Friday, September 23, 2005

Love Letters

All I really need is a love letter. Jerrod says that love letters carry old news, but I long for a card or note (hey, I'm not even talking about flowers here!) that says, "I'm thinking about you" or "I miss you" or his classic "Come back to me... Come back to Cold Mountain". ANYTHING!

In his defense, when I first moved to New York he sent me 24 pieces of mail in October. Granted, they were just pictures of animals from National Geographic, but I'm sure that he thought with the right sun-shiney mascot (such as the bo-wevil) would brighten my early gloomy days. He seemed to have carefully clipped the pictures from the magazine and then scratched "I love you" in silver sharpie at the top of each one. I'm being generous by calling those love letters.

But it's been a year now and maybe I'm asking too much. Living 1500 miles from each other doesn't necessarily mandate written correspondence; but there is something magical in the art. Just the envelope makes my heart skip. Just flipping through bills and magazines to see his handwriting scrawling our addresses on the front of a plain old bright white envelope and my day immediately takes a turn for the better. And there is something so heart-skippingly wonderful about peeling open the creased notebook paper (college ruled) and holding in my hands something that was created for me. Something that took more time than zapping an email across the networks.

I can't explain it, but when I do receive a love letter, I read it over and over and over again. I tuck it into a book or my journal. I fold it and unfold it. I memorize my favorite parts. He loves me. His words are there, bold and vulnerable, all at the same time.

There is nothing like an old-fashioned love letter.

Friday, September 16, 2005

CLASS with Cathy Ayersman

I used to live with a girl from West Virginia. She was your classic all-American looking girl. Pretty brunette, her hair was always neat looking - even after the gym! She always wore cute outfits from Gap or Old Navy or Abercrombie and she walked with a bounce in her step. Shorter than me, but with just as much spirit, she and I made many memories together during our stay at the dorm and in our party packed apartment on Woodland Avenue (which is, for UK campus life, like living in Times Square).

Now don't be fooled. You cannot judge a book by its cover. Cathy may look like a sweet lil' Southern Bell, but careful of her claws. Cathy is a very clever girl. Bright and quick.

We had Philosophy together one semester. This led to note passing, eye-rolling, and endless yawning. We both viewed Philosophy as time wasted; and girls like us should never be allowed to fall into a state of boredom... because for girls like us, boredom leads straight to mischief.

Now Sean, our teacher, had quite a thing for Cathy. I tried to stir the pot as often as possible with, "Sean, Cathy just can't seem to understand this theory. Could you come over here and help her?" or "Sean, are you going to the game this weekend? Cathy works for the Fieldhouse and can maybe get you some better seats." (This is where she might say that I am exaggerating, but don't believe her.)

So, Cathy - a girl of great means for revenge - started a game... that I ALWAYS lost. It all started from a rap song by the late Big Punisher called "I'm not a Player, I just Crush a lot" (or at least, that's the clean version of the song and the one we played by). Here are the rules:

1) If you hear the word "Class", you have to say AUDIBLY "Punish Me".
2) If you are in the middle of a conversation WITH ANYONE, you must still say "Punish Me".
3) You may NOT break eye contact with whom you are conversing. You must say "Punish Me" right to them without breaking stride.
4) No eye-rolling, heavy sighing, giggling, or looking away.
5) No explaining yourself to anyone. This is a covert game.

So the problem was that Cathy was always on point. She waited until I was in the middle of a conversation with a boy and she knew my weakness: I WAS ALWAYS DESPERATELY TRYING TO PLACE MYSELF INTO CONVERSATION WITH BOYS!

For example, Cathy and I were walking to class one fine day when we spotted Tayshaun Prince - a friend of mine from my days at the dorm. He was playing a lot for UK's basketball team and was a very talented player. (He now plays in the NBA.) So imagine it: I am 5'8" and he is 6'11" and Cathy is 5'4". People are already staring at us, some patting Tayshaun on his ample back, some asking for autographs, some shouting out, "Great game last night, man!" Like the cat who licked the cream, my ponytail is bobbing a little more than usual because I am the center of attention just for walking next to him!

I forgot to mention something about Cathy: she is a vampire. It is not blood she seeks, but the humiliation of others. Cathy, being shorter than me, therefore, has no problem yelling up at the giant, "So Tayshaun! Where is your next CLASS?!"

The world stops momentarily.

The word CLASS is echoing in my head and spinning around us as I stand there in front of him, mouth hanging wide open, my head jerked back as far as it will go just to make eye contact. I can feel the blood rushing to my ears --- right to my big exposed ears! I take one long blink and then demand that Tayshaun, "Punish Me."

He didn't ask me to repeat myself. He didn't agree or disagree to my request. He just sort of blinked a little and headed into the Classroom Building while I stood outside and contemplated throwing myself into the path of an oncoming golf cart.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

80's music

The strangest thing has happened in my life lately. It's 80's music. And it's everywhere.

It all started when Jose, a quiet Domincan busboy at work, walked up behind me with the bread basket singing, "What's love got to do with it?" by Tina Turner. Now, I had barely heard this boy utter 2 words (in English or Spanish) so you can imagine my shock. He was not singing to me and did not care whether or not I heard his singing. It was as if an All 80's All The Time radio station was rocking on in his head and he was an unknowing transmitter. I began to quietly sing "who needs a heart when a heart can be broken" as I walked past him to take an order.

Well, you woulda thought it was Christmas morning! Jose's eyes shone! He had found a fellow child of the 80's. Now, in my defense, my parents forced my brother and sister and I to believe that there was no other genre of music other than Soft Rock until we were in high school and began falling socially behind our peers. Soft Rock had been like another sibling to us, so when Jose headed upstairs to clock out, I was about to dab a small tear as he serenaded me with "Lady in Red" (although I imagine that the lady in the song was wearing an evening gown instead of a tuxedo jacket).

April, who cannot understand one syllable of English if it is spoken with a foreign accent, has finally found a common ground with some of our employees now. When Jose and his brother Luis fill up the water pitchers and softly sing "That's what friends are for", April has a hint of smug understanding on her face, as if to say, "Ah-ha! I understand you now!" She no longer has to squint her eyes, crease her forehead, and lean in til her eyes are even with their lips, frantically trying to comprehend each word. When it's to the tune of an 80's ballad, she's all over it!

Our friend Pablo just let me borrow a cd, too. I thought maybe it would have some reggatone, meringue, or maybe salsa on it (as he is working with me on speaking better Spanish). When I put it in my new cd player tonight, April and I giggled. Phil Collins wailed, "Take a look at me now" followed by 18 other tracks of classic 80's tunes. Ahhhh, let the good times (soft rock 'n) roll.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The City Lights

Tonight, as I took out the trash and recyclables with my roommates, I looked over our gate and saw the brightest two lights shining up into the sky. I didn't even realize that that was the direction of the city. I always walk that way - take that very route to the subway - and yet never realized that over those grafitti stained buildings rose Manhattan. I couldn't see the skyline, but the spirits of all those lost four years ago today were shouting a defiant message to our enemies. These Twin Tower shadows - tall beams bursting up from Ground Zero - illuminated the sky reminding us all of our loss, but also of our grit.

I felt so proud to be an American as I headed back inside. Proud to know that in the face of adversity, I am surrounded by courage.