Note: This was actually meant for my English blog. I guess it got confused.
I’m all caught up in predicting bug-bites, and I don’t want to say that my alphabet is a life plan. The future is a big thing to put down in one sitting.
Someone inadvertently asks it – why don’t you do something important? – like it’s a casual exchange or a polite nothing by which to measure the distance between real conversations. It’s not something to plan tea over, but it happens, on an accidental tongue. When it does, it is only unlucky in that I do not have pockets. Be it an unnoticed wardrobe mistake or an incurable case of wrong-place-wrong-time, it has never happened that the question has slipped out on a day when I have a safe place to stow away my hands. It happens – something important? – and my nervous fingers are already pulling at air, searching out an earring, a rubber band, a table cloth.
There it is: nuclear physics. Two protons, almost fluorescent in their quickness, meet in a little room underground to consider long-term commitment.
In another room, a full minute ago, someone thought up psychic parties. “I see you’ll be – a doctor.” Never mind the blood.
What they didn’t see was the romance, the way sea quarks touch and die, touch and come to life again.
Everyone’s assuming. Even the boy from the music hall: “I know your type, you girls who wear black eyeliner.” Politicians make a difference, and lawyers make money. (Never mind the blood.) The justifications never fail them, even the parties, even the psychics. I was folded over a curb, waiting for pancakes, when I rescued the worm, who was shockingly ungrateful, and everyone knew exactly what I would do with my life. (Do gypsies wear black eyeliner?)
It’s a matter of tactile deficiency. Stitches do not reveal their letters to the untrained fiddler. (Why is it so often said that English majors can do anything?) Why don’t you – settle down and be very linear so that we will have no trouble when we plan your memorial service? The truth is I’m not listening. Studying medicine would mean I’d have to recognize my entangled vocal cords and finger wiring as a birth defect.
Here’s what you’re after:
Checklist: The very first thing I intend to do is start again. Desert then – I will try to get in the habit of breathing unpolluted air.
Then business: college round two. Creative writing, philosophy.
Grad school. PhD. Linguistics, maybe.
(Learn what is worth talking about and exactly what to say.)
An interlude for the statisticians: There is mathematics to the coupling. Arrangements can be counted, coded into a fractal geometry for language, one hat-shaped curve. The base twenty-six can be pieced together to form any number of combinations – four for the standard tuning of a violin, four for the strings and strings of my DNA.
Two protons meet and are gone.
Someone said it, and I bent down to remove the napkin from my feet. It was dusty under the table, and I thought of all the things that could be growing there. When I reemerged, my face maintained its perplexed expression, which was enough to satisfy the inquiry. My fingers went to folding and unfolding because maybe it’s not enough. Pockets keep hands warm but also hide them.
When the party soured we stretched out on our backs and drank everything that was left. “I see now how you can write,” she said. “It’s very small. It’s in the way you sit on the floor when you’re wearing a full skirt.” Subtract the number of wine bottles and she may have been close.
“Do you mind if I record this session?” Not a bit, I said – my own little psychic party goody bag. He asked my birthday, counted the dead people that follow me around, said I had strong ties to the east. “A doctor, maybe. Or you’ll write.” It must have been the look on my face that made him change his mind.