Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love and Wine

The first portion of this post (the entire story with the freshman boy and the quoting and musing of my friend's ideas and beliefs) was written Wednesday, November 9th, 2011, but never posted, with some parts left incomplete. After revising very little and adding more on my thoughts, I decided to post it finally to the blog.


Start at the beginning, tell me what happened.

Uneventful week. Same as always. Sun came up, sun came down. Same shit, different day. I hate it when he complains and yet it's all because I'm jealous. Really jealous, actually. Of everyone. Of everything. It's just the way things are.


Pep rally. Then concert. Jazz. It was beautiful. Yin and yang of music, the pianist said. He spoke so much, said things I didn't even understand. About the change and the notes and the flow. Improvisation, it's like talking. You know the language, you put together the words and let it build on itself. And you have art, someway or another. But although out the talking, I felt guitly. Damn, did I feel guilty.

So there's this thing, this thing humans have called empathy, and this thing, this other thing we have in the world called the ripple effect that's made up of so many insignificant little things there's no point in trying to go back and map out. On Friday, a freshman was playing around with me while we sat at the cafeteria, lunch C. Fourteen, young, took my 180 dollar calculator. He was just kidding. He took it and took it and gave it back and gave it back and I laughed. Then I turned, I walked, no calculator, ran back, it was gone.

My initial reaction, as my reaction often is, is to curl up into a ball somewhere, cry, and get home to tell my parents I just flushed a couple hundred dollars down the drain. It happened before, and it was going to just keep and keep on happening, but I remembered his face. If he had it, I needed it. That was all. Ran to the office, ran to the security camera room, watched some teacher lady person and the camera guy flirt until they ran back the footage. Apparently, I was sitting at a horrible angle and the camera couldn't pick up anything. Then number one suspect appeared. He was called because teacher lady person recognized my description of him. And that he was a trouble maker. I was looking at the cameras when they called me. And he was by the doorway.

"What's wrong?"

"Did you take my calculator?"

I'm so subtle. Big puffy eyes and a desperate attempt not to freak out anymore. 180 dollars. 180 dollars. My dad was going to murder me.

"No, but I saw someone take it. At the cafeteria."


"Yeah, they took it and placed it on another table. Look, let's go find it."

And we ran. And there was people. And no calculator. And we searched and we looked around and teacher counselor lady person with walkie-talkie in her hand is eyeing him suspiciously, because he's knelling under the table and frowning and checking, and his backpack's slung over his shoulder, but every time he knells down, he slides it down his arm and "checks" underneath a table where we can't see him. I don't care if he has the calculator inside his backpack, pulls it out, exclaims in his most Academy Award winning performance, "I found it!" I just want it back. Really, teacher lady person, it's okay. You don't need to keep trying to catch him in the act. I just want the calculator. I don't care if he lies.

I got called away at one point--to explain why would just add heavy details to a rather simple story that's already confusing--and then ran back. The cafeteria was now empty, D lunch has cleared. He's looking around, and teacher lady person is frowning. "We need to check the security footage again, someone took your calculator from that table."

"So he was right? Someone took it and placed it on the other table for no reason?"

"No, he took it and put it there."

"How do you know?"

"Because he told me."

Well crap. He took it, jokingly, laughingly, when I wasn't looking, and put it on another table. Lunch C cleared. People ran. GASP, said random character with no name or face. Graphing calculator, TI-89, MINE. And they ran off and no one saw them. And now I have no expensive calculator that I need for Pre-Calculus class and this poor freshman here has to take all the blame. Fuck our life.

And I should be pissed. If I turned around for a minute and left it alone, yes, it was my fault, but there was no need to take it and hide it. MONEY. EXPENSIVE. Did it look like a normal calculator worth some ten dollars? That's what everyone was telling me. "It's his fault, he should pay for it!"

And yet I'm not mad. Because...why would I be? And I know he's freaking out. He thinks I don't know at first, then teacher lady person calls him out on it very blatantly while we're all walking together, and his eyes bulge out, and he glances at me, and I think he's expecting a category 5 scream of why the fuck would you do that, it's fucking expensive godammit I'm so gonna kill you. But I'm too busy trying not to freak out. We both check the lost and found. We both walk to the counselors office. I'm trying to text people to see if anyone finds anything, and then teacher lady person walks out. She needs to go and make an announcement about the pep-rally. So she leaves us. In her office. Alone.

I'm not really sure what I was expecting. He apologized beforehand, saying he would take full responsibility for it. It sounded like he was just saying what the teacher wanted to hear, and I wasn't complaining. Because really, I was busy trying to imagine how badly of a yelling I was gonna get once I stepped inside my house. I was texting people. Freakingoutfreakingoutfreakingout.

And then I don't know what happened.

Did he ask me what grade I was on first, or did he ask what class the calculator was for? Which one first? Did I talk first, or did he talk first? I remembered what we said in the cafeteria. Pre-calculus textbook in front of me, he jokingly assumed I had no artistic skill. I said I had very little. He said I probably thought art was useless. I said I didn't. That's about as much as we talked before he dove for the calculator and started messing with it and playing around. I don't remember what was said. I remember snippets.

"What was the calculator for?"

"Uhm, pre-calculus."

"Wait, what grade are you in?"

-tugging at blue shirt- "Eleventh." He looks like he doesn't believe me. "Well, I...I'm fifteen."

"Wow. Did you skip a grade?"

"No, I started early."

"I did too."

"How old are you?"


"Oh. It might be because of my birthday. I was thirteen freshman year."

What was I doing? I have no clue. But it was nice. Calming. I wasn't freaking out. I was texting people, trying to figure something out, but he was asking questions. And then, I don't know why I said it, "I'm sorry I'm making you miss the pep rally."

I remembered my first pep rally, freshman year. They put us right next to the senior crowd, and the pep rally game is always, world without end, rigged, and so the seniors always win and juniors always lose. And they were shouting at us, "FRESHMEN SUCK!" But we didn't care. I think, secretly, we loved every minute of it. Underdogs. Screaming. Bouncing around.

He didn't see my apology coming.

"It's my fault. I'm sorry I took it-"

"Listen, I don't want you to get in trouble. You were just kidding around, I know it. I'm just..."


"...the pep-rally sucks either way," he said after the pause, "Last year, I had a blue jacket on, a new one. And I got up to do something, and when I sat down, a huge chunk of paint ended up on the bottom of my jacket . For no reason. Just a huge red stain on my new jacket."

I have no clue why I started giggling.

"What class was it that you had after this?"

"None. Well...not a High school class. It's for dual enrollment."

"Oh, college. do you get into dual enrollment?"

"Did you take your PSAT yet?"

"Not yet."

"Well, when you take it, you need a good score and they'll let you in. Then you get to take college classes. They're easier than high school ones."

"What college are you going to go to?"

I should have said something random. Anything. The same answer I tell everyone. But I didn't feel like playing charades with him. I have no clue why. Nothing special had happened. We were both in a load of trouble from our respective parents whenever teacher lady person came back and started calling. I was terrified, he was holding it together. It was just a question--but dammit I need to say it at some point.

"I...don't know."

"You don't know?"

"It' really isn't for me."

What a stupid thing to say. Encourage the freshman to drop out of high school well into his fist grading quarter because even the Dual Enrollment, Scholars girl doesn't want to go to college, why don't you? But it was the truth.

"Why not?"

No answer. So he kept going.

"Then after all this, you're not gonna do anything? You'll just...?"

"No. I'll go to college. But because I have to. Not because I want to."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm..." stop right here and end it. Seriously. Stop talking. No one cares. It's stupid. Dammit, I hate this. "I'm going to be a writer."

It was such an easy thing to admit.

And it sucked. It really fucking suck.

I want to be a writer.

Because I have nothing else. Because it's all I have in me. Because I could whine and bitch and moan about all those little children being forced to graduate with a worthy diploma in business or something. About how they should do something they love rather than what others want them to do. But the real world doesn't work like that. And dammit, if I had the talent, the will, I wouldn't become a writer. I love writing. I do. I love writing more than anything else in the world. But let's be realistic, it's not a path that will put some goddamn bread on the table. It doesn't work like that. And even if it did, what are my chances? I need some fancy paper. Some background. I can't get straight A's for the life of me and nothing in this world holds something I may have a talent for. I love math, I love history, I love science. Not good at any of those subjects. I can't map things. My brain is a mess. Memorization sucks. I couldn't even be an office worker. I'm scared of change. I can't solve my own problems. Whenever I fail at something I don't stand up, breath in, and keep going. No, I try not to break down in place and bang my head against something till I can hear the cracks forming.

Then the boy started rambling, saying things I probably would have heard from so many others. I think he was just trying to save his neck, but it didn't matter. Maybe he believed it, maybe he didn't. He told me how one way or another, I'd have fans, followers. It was nothing. A few words thrown together, messily, but it did made me thinks.

I don't need to be great. I just need to try. I need to learn, one way or another. I just finished reading this book called Genesis, it's short, simple. So much said in so little. The author is not really an author. He's a scientists, and, whether he realizes it or not, a philosopher in his own way. I don't need to formulate complicated answers about the world. I don't need the long drawn conclusions of religious texts or even all the great men from so long ago. I need to start somewhere. Simple. Basic.

The boy who took my calculator, misplaced it, encouraged me, and curled up into a ball was named Juan. I'm sorry I made your parents spend 180 dollars to replace something you didn't even steal. I'm really sorry. And maybe my thoughts are exploding right now, but I'm glad you said what you said. It should be meaningless. You never read my work. You were probably trying to save your neck and make sure I didn't start demanding 200 dollar upfront. But it doesn't matter, what's done is done. Thank you. Right now, it seems we have the rest of our lives to figure out what we are.

Whatever that may be. Whenever that will be.

I often wonder why, as humans, we are so afraid to keep things simple and appreciate them for what they are. Why must we create myths and legends and children's stories to explain the world and its functions in methods that cannot be answered rather than simply start from the beginning, map the world, start with a theory, test it, test it, test it, and understand?

And learn. And grow.

Why must the Sun be anything more than the hot plasma that it is, it's diameter, the component? Isn't it incredible enough that stars in the world can emit so much energy, and heat, to distances and amounts that we, as puny creatures, cannot even compare to? Why does it have to be something else, something spiritual, or something better? Why can't it be wonderful and marvelous for all its facts and data and for what it just is.

The human body is nothing but a town of cells working together and coexisting. The fact that we have minds and thoughts and individual ideas are a result of such things, but are nevertheless, still just the cells, the functions, the paths, the connections made. Some of us seem to treat that as something despicable and empty. I think it's wonderful.

I can find comfort in such things. I can find comfort in the facts that I am alive, that all the gears inside of me are moving, and the mechanisms keep going, the circuits haven't been corrupted, my self is still intact. I may not be anyone special, not worthy of awards or recognition, but at least I'm alive, and I'm healthy and safe, and I have the mental capacity to acknowledge and feel comfort in that...

A theory of the universe suggests that after some time, black holes will dominate it all. Everything will seize to exist, all will disappear--even that which brought the end--leaving behind nothing but particles that will not change. Time will seize to exist. Nothing that we know of will remain.

And out of everything that I've ever heard, about the end of times, and hell's fire, and how we will burn for our sins, and hear the trumpets bellow, that bit about the universe, the black holes, the true end, brings me comfort. Comfort and happiness to know that I am, and always will be in this grand universe, insignificant.

My thoughts ended that day on a bitter note, even if doused with only a little thing to smile about at the very end.  I regret a little having made those comments about writing--how I would trade it for something far more useful. It's the truth that I feel like an utter fool and idiot without talent in many of my classes, in comparison to my peers, in the eyes of my teachers and parents (if they knew how much I truly failed at certain subjects). But I think wishing to trade away from writing may have been a little bit of an extreme.

In school, it's become kind of a staple to make fun of anyone who has chosen a creative arts field. I usually laugh it off and play along with it. I've never been discouraged by it, but I could see why people would want to major in things that...matter, I suppose, and that are useful while looking down at all who tried something different.

But the truth is, this feeling of defeat and acceptance should not even enter my thoughts at all. I didn't think about it until I heard this from Stephen Fry in a short series he filmed while traveling through the United States:
"Oscar Wilde quite rightly said, ‘All art is useless’. And that may sound as if that means it’s something not worth supporting. But if you actually thinkabout it, the things that matter in life are useless. Love is useless. Wine is useless. Art is the love and wine of life. It is the extra, without which life is not worth living."
So even if art is useless--and I'm sure that it is--it isn't something that you can ignore. It's not something that you can forget for the rest of your life and continue humanity without it. Do people ever really go in through out their life without ever listening to a piece of music and enjoying it, or appreciating a painting, or having a good time watching a movie, or crying at a book's ending, or being intrigued by a video game, or interested in a theater production, or constantly tune in for a TV show, or anything? And if you know people like that, are they happy?

I don't want the world to suddenly get rid of the more useful professions and declare artists the only ones worth living. I just think this balance that we have makes us a better race, and Earth a slightly better place.


"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.