Lost/Found

December 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

So say you lost something – anything – and you’re looking for it in the lost and found.

It’s a bottomless cardboard box with black letters on the side, and filled with a whole multicolored mixture of things – ratty sweaters and smelly sneakers and half-filled waterbottles, shiny change that fell out of jacket pockets and umbrellas with the metal rods twisted up the wrong way.

So you jump into the box, and swim around a little bit, and it’s dark. Really dark. You might feel something on your leg and give a little start of fright, but then you realize that it’s really just your own hand, but it felt so foreign…

And you wonder why.

Why does a physical part of your own being feel like it doesn’t belong, why does it feel instead like it could be a cockroach weighing down on your jeans or the touch of the slimy arm of an unknown’s raincoat, why, why, why can’t you tell if the clothes on your body are really yours or if you’re just being smothered by other lost things, what on earth is that smell, is it you? is it me? or does it even smell at all –

And it turns out that the only option is to sit down, cross-legged, on the floor – if you could even call it that. So you swallow the bile rising in your throat, the disgust in apprehension of what you are about to do, and take a seat. It feels terrible, and you want to throw up. But you’re settled in now, and once you wedge yourself in between the socks and change purses and discolored cardigans, it’s quite comfortable. It’s quite nice, actually. Pretty. Warm. Nice. Comfortable. Nice, yes. Nice. Quite nice.

Nice.

Are you drunk?

No!

Get out now, you’re being suffocated, someone released carbon monoxide and you can’t even notice yourself sliding down the hills of running shorts and bags and old chapsticks and washcloths and then you’ll be lost, too, but isn’t that what you came for, to get lost, yes, to get found, yes –

And only when you wake up entangled in sheets and stripes and Kleenex boxes, do you think about the stupor, and shudder to yourself, and smile about when you will return.

 

Lost in Translation

December 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

The light are on in my room.

Not my room, E004 Metcalf Hall, but my room – the one that carries the weight of the past five-odd years, and with it the memories – of my sixteenth birthday party, of countless all-nighters, of changing schools and learning things and growing up and falling down. The same room that carries the books that have been a part of my life since elementary school, that still holds the mark from that one time when I smashed a spider on the ceiling.

At first it felt like slipping on a glove – everything still fit. There, on the second bookshelf, are the boxes whose contents I know like the back of my hand. And under the desk, yes, those are my piles of sketchbooks since sixth or seventh grade.

And there, by the door, lies my big blue suitcase, waiting to be filled up again one mid-January shakes me awake from my homebound stupor.

I’m still feeling the loose threads, the little gaps in comfort in the seams of this glove. Here are all these piles of books and my giraffe measuring spoons and the movie I still need to return to Michaela but somehow something got lost in translation. Because moving location is like translating languages. Please translate, sir, “home” from California to Massachusetts, please translate your definition of privacy please translate your sleeping schedule translate your habits translate your interests now muddled and confused with the possibilities of a future that four years alone seems not enough to prepare for.

I breathe over the dust settled in on the shelf over my desk. Four months of quality dust collecting, this is. Four months suddenly doesn’t seem like much. Life is now counted in increments of home-time and new-home-time. Here’s Boston, here is the T here is the LEAH Project here is responsibility and finals and laundry and waking up to Leah’s alarm. Here also is sleeping in and tulips on my desk and my books, god, my books – here is my whiteboard and my ice skates and my bed that somehow feels much lower than I remember it being. Home.

Sooner than I think (but it will feel like forever), the lights are going to click off again, the suitcase is going to roll out the door, and a new four months of dust is going to collect on the shelves. We’re moving forward, always moving forward.

 

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

December 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Life, at the moment, is narrated by Frank Sinatra.

We’re still waiting for it to snow – apparently it snowed for half an hour late Friday night, but by that time I was safe and warm in bed, going to sleep early.

Even though it’s finals weekend, it still feels like the time for red and cream and green and gold and charcoal gray, time for Secret Santa and midnight movies with freshly baked cookies, time for dorm formals in the common room while singing carols and eating cake (time for running around outside naked with a few thousand other people, too, apparently, but that’s irrelevant). Winter, I think, is the most romantic time of year.

I’m going to be sad to leave here, even if it is just for a month. A month. It sounds like such a long time to be away from new friends and new life. I’m going to miss my work. I love working for the LEAH Project (have I mentioned that before?), but even more now – there’s another intern at the office, and everyone is getting to know each other better and I don’t know.

It’s nice to be in a place that’s not solely made up of several thousand 18-22 year olds, actually. I feel rather…mature, when I’m there. Yeah, a bit. I’m still the youngest person in the office (well, only by a year), but it’s absolutely lovely to be in that environment, where we goof around a bit but I still get to act a little bit…old. Older. And that’s appreciated. What was it – “You’re only 18?! But you’re so mature! I was an idiot when I was 18.” (Oh, the wonderful K). And I also know I must be very, very young if I’m saying that.

Oh life, oh love, oh please, let it snow!

 

Written on December 12, 2010

Island Retreat

December 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Thompson Island is a bit like Angel Island back in the San Francisco Bay. When I first stepped off the ferry onto the sandy soil, I was reminded of the one and only time I had traveled to Angel Island, years ago – the weather was bright, clear, crisp, the view was blue and green and grey and tan, just like Thompson Island.

I had woken up that morning at 5:30 in order to make it to the ferry station on time so I could meet my boss at the LEAH Project and help out with the high school kids serving as mentors for young children in Boston Public Schools out-of-school programs. It was freezing outside, and dark. The Tufts shuttle – the Joey, we call it, a nickname since the company that operates the bus is called Joseph’s something-or-the-other – wasn’t running this early in the morning. I happened to turn the corner onto College Ave, resigned to walking down to Davis Square, at the same time an MBTA bus rolled to a stop. Does this bus stop in Davis Square? Yep, said the driver, and I clambered on, sitting, waiting, watching the sky turn from evening blue to early morning light gray.

At South Station I wandered around a bit, trying to find the stop for the number 7, which would take me to the dock I needed to get to. When I finally found the stop, the girl next to me struck up a conversation – coincidentally, she, too, was from the Bay Area, and is friends with the Mertol family at Monta Vista.

Of course, because this always happens when I travel around Boston by myself, I missed my stop on the bus and had to ride the whole loop – which was short, thankfully, and I was still an hour early – before the bus driver kindly waved me to the front and pointed out where I was supposed to go, handing me his own CharlieCard with a smile, a laugh, and a this will make traveling on the T more efficient, eh!

His older brother went to Tufts, actually, and he was very pleased when he heard that I go there now. He was also rather amused when I told him I was from California, because they don’t have real winter where you’re from.

I was nervous, quite honestly.

I was standing at the dock with my boss, a youthful, energetic 20-something, and a couple of high schoolers who I guessed were sophomores. It was absolutely freezing cold next to the ocean, and I wondered how I was going to do on this first day on the job. I needed to talk to these kids, I needed to keep up my energy all day, and I was tired and sleepy. My insomnia coupled with revealing dorm events had kept me up until 3 that morning.

I shouldn’t have worried.

My God, those kids.

I love the LEAH Project. I love working for a non-profit, I love that I’m doing something real and world-changing and actively making myself a part of the Boston community. And I knew I was happy to work for the LEAH Project before I accompanied the group on their retreat and training at Thompson Island, but what I didn’t realize was how much I would then come to believe in the project and in the kids who devote their energy to it.

Naively, and in true fashion of a privileged suburbanite from the high-tech high-income high-everything bubble of the Silicon Valley, I didn’t expect the LEAH mentors to be who they were. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. Maybe I was expecting not to be surprised – whatever that means.

But these city kids, the majority of which are from Roxbury, Dorchester, South Boston – in short, the underprivileged areas of Boston – are smart. They are talented. They are ambitious and passionate and kind and full of belief in what they do. They take it seriously, because they understand the implications of the work they do. Teaching. Keeping little kids safe. Breaking the cycle of poverty and lack of education. Giving young kids who need it most a leg up.

I didn’t expect that I would laugh as much as I did, or that when we formed a “FamiLEAH” web with string at the end of the day I would feel the telltale pressure behind my eyes that meant the the tears might just fall if I didn’t rein them in. I didn’t expect the kids to be so accepting of the new kid – me, “the college girl”, the intern, joining their family for a year. It wasn’t just me that had to make the effort to introduce myself to everybody. They opened their arms and their hearts and joked with me, laughed and talked and brought out their radios and made me sing along with them.

When we parted ways at the end of the day with me on one side of the tracks and them on the other, we waved at each other and smiled. I knew I probably wouldn’t get a chance to talk to many of them ever again, and they’d never know what an impact they had on me. As the trains roared in and the doors opened, I gave a little sigh – and then a start – Ricardo? He laughed at me and I realized that Jesse and Ricardo and Lisa, it turned out, were on my side of the tracks. Ricardo was the last one to reach his stop before me, and before he left, he gave me a hug, a smile, and “Take care!” – and I smiled because I knew that he, and all those wonderful, wonderful kids actually meant it.

So now I believe, too. And you, the LEAH kids – thank you for everything that you do.

 

Baby It’s Cold Outside

December 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

And the sky is powder blue, fading to a pale whitish yellow before it hits the horizon line. Wispy clouds are greyish-purple, in the deep shadows almost blue violet, and on the undersides glowing rosy pink and maybe a little bit orange. The colors intensify every time I glance up to look at them through the common room window, adjacent to the side from which the Boston skyline is only just beginning to light up.

It’s beginning to get cold here – 43 degrees today with a low of 30 – but it doesn’t feel that bad. I’m fine in a long-sleeved t-shirt and cardigan. Acclimatization, I guess.

My eyes are tired.

If I wanted to, I could fall asleep right now on this extraordinarily comfortable sofa, with my legs up on the wooden table and my books stacked unopened near my leather-booted feet.

The sky is darker now, duller – like somebody added a tiny bit of blue-grey to the mix and turned everything into the precise shade of dusk.

Tomorrow I’ll be on the T at this time, passing over the Charles as the sun sets over the unwinding river, setting the water on fire and sharply illuminating the outstretched fingers of the trees that line its banks. I always look forward to the ride back from Dorchester. I’m usually exhausted, fretting about the amount of work I have due the next day and how my god, it’s already 5 and I have all of my classes tomorrow and finals are in two weeks and so is that event I’m supposedly planning for the LEAH Project and I really need to go to the bank and get quarters so I can do that shit-ton of laundry sitting in my closet and go to CVS to buy that jumprope and soap and go to Dowling Hall to set my paychecks in order and go to Career Services to find an internship for the summer and damn, looks like I’m not going to make it home in time to get to my recitation so I’ll have to go tomorrow, and then

“Charles MGH, doors open on your right-“

And I can just sit and breathe and smile and look out the window over the bridge and into the sunset.

There are so many experiences that I have wanted to document here that I have not been able to, but I’m going to try to write something about each of them so that I have a record. Personal history, see? I want to be able to go back and read my story and watch how all these things – Thompson Island, getting lost at Harvard, inspiring strangers on the 23 – shape me. Shape my goals. Shape how I’m getting where I’m going.

The sky is almost completely black. Not cobalt blue or grey-purple, but black, and there’s a tiny bit of orange fading into it above the trees. Boston is illuminated, like all the sleeping windows just decided to wake up and turn on the lights.

So I’ll try.

Written on November 29, 2010

In 10 Years

December 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

You’re wearing a dress – silky, blue, shows off your figure, which is quite nice, actually, though it could be better. No matter, the nature of the dress hides flaws well, as long you stand straight and tall. Your shoes are high heeled and bright red, your tights are subtly lacy, and your hair, bouncy as always, is swirled around and pinned up tonight. A curl here and there will escape, and due to the constant pushing back of your bangs they’ve developed a little wave up at the top. You wish that wouldn’t always happen, but you tuck them behind your ear (though they won’t stay), and laugh at something somebody said, under the golden chandelier, the twinkling lights that highlight everyone’s faces in the most attractive way. You’ve got some water in a glass that you hold as if it is champagne, and you’re forcibly reminded of the first time you went to an MIT frat – awkward and strange and out-of-your-comfort-zone and wishing that somebody would take an interest in you. But you push that to the back of your mind – you’re here, now, and you’re engaged and you may be a bit poor but you’ve managed to keep the house, small as it is, pretty and warm.

You’re glowing, you are. You know everyone here so well – they’re your classmates and your friends and your coworkers – and you’re so sophisticated and so gorgeous in the dimmed lighting, you’re floating here and there, gliding, dancing over the hardwood floor – but just for this night. After this is done and the dishes get cleaned and you’re in your pajamas again you wish for the unsophisticated common room dance parties and the obnoxious laughter and stupid jokes and lying all over each other in the hallway, and you wonder how this happened. How it is that you are now putting away the goat cheese and the lasagna and the french bread in your own place and you’re going to sleep without having people to talk to and so this is growing up, huh. But when the heels come off and the computer is turned on and you pull up tumblr again and reblog some Harry Potter artwork and remember some Glee music and maybe there’s one of those troll pictures still hanging around that you laugh at a little bit, you remember who you are and where you come from. You’re back to being that 18 year old kid sitting up late at night in her bed or in her friend’s room laughing about nothing and talking about sex and saying things like melonfuckers and then you smile and turn off the light because you’ll always be her, always, as long you still remember.

 

Saying Goodbye

July 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

When you say goodbye…there’s never enough time to say all you want to say, never the right moment to stop talking, never enough words to explain exactly how you feel.

But how do you feel?

I want to say to you that there will never be a goodbye. That this isn’t the end and we’ll see each other again and things will be normal – or not normal, per se, but good. It’s so strange to meet people after a month of break and various vacations, everyone looking a little tanner, a little taller, a little older – and talk as if nothing is going to change. But simmering underneath it all is the knowledge that we will change, things will be different, and hell, they already have. Perhaps it will be change for the better. But there is also the possibility that we will grow apart, and therein lies the fear of saying goodbye.

Seeing people for what may be the last time before we part for college…is different from other types of farewells. Because in truth, these are essentially goodbye’s for good. When we gather again, flying in from Boston, from LA, from Oregon, from San Diego, or even just driving in 20 minutes from Palo Alto, we are going to be changed from our personas of the summer. Some of us will have found passions. Some of us may have lost them. Some of us will return having backpacked through the wilderness, lived in the heart of New York, sledded down snowy lawns on kitchen trays and jumped in fountains in the dead of night. Some of us will have tried forbidden substances and liked them, some will have tried them and hated them. Bottom line is, we’re going to be different. And it’s going to show – blatantly, crudely, unashamedly – through the hastily donned summer faces that we’ll almost certainly try to fit into when we return to the place of our high school years.

So what will happen? We might meet, we might not. We might be afraid to seek each other out individually, instead opting to meet in groups, where there is at least some social insurance – there are more people to provide the juice of conversation when it seems to be running dry. But what about the juice of our personal relationships? I read somewhere that one always returns to their high school friends. To quote precisely:

“You’ll remember your high school friends the most…even more than your college friends…but high school friends separate and always come back to each other in the end of the day so don’t worry about it.”

Perhaps it is because your high school friends know how you were when you were a “stupid hormonal teenager.” If they knew you at your most irrational, most invincible, most daring – then how could they not accept you when you are older and more mature? College may be a fresh start, but your friends from high school, ah, they know your history. They know the full story. In the future, they will be the ones who know who you were before, compared to who you are now.

Maybe people return to their high school friends because they want to be teenagers again. They want to feel that reckless abandon, the energy and invincibility flowing through their veins once more, the feeling of being young and full of vitality and nerve. It’s the best and worst time of life, I think. You groan at your stupidity, but you long for those feelings again. You want to feel as if the world is your oyster, you want to feel like you can say shut up, world, I swear, I’m in love, you want to feel the rush of power when you step out the front door and the sky is an inky black. Because when you’re older, you’re allowed to do what you want. You can’t defy people anymore. And quite honestly, defiance is rather exhilarating.

A few days ago I was hit with an almost overwhelming bout of nostalgia. I lay in bed with all the lights off, staring at the blurry outline of the ceiling as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, and images started flashing in front of my eyes. Images of high school. Before high school. Last week. And I knew, finally, that it was coming to a close. That this is a very, very definitive transition, and I will never experience anything like it again. That I had to say goodbye. Not “see you later,” not “til next time, then” – but goodbye.

When you say goodbye…there’s never enough time to say all you want to say, never the right moment to stop talking, never enough words to explain exactly how you feel.

What comes, will come, and we’ll meet it when it does.

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