with my speeding tickets, and not at the bottom of my tote bag with the squashed orange.
“I talked to some of the other students and there should be someone who can put you up for the night.” She was fumbling with a big yellow key that she pulled from a long elastic band on her waist. The door looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie, and when I craned my neck back and looked up, I could see shadows of gargoyles shaded against the sky.
“That’s awesome,” I said. “Great. Thanks.” My goal was to sound as robotic as possible. This was the only grad school I’d been accepted to, besides the one in Norway with free tuition. I was trying to play it cool with her, the Department Head, make it seem like I was holding a lot of cards close to my chest, when in reality all I was clutching was a ripped cloth tote bag from New Seasons leaking squashed orange juice.
“I’m glad you made it here on time to attend the thesis defense,” she said as we walked down the cool hallways. Her footsteps sounded so loud that I wanted to ask her to speak up. My red Converse shoes squeaked with every step I took like an annoying little animal.
“What are the defenses like” I asked, pretending to be looking at the posters on the walls. “Is it really OK if I sit in?”
“Mm, it should be. We usually don’t bring out the flame throwers until the end.” I waited for the laugh and Just kidding, but it didn’t come.
I’d driven six hours to get here. Idaho! I hadn’t even known where Idaho was until I looked at a map. I hadn’t told my boss that I was leaving, let alone that I had applied to grad school.
I was trying to get a fine arts degree in performance sculpture. It had been my side hobby for years. More specifically, embalming had been. I loved picking all the mutated animals out of the gutters and river beds—the yellow fish with no internal organs, the three-eyed cats, the ooblek frogs that disintegrated into a pile of green gloop if you squeezed them too hard. My lifelong goal had been to catch one of those rats that were smart enough to build carts to carry their cat-fighting weapons, but I had yet to find a way to penetrate their walls and barricades. I’d spent two years combing the paths in the canyon where the canal had been dug, miles away from the big whites houses that all the French and Chinese and British business owners lived in. I’d embalmed them, put them in different positions, uploaded photos to my tumblr account and there it was, my creative portfolio. Was it good enough to get me an MFA? Idaho seemed to think so.
“I’m really excited for you to meet Boston,” the Department Head said, pushing open a rickety dark brown door with a clenched fist.