Thursday, November 30, 2006
The Illusions We Have Left
For a couple of years, I worked in the undergraduate advising office at my university, telling students what to take in order to free themselves from the shackles of our four year college, which by then, was a minimum five to six for most students. I liked the job -- it was sort of an elaborate version of fill in the blanks, and I got to eat my lunch there, which in those days was a small container of plain spaghetti (Susan Powter diet except that instead of the thousands of calories she advocated, I stuck to eight hundred and I did not cut my hair in that crazy buzz fashion she favored for those obnoxious work-out videos) and work on my fiction. My boss, an extremely short, extremely Southern woman whose friends called her Fancy (I referred to her by her title, Dr. and her last name), was almost never around and kept my workload easy. Some days she'd bounce ideas for stories off me -- she's written one called "The Penny Monkey" about a girl who almost gets molested by an immigrant farm worker and alas, many of the stories went along these lines. Fancy and I got along just fine, and I felt like a basketball player, towering over her, even though I am only 5'6.
One day a woman walked into my office and said, I need to know what to take to graduate in two years. I'm dying and I want to graduate. I put down my tired pasta container and blinked hard. I'd dealt with lots of things -- credits not transferring, switching classes from trimesters to semesters, kids on academic probation, financial aid snafus, but this was new. I looked at her, and she had the bloated, poisoned look of someone on any number of cancer drugs (some people have the misconception that cancer makes you thin -- only sometimes. Some of the cruel vile drugs put weight on you, much like you'd been making continous trips to the Old Country Buffet), and I started to work on her file. I managed to create a schedule that would get her out of school right before the grim reaper was scheduled to make his appearance. She left my office, looking oddly thrilled while I'm pretty sure that I still looked stricken. I put her file back in the ancient cabinet and returned to my desk, wondering what I would do if I had two years left to live. At least, I hoped, I'd allow myself some meat sauce on my spaghetti. It was hard to swallow everything plain.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"These days the illusions we have left are the small ones of our own making; we now have to live with ourselves." Tony Earley, "Charlotte"
Drinking movie suggestion: Stevie (disturbing documentary -- quite excellent and includes several rattlesnakes at the end of it, although it is mostly about the foster care system)
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! And a special hello to my old friend Mark Long! Check out his live journal through the link on yesterday's comment section.