Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Book I Was Reading On The Side



After high school had let out on Friday afternoon, one of my friends got down on her knees and started barking at my parents' German Shepherd. She'd become unhinged from doing a lot of coke and decided to pay me and the dog a surprise visit. She growled, bared her teeth, and went to the bathroom, where she dumped a potted plant in the tub before leaving to score more drugs. I didn't understand what was happening -- I'd never touched much of anything at that point. I petted the dog and repotted the plant, the Cure in the background singing "Why Can't I Be You." I didn't want to be anyone else at that moment and especially not when I returned to school the next Monday and saw her bruised arms. When I asked what happened to her, she said, I hit myself when I'm coming down. It makes me feel better. Our AP English class had Paradise Lost on the docket for the day. Because I was talking to my friend, my teacher called on me right away to explain what Milton had meant by making a heaven of a hell and a hell of a heaven. She didn't think I had heard the question and wanted to make a point. I answered it completely, even throwing in a few additional references to Portnoy's Complaint, the book I was reading on the side. I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the class; I adored my teacher and didn't want to make her thankless task of getting teenagers interested in Milton anymore difficult than it already was.

When class ended, my teacher asked me to stay after. I thought she was going to ask what happened to my friend, one of her favorite students, a beautiful girl who looked like she'd been through a few rounds of her own personal Fight Club. But she didn't. She said, Michelle, you're too smart for your own good. It will lead you to great unhappiness in some ways. Her comment thrilled me. It wasn't as if she'd told me I didn't belong in the class or was hideous in some way. She hadn't told me I was failing or that she was disappointed in me. I went around all day, happy as could be, feeling special. Then I realized that I'd dressed in the dark and had one black loafer on, one blue one. They'd looked alike in the dim morning, and I hadn't noticed what a dork I was all day, running around with two different types of shoes, one black, one blue, the colors of my friend's bruises, the colors of shame, and nobody said anything directly, not once, not to either of us.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"No longer feeling bad is not the same as feeling good." Betty Rollin, Last Wish

Cocktail Hour

Drinking movie suggestion: Panic in Needle Park

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Tuesday! Thanks for all the sweet comments! I hope everyone has recovered from the holidays.

9 comments:

paul said...

Foxy Lady D
YouRSmartandgood
Poorfriendwhathappenedtoher
isshestillabovetheground?
O Mighty isis
Shazammmmmm!!!!!
R2 C2!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the time I went an entire day with a foul smell that seemed to be following me. I later realized it was my shirt. Nobody said anything to me either, and I wondered if everybody thought that I must be completely lacking in the hygiene department (which I'm not). How embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

Why does my sign in code today Phoneticaly sound like seman? Maybe because it was your book on the side, I never read Paradise Lost but I remember reading Portnoy's Complaint a few times while I think my book on the side was Valley of the Dolls.

Have you ever noticed the scar on my nose, that's what happened to me one night when I was drunk and paid a surprise visit to one of my neighbors who was just as drunk as i was, when I got a little to close to his German Shepard. He thought it funny that his dog had nearly taken the end of my nose off and i was drunk enough to not feel the pain and thought it funny in a strange sort of way. So i got the comfort of a few band aids and went back to uncle Jim Beams house for some medicine.

"No longer feeling bad is not the same as feeling good." Betty Rollin

"Michelle, you're too smart for your own good. It will lead you to great unhappiness in some ways." Her comment thrilled me.

how can someone be to smart? Even if it leads you down roads of unhappiness, that smart person will be able to navigate the course through those roads. Feeling good comes when those roads hae been successfuly coursed and conquered.

What is happiness? For you it is a hard definition to arrive at but I think, no I feel that you have found some. Which also is not "feeling good" that is a self image thing.

Which your biggest problem is you allow your inate contrasts let you think that your worth and value is much less than it is.

Do you realize how many people would give you whatever you needed to help you be happy even for a moment even if it meant taking thier own and giving it to you?

If you can't see that then you are a dork wearing two different colored shoes, but that is a definition that fits you well. You are full of color and vibrancy that attracts the desire in other people to know you. Not only because you write well but you are a person of great character and zeal.

If I had left that first class of yours that I took all those years ago and never went on to where we could become the twenty minute at a time friends that we are, I would be diminished, less of a person that I am because I know that even though
our face to face time is always short, it is be cherished by both of us.

All of these years we have known one another we have been able to in those short get togethers share our lives and that my dear one is better than sharing our writing.

Remember the connections and the spirit that we share, do the Braughtigan zen thing for a moment and whenever you need it take from my peace and the joy I have newly found in living simply without want, worry, fear, anxiety and, lack of need of anything other than the peace that is there within me; that is my happiness.

When I do see you again, probably in a frenzied state going from point a to point b for just a moment you will be happy because my ugly face makes it so, as your beautiful spirit makes it so for me.

Always Peace my friend (not a word i use casually)

TWM

Stanley Fish said...

It's interesting that you were reading Roth's book on the side, Michelle, next to "Paradise Lost." Roth's middle name is Milton. Old Phil turned into quite a Satan to Claire Bloom. But he must've been in heaven for awhile.

Tim said...

Although I've never met you in person your beauty and intelligence shine through in the words you write daily for us to read, and I hope any unhappiness they might have brought you hasn't been unbearable. I suspect Walking Man is right in that many people would go out of their way to help you find happiness if you let them.
Also, I'm betting that no one ever saw you as a dork, even with two different shoes on. :)

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle a lovely post as always. I like imagining you as the teacher's pet, smartest one in the class. If you would enjoy promo access to the Auto Show it is yours. The Working Man also commends your lovely spirit. I do not say it casually when I say A Peaceful Bravo my dear!

JR's Thumbprints said...

I didn't study Milton until college. As for the shoes, I've done the same thing, only different shapes instead of colors. I made the best of a bad situation when an inmate wanted to argue with me. I told him I was going to literally kick his ass. He said, "What?" I then asked him, "Pointy shoe or square toed?" and pointed toward my feet.

Anonymous said...

I hate to think of the friends I lost along the way to drugs and other stuff.

A teacher at high school gave me Milton, when I finished all of Shakespears plays and I've loved him ever since especially the bit when satan is looking at the sun and seems almost mournful

Anonymous said...

Sad what happened to your friend. Thats got to be tough watching someone close to you go through drug abuse.