R assures me that the world is going to end in 2012 and therefore we should spend the year with an “eat, drink, and be merry” mentality. I think this must come from his chosen philosphy of epicureanism because it seems to me that it’s just as logical to suggest spending the year repenting of our sins or meditating to try to reach some state of spiritual purity.
The one certainty is that the year won’t be what I expect it to be. I imagine it as a lovely block of time spent writing and going to school, a smooth balance of both for another 16 months or so before I have to get a real job. The reality, though, is that on Wednesday, I go up to Boston to say goodbye to Michelle. I’ll be there until Monday, so five days. I don’t want to imagine it, but I do anyway because I can’t help myself, so I picture it being like Marcia’s visit to my mom. Mostly lovely, but oh, that last day is going to be hard. It’s weird to sit here and think that a week from today will be one of the worst days of my life and there is nothing I can do about it. Stranger still to know that my behavior this fall has been a bad friend guilt spiral cliche that therapists are taught to help people forgive themselves for. I don’t think I’m forgiving myself yet, but mostly I’m trying hard not to think about it.
So, moving on…I dug in the closet to find old journals to bring and read to her. Our last two phone calls have been mostly me talking; I’m not sure how much she talks at this stage. But I know from my mom that there’s listening happening all the way to the end, so I told her I would bring journals from college. I couldn’t find the journal from the semester we spent in England together, which was really frustrating. I can almost picture it–I think it’s a brown book. But the only brown book I found was from when we lived in Chicago together and that one I don’t want to read, either to her or to myself. I did skim through it and get reminded of some events: making dandelion wine; the time I cut her hair while drunk after first making her sign a pledge that she would never hold the haircut against me, and then cut my finger and dripped blood gaudily all over the paper making it unreadable; a dinner party of philosophy majors where I felt completely alone until we started playing the silverware game we used to play . . . but mostly that journal, no. So no England, no Chicago, the Wes journals are too filled with boring boy trauma. Fortunately that leaves our months in Europe, so I’ll bring that book along.
In January of 1988, we were in Scotland. We went to the island of Iona. If you go there once, you’re supposed to go back three times before you die. I don’t think Michelle’s ever been back, and I don’t think I’ll ever go there again either. But it was a beautiful place. Funnily enough, there are also things in the journal that I flat out do not remember. In February, we were in Parma and let ourselves get picked up by a “Tunisian boy” who bought us drinks and took us to play video games. Not a single memory comes to mind to match up with that description. I wouldn’t even have remembered ever being in Parma. I don’t even remember where Parma is. (Italy, obviously, but how did we wind up there?)
It’s strange to look at journals from so very long ago. Any time someone online mentions old journals, it’s with self-mockery for the adolescent angst and trite descriptions. I’m sure there’s some of that, but I’ve been much more surprised by the vividness of some of my descriptions. “Sitting on a bed. In Paris, three flights of dark curving stairs up, a sink and a bidet in the room with their own little corner and shower curtain, French doors that open onto a little balcony fronting the street, with the fluorescent HOTEL sign right next to it. Even noisy downstairs neighbors arguing in an unknown language. I feel like I’ve accidentally walked onto a stage set — not part of the play, just a casual observer.” I wish I’d written down the name of the hotel somewhere so that I could go back there someday.
Two days after I get back from Boston, school starts and then W&M and the kids come to visit and I will play and go to Universal Studios and hang out with Maddie in the toy stores while everyone else goes on the Harry Potter ride. And the one thing this year won’t be–or at least these first two weeks of it–is a nice sedate balance of writing and school.