Christ, faith

And What Am I?

There is a song about Eden coming out of my laptop speakers in that tinny way that it does, and I can hear the ever-buzz of morning insects outside the window singing their own song. Perhaps they sing of Eden too, designed to remind us in a language we can’t understand of the state of our days. There have been moments where I’ve felt I can understand that sort of music, but I’m not entirely sure if those days exist in reality or my dreams.

There is a tin full of my late grandmother’s recipes on the table next to me. She was a pastor. She told me once she couldn’t baptize because she was a woman, not even her church members, so a man would come and do it. I imagine my grandma standing in a baptismal with a small, white hankie in hand. This isn’t difficult for me; when I sat beside her in my church decades later, she always had one, worrying it with her porcelain thumbs. I remember often how smooth her hands were. I imagine her at the age she was when she moved in with us, slightly hunched, grinning, standing in the swimming pool of my childhood home taking measured steps around the edges in a skirted, navy bathing suit as if she were on the ledge of some very tall building and not cushioned by chest-deep water. She had the giddy nervousness that one usually attributes to youth, similar to the emotion that accompanies the emergence from baptism waters, that accompanies being born again. I imagine her in the baptismal like that, and I can’t help but think what a shame it is she wasn’t allowed in with her congregants.

My vulnerability leads me to write about women and their role in the church. It leads me to write that some days the verses flit over me–I do not permit a woman to exercise authority over a man…she is to remain quiet…the woman was deceived…she will be saved through childbearing–and my breath stops in my chest, just before exhalation. My vulnerability leads me to confess that I don’t understand how the God to whom I confess could feel this way, how the Spirit that guides me to the most beautiful and magnificent truths could guide another to write these words.

I suppose every believer has passages of Scripture that cause them more grief than others. This passage, though I’ve seen it trod on for a while now and have been convinced by narratives on both sides, is it for me. Despite how trite some may feel it has become, it circulates through my mind often. It’s the one I keep coming back to. The one I keep not deciding about.

There are Biblical issues that necessitate a response. One must make a decision on matters such as the personhood of God, the relationship between the Father, Spirit, and Son. They must decide because that decision means, to those in the Faith, the difference between salvation and damnation. Perhaps the acceptance or denial of women as elders cannot be categorized as such. But then I think of her– my grandma. I think of her preaching, of the song about Heaven I found in the recipe box next to me. I think of sitting next to her inside the checkered walls of the kitchen at my parents’ home talking about about saving faith, Spiritual gifts, addiction. All the souls who came to know Christ because of her. I imagine her homecoming, how she might’ve cried or smiled when she heard well done, my good and faithful servant. I suppose I could handle thinking she was misled, that she misinterpreted God’s plan and oriented her life in a direction opposite of His intention. But I find it extremely difficult to think that God, whom she adored, would have been displeased with her for finding way after way to scream His name to her world, one much darker than the Eden before it. The thought of that reality, while it isn’t damnation, feels almost as bitter.

I don’t find that this issue causes me to question my decision to be a Christian, but I do worry about what it will mean in regards to my relationship with God. If I decide that Paul’s message is as much for now as it was for then, can I honestly believe God is good? I think of St. Francis’ prayer: Who are you Lord, and who am I? This is the thought that plagues me more than any other.

So, my prayer becomes simple:

Your goodness, Lord.

Help me to always see it.

Amen.

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faith, Life

The Constitution of Things

At 6:00 A.M., Mitch says my name.

Hey, Lor?

I mumble just loudly enough to confirm my concsciousness.

Do you have class? 

I tell him no, not until 8:00. He says okay, rolls out of bed, stumbles in the dark to the bathroom, flicks on the switch. The fan in the bathroom is loud, and I try to pretend it’s part of my dream, whatever it is I’m dreaming. Am I dreaming? My tricks do not do the trick. I keep my eyes closed and listen to him turn off the light, shuffle on the thick carpet over to the closet, click-click the closet light on using the string that tickles the top of my head when I put away my clothes. The light seeps through my closed eyes as some variation of red. I don’t move. He shuffles a bit more, closes the closet door, opens the door to our bedroom. Stops. Doubles back, kisses my forehead. He may not know, but I am present for this, lying as still as the phone beside my head that will wrest me from the the sweetness of our crumpled grey sheets in a little over an hour. He’s gone for maybe five minutes, and the next time I’m present is due to a tiny jingle leaping out of my cell phone’s seat on the nightstand into my ears.

***

Tip is a terrier mix with a profound sense of joy. He greets me with a small, stuffed cow. Or a small, stuffed shark. There are two of each of these toy animals. Tip is never without.

We walk out of his apartment, down the stairs, out the door of his owner’s high-rise. Tip is very small, but he often jumps to the door handle in anticipation of our walk. If he weighed a bit more, it’s possible he would be letting me out. We walk to the end of the block, turn right, walk to the end of that block, cross and turn, walk two blocks, cross and turn, and come back to the end of his block. By that time, Tip has pooped once and peed 7-10 times on various forms of plantae and other Outdoor Things (including, but not limited to: a broken microwave oven in a partially-opened box, paper Lowes’ bags full of leaves, light poles, fences, brick walls, empty garbage cans, a mustard yellow recliner with the stuffing out, a desk from the mid-70’s with a rolling chair, full garbage cans, etc.).

I think Tip loves me, but I can’t be sure. He runs in circles when I arrive, which seems promising. Sometimes, though, when his owner is home, he rushes our 20 minute walk to something more like 12 minutes, which is a bit hurtful.

Every aspect of walking Tip is my favorite, but I really enjoy when we return from our walk. Energy expended, he hops onto his owner’s couch, and we watch Sesame Street for the remaining 2-3 minutes. I pet him, but he’s a take-it-or-leave-it type with the physical touch stuff. I get that.

***

My weeks feel like single days here. Routine finds me everywhere, the alarms on my phone, the stuffed sandwich I pack before driving all over the city to let a string of dogs out of their high rise/complex/mcmansion. It finds me in the two yoga pants I recycle for class every morning, in the sweat I produce during those sixty minutes on a borrowed mat. Has it been a month? This month has lasted exactly one week, unless I remember the weekend that Jordan came and we hiked up Stone Mountain to find a mass group of people singing, “One Race.” Or the night Mitchell, Wesley, and I first went to the Midtown Art Cinema and I smiled at the Amelie poster high up on the wall. When I think about occurrences like these, I begin to understand the passing of time here. A month is a month. I can see the progression, remember the difference in the way Highland Avenue looked to me three weeks ago, how I put away my GPS somewhere along that time and never needed it to find Lila’s, the tiny black Havanese’s, house again (the house with the Guo Pei book on the glass table in the living room).

***

The bagels I’ve been ordering at Press ‘N Grind have eggs in them. I’ve just found this out by reading the convenient list of allergens they have available on top of the baked goods display case. I wish I wouldn’t have read the list.

I also noticed that the soy cheese I bought from Trader Joe’s has milk in it. I still put the greasy slices on my sandwich on the principle of having spent money on them. I’m a poor vegan.

***

I’ve never listened so much in my life.

Podcasts keep me company during 11:00-4:00 when I’m going on visits. I listen to Up and Vanished and want for justice. I tune into Armchair Expert and revel in the candidness. Knowing Faith is a new one I started, and I take joy in having others affirm capital “T” truth. Sometimes, when the podcasts get old or my phone battery begins to die, I turn on NPR and get really sad. Or I play one of the CD’s I’ve been playing for the past month. I sing along to LP until I need more conversation, and then I play another podcast. Or I listen to an audio version of the Bible, Isaiah most recently. Sometimes listening to the Bible makes me sad, too, especially when it says things like, “The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down.” Other times, I am overjoyed. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Listening, I’m learning, isn’t so passive.

***

I taught four Chinese children a variety of English lessons this morning. Hugo spent the majority of our lesson so close to the computer screen that I could only see his mouth open with his tongue partially out, an expression of deep thought. I haven’t had a class with Noni in several days, and I’m beginning to miss her. She tells me stories during our classes.

“Teacher! A bird tapped on my window this morning! Like this,” Noni raps her knuckles on thin air.

“I let him in. He had a note around his neck. The note was for me!”

Most of Noni’s stories involve various animals appearing at her window or on her living room carpet with messages strapped around their necks. I have my suspicions about the veritability of Noni’s stories. Still. I hope the messages were nice. I hope she always remembers them.

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Life

Atlanta

I woke up this morning on the floor of a temporary and empty apartment, sandwiched between two fully open sleeping bags, Koa’s slightly damp nose nudging my face. I went to the bathroom to throw water on my face and noted, dismally, that my eyes were swollen beyond the point of recognition. I’m sure the swollenness came from the vat of tears I shed on the way from Cleveland to Atlanta whilst listening to the “Goodbye” CD Sarah made for me, featuring “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan (which, I am ashamed to admit, elicited the most tears). Nonetheless, I donned some wrinkled clothes from the pit of the suitcase I’ve been living out of since our previous lease ended on the first and headed to the one failsafe WiFi location I know: Starbucks.

I’m here now, Starbucks. I called a mechanic to see about fixing my car, which is suddenly in dire need of new ball joints and a front end alignment. Many people feel a certain pride about their vehicles, and I tend to feel the same. My car has the exceptional ability to sense the most inconvenient time to break down, and then it does just that. Last summer, the transmission crapped out right after I went wedding dress shopping with my mom. After the mechanic quoted the price to rebuild the transmission, we sobbed together in the parking lot.

“Well,” my mom hiccuped, “at least we were able to get your dress first!” And then we continued crying. This leads me to believe that, even if I can’t recognize myself with swollen eyes, my car can. It has seen my post-cry puffiness more than any other creature, animate and inanimate alike.

When I entered Starbucks, I chose a window seat with the perfect view of my pitiful car and the Whole Foods across the street. I must say, the juxtaposition is just swell. My usual order of blueberry oatmeal and an Americano seemed a bit too luxurious considering my current monetary woes, so I switched to classic oatmeal and a regular coffee and saved a whole quarter. At this rate, I can afford a fraction of one full rinse cycle at my apartment complex’s laundromat OR an Aldi grocery cart without the groceries. Budgeting is fun!

I’m afraid that a mechanic will hear my slight Southern drawl and attempt to swindle me, so I pay close attention to the mechanic with reviews that use the word “honest”. I call the mechanic with the best reviews on Google to make an appointment. Elaine is the woman who answers the phone, but she can’t hear me. I spend the first five minutes of our conversation walking in circles around Starbucks’ small sitting area saying, “What about now? Is this better, Elaine?” Eventually, I walk outside, and that does the trick. Elaine is very sweet, but she can’t fit me in until tomorrow morning. I’m not sure if that will work, since I start my job tomorrow. I look at my car while I try to decide, and–for a brief moment–imagine replacing the ball joints myself.

“Yes, Elaine, tomorrow works fine.” I agree to be there at 8:00 AM, sharp.

In between constantly refreshing my bank account to see if more money has magically dropped in and mentally willing the paint to dry in my actual apartment so we can move in today, I watch animal training videos for my new pet sitting job. I now know that you should not stick your hand out for unfamiliar dogs to smell and that garlic is deadly for cats. This is satisfying information because it proves my theory about cats simply being furry vampires.*

In all truth, the videos are the only thing giving a semblance of productivity to my first full morning in Atlanta. I won’t drive anywhere far for fear of my car breaking down, and we aren’t allowed in our apartment until management gives us the go-ahead, which could be as late as Friday. When I imagined the first week of my new life in Atlanta, I imagined something entirely different. I thought I’d be spending my day nesting. I thought I might visit the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibit at the High or try out one of the explicitly vegan bakeries around my neighborhood.

My neighborhood! I thought I’d be meeting neighbors, taking long walks around the complex. Swimming. Going for a run. Instead, I’m at Starbucks with mildly greasy hair (my dry shampoo ran out on the second spray this morning, of course), rumpled clothes, and a scarily puffy face. Let this be lesson for me: do not for one second get too close to your expectations. Things are, on the whole, still breezy. This day is new. I’ll be sharing an apartment with people I love. Our leasing agent gave us free pizza last night! The silver lining is there, folks, and it’s not going away.

 

 

*Further proof:

vamp

 

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Speed-Dating Questions

Length Answers to Speed-Dating Questions: Celebrity Dinner

If you could share a meal with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why? 

***

It would have been Barnie when I was 6 or 7. Or maybe Franklin. Or Bear of “In The Big Blue House” fame. It could have been Nick Carter or Justin Timberlake, too, since I sang along to every Backstreet Boys and NSYNC song my mom played on our way to Saturday morning Wal-Mart trips. Around 9, I think I would have enjoyed meeting Mary-Kate and Ashley or Amanda Bynes, the comedic hero of my younger self. When I was 10 or 11, I would have certainly chosen to have lunch with Jesse McCartney. I’m not sure why I didn’t extend an invitation in the letter I wrote for him with my friend Molly that one time she stayed the night with me after our brothers’ little league baseball game. In middle school, my tastes changed from Blond Band Boy to Johnny Depp. I bought Cry Baby from the five dollar bin at Dollar General when I was in seventh grade and watched it one night by myself. I felt quite differently about JD after it, but I remained a pretty faithful fan girl, bolstered by the love expressed from Anna, one of the only other middle school girls who shared my fascination. High school rang in my SNL era. Andy Samberg was a favorite, but probably only because I obsessed over “Threw It On The Ground.” I still gush about Kristen Wiig, and–though he was never my favorite–Bobby Moynihan would probably be an enjoyable dinner companion. As for authors, Hunger Games’ Suzanne Collins was an obvious choice for me. After reading most of Jodi Picoult’s books, I would have been quite happy to meet her, as well. Early college Me would have chosen Justin Vernon from Bon Iver or Sylvia Plath or Emma Stone. Late college Me would have chosen Mary Oliver or David Foster Wallace. There were the more cliche choices, which should never be discounted because of that fact: Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa. I can rarely settle on a single person. Recent choices have been Mamie Till and C.S. Lewis. I changed my mind quite a bit about celebrities somewhere. My options have become less clear. Popular humans have become to me more real and less idealized.

I’d still do a day-date with Emma Stone, though.

***

This is how my time with Fred Rogers goes:

We get breakfast somewhere mild, an old cafe that hasn’t made the plunge for WiFi just yet and still serves its coffee from a commercial-sized Bunn drip. Mr. Rogers scoots his seat back from the table a bit so that he can cross his legs, his cup (a small, thick, white mug) rests on his knee. I think he’s drinking tea. He doesn’t order food when the waitress comes around, so I decide against the Quaker oatmeal I would have inevitably had to order at a place with no other plant-based options. He sees me eyeing the oatmeal.

Are you a vegetarian?

I say, Yes, are you?

Yes. I have been for some time.

This is news to me. I’m thrilled by this revelation.

So, he smiles the word out. It drips with true affection. How are you? 

Well, I begin, I’m mostly content. To be frank, my life is somewhat dull these days. I spend my days wandering around, visiting markets and parks, reading. It all sounds quite boring.

We go through eras of life like that, don’t we? Mr. Rogers’ eyes are trained on mine, and I have to look down at my coffee to keep my face from twitching the way it sometimes does when a person stares at me for too long.

Yes, I say. We do. I find it to be very joyful, though, Mr. Rogers.

That’s very special, Lori, he says, but he isn’t patronizing.

We sip our respective drinks. I ask him about his faith, mostly. Then we talk about television. I tell him that if he thought it was bad in the sixties, he’d be terrified now. He doesn’t laugh. He’s quiet and his brow is furrowed. He asks me if I’ve ever felt passionate about anything in life. I tell him sure, that literature and writing and music and faith are up there. We talk for a while about those. He cups the waitress’ hand before we leave, patting the tip into her palm for good measure. His gratitude is honest, and she utters a most sincere thank-you.

We begin our stroll down the sidewalk in whatever fictional, quaint town we’re in. There are children playing in a park to our left. Mr. Rogers smiles.

Do you miss it, I ask him.

Miss the program? 

Yes, the Neighborhood.

He tells me that he does sometimes, but that there are neighborhoods to be found in every facet of life, especially when we open our hearts to loving those around us. I want to laugh, to make a point of calling out his triteness. But that would be false. It doesn’t feel trite coming from him. It feels like something new. Something true and extraordinary.

You’d be surprised, he adds, just how loving your neighbors can be when you first extend love. 

I tell him about the new film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, that documents his life and career. I tell him how I’ve seen it twice, how everyone in the theatre cried the first time I saw it.

There’s nothing quite like it, I say. Nothing like the Neighborhood. I want to be passionate about something like that. I want my faith to be active, a salve for someone.

Well, says Mr. Rogers, the only way to make that happen is to begin.

After he says that, I get very quiet. We end up walking in silence for a long stretch before we duck into a small convenient store. Mr. Rogers has a blister on his heel from a pair of new kicks he’s breaking in. He doesn’t seem like the kind to foster much brand allegiance, but he picks up several boxes of band-aids and spends time turning over each in his hand. He tosses the final box from one hand to another, then looks at me and gives a small, albeit full, smile.

This is the one, he says.

Mr. Rogers walks me back to my apartment. I turn to face him on the steps and tell him how floored I was by meeting him, how inspired I am to know someone with such clear motives and pure faith. He affirms me in a very Rogersian way (think: “It’s You I Like”) and pats my shoulder. Then, we part.

***

Once, on a trip with the drama team I traveled with in college, we ran into Charlie McDermott at a Steak ‘N Shake in a nearly-forsaken Kansas town. We had been driving all day, and it was the first restaurant we’d seen for miles. I recognized Charlie as that one guy from that one TV show that was sort of like Malcolm in the Middle but not. My director noticed him, too, and we debated over our shoe-string fries and shriveled burgers about whether or not we should speak to him. None of us really watched the show, but I tried to conjure some brief memories of it in the event that I needed to compliment him in an honest way about a certain episode or performance.

Ultimately, we decided not to speak to him. I’m not sure if it was the black cap pulled low over his eyes or the fact that he was with a girl who wasn’t TV famous.

My director said he’d read somewhere that Charlie McDermott was a jerk, but he didn’t seem any specific way to us that night. He was in the restaurant for maybe ten minutes, during which he looked at the floor and laughed slightly whenever the girl with him whispered in his ear. He was ordering to-go at one of the greasiest, slowest diners across the U.S. I imagined his night, how normal it would be. He’d get his food and go back to his hotel, perhaps the one right next to Steak ‘N Shake. He and the girl might watch a movie, playfully throw some of their soggier fries at each other. I didn’t think about all that until he’d left with his bags of grub and we were driving back down wide-open interstate into dusky nothingness. I looked out of the back window and thought that it was good thing we’d let him be.

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faith, Life

An Update, I Suppose

I’m moving in three weeks to Atlanta. To Atlanta, where I’ll live in an apartment with my brother, my husband, and the best man from our wedding. Koa will be tagging along, as well.

My emotions have been something of a catastrophe. There is the typical worry that accompanies any sort of big change, but there’s also a bit of bliss as I prepare to spend my mornings teaching VIPKID, my afternoons walking dogs, my evenings writing, and–throughout it all–preparing to plant a church. Some days these things work together perfectly in my head. I catch myself day dreaming about the people we’ll meet in the new apartment complex or about visiting the Winnie the Pooh exhibit at the High. Other days, I want to wrap my arms around the crumbly brick of the Old Woolen Mill where I live and force my arms to stretch all the way around the structure so that I can hoist it up and take it with us. I’ll miss my friends. That’s always there.

My dreams have been just as…loose. Last night I dreamed that my friend, Veronica, distributed a book of odes to all her friends, each section beginning with a quote from the friend in question. The page dedicated to me included a poem I had written, but it was cluttered with typos, which really hurt my dream self’s feelings. It quickly fizzled out into a scene wherein I profusely apologized to another friend, Emily, for not waking up to run that morning, which I relived moments later when I actually woke up and realized–lo and behold–I had slept through our running date. In my dream the night before, I ran with another friend, but not for sport. We were being chased by some odd fellow who looked a lot like John Leguizamo. When we finally found a hall closet to bunker down in, she looked at me and said, “Let’s cut the niceties!” So I quit making small talk, and she starting descending into a dark monologue littered with profanity, which made me respond, “Jill, this just isn’t me.”

Strange times, indeed.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering which company we’ll choose to buy WiFi with at the new place, and whether or not we should go ahead and get cable, too. I’m worried that my vehicle won’t be able to pull a U-Haul trailer, and that we’ll end up stranded halfway between Cleveland and Atlanta with our cat and a few rickety pieces of furniture. I’m worried that I won’t fit into the neighborhood we’re moving to, one of the “richest zip codes” in Atlanta. But, most of all, I’m worried that, six months down the road, I’ll think it wasn’t the right decision, that we should’ve stayed put, that we were doing just fine where we were.

***

Yesterday, I received a yellow envelope in the mail from my Great Uncle Vernie. It was filled with maps and newspaper clippings about South East Asia. He sends me things like that from time to time ever since I sent him a key chain from a trip I took to Cambodia my sophomore year of college. I unfolded the first map on the kitchen table and smoothed it out with the palm of my hands. I was expecting to see Cambodia, but it wasn’t. It was India. India, the place that’s been in the back of my mind for months now. I found Gujarat on the map and pointed it out to Mitchell. I told him that a boy came into the office a while back and told me that Gujarat is where he is from and I should go there. I thought of the book, Half the Sky, and of the sobering statistics about intergenerational prostitution in India. I thought about getting there some day, about getting to know and understand a different world, about living and existing somewhere else that I’d find broken, sure, but beautiful too.

Sometimes I think it’s crazy to believe that all things have purpose, that nothing is accidental. But then Uncle Vernie sends me a map of India, and I wonder how things like that keep happening at the right time. How they happen when I’m scared to leave. God, I think, is so kind to me in this way.

***

In three weeks, I’ll move to Atlanta. I’ll be preparing to plant a church with people I love and trust. I pray that I’ll learn how to love better, be better, for the sake of others. I pray that things aren’t as scary as they seem, that I’ll learn how to handle all the negative emotions that vie for my whole being. On my worst days, this is hard to do. I tend to spiral out of control (which looks like folding in on myself, which looks like hatefulness, which is really just a form of self-preservation). But on my good days, I understand. Going involves leaving some things behind, and that’s okay.

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Speed-Dating Questions

Lengthy Answers to Speed-Dating Questions: College

What did you study in college?

 

***

It was always going to be music. According to my mother, I never stopped singing. Even buckled into my high chair with a mouthful of baby food–she tells me–I still managed to hum little tunes. The music was in me, irrevocably.

When I met the wife of a well-known director of a musical ensemble at my alma mater in a Big Lots during move-in weekend, I took it as divine conspiracy. It was destiny and destiny alone that placed me next to Mrs. So and So in the pillow aisle. I practiced songs quietly in my dorm room leading up to auditions. My hall-mates were going to block parties and snagging free food from Greek life events, and I was rehearsing. Luckily for me, my roommate dropped out of college on move-in day, so there was no one left for me to disturb.

I claimed English as my major because I wasn’t into the idea of learning how to sight-read or having my voice changed by The Man. I liked voices that were rough around the edges. I didn’t like the idea of a cold professor with a metronome analyzing my voice, as incorrect as it may technically be, and turning me into a too-polished singer with nothing unique left to offer. I needed to be raw. Unrefined. So English it was. I was good at English, and writing had always been part of my daily routine. Plus, I thought it would be easier to get a job with an English major. You can see how wayward my thinking was.

At the beginning of the semester, every ensemble set up their own booth for audition sign-ups. Aside from musical groups, I was looking into a drama group on campus that offered a scholarship for its members. Church drama was always pretty fun for me, and I acted a little in my high school, so I thought I’d go for it. After I signed up for an audition in the Dixon center–a theatre that doubled as a chapel–I trekked to the music building for the musical ensemble sign-ups. I jotted my name under the group I most wanted, led by Mrs. So and So of Big Lots’ husband. I felt satisfied putting all my proverbial eggs into that basket, but I was cornered by a tall woman at the all-girl’s choir table, so I signed up for an audition time there, too.

The days that followed comprised perhaps the most nerve-wracking season of my life. For those two days between signing up and actually auditioning, I monologued and sang constantly. Sometimes I’d start singing in the middle of rehearsing my monologue, or vice versa. The audition from the drama troupe was first. I went back to the Dixon Center sweating, filled out an info card, and walked as confidently as possible into a mostly empty auditorium. The members of the team were spread out among the rows of the theatrical chapel (the Holy theatre?) reclining casually. Frighteningly. When I finished my monologue–which ended with me down on my knees, crying out in despair–the director opened up comments for his members. A guy near the front with his arm slung across the seat next to him said, “That was long.” Overall, I thought it went well.

I felt at ease for the rest of the afternoon until I heard back from the director that night. I had a callback. My heart sped up. I didn’t have any other monologues memorized, and if they asked me to do more improv I would have to either feign illness or call the actual illness that might ensue improv. I didn’t have a strong affinity for either option. The nervousness I was filled with during my preparations was so all-encompassing that I forgot entirely about my music auditions. I think I was pacing in my dorm room when the representative from the all-women’s choir called to ask if I was still coming. Obviously not, lady. Not now. Drama was at hand. I couldn’t think about music, not at a time like this.

Callbacks came. I didn’t have to do a monologue, but I did have to read-through a skit and do (alas) more improv with the team and the others who had been called back. On the walk back, it dawned on me how weird everyone was. I wondered momentarily if musical ensembles were as weird, but decided it wasn’t worth worrying about at this juncture.

That night, another fateful call from the director came, this time to let me know that I was being extended a position on the team as a red shirt. A scholarship was coming my way! Not immediately (as the term “red shirt” alluded to) but eventually. I was thrilled! My mom was thrilled. My then-boyfriend was reasonably happy, though not thrilled, exactly. It didn’t matter, though. I made the team! Everything I hoped for going into my audition was happening. College was happening.

I made friends with the girls on my hall by watching Pride and Prejudice in the lounge and playing that game where someone asks you questions that you have to answer with the word “Tomato” without smiling. I went to my English classes and, even though I was terrified to speak in class that first year or so, I fell in love with workshops–reading my classmates’ work and having them read mine, revising things or scrapping them altogether. My teammates on the drama team were even weirder than they seemed, but I found myself joining in when long van rides turned into acting like we were all part of the Corleone family. Slowly, I quit thinking of myself in terms of my singing. Or thinking of myself in terms of anything. No longer did I force an idealized view of my experience that was impossible to measure up to. There was just my experience. Wild. And bookish.

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Life

Place

I drank my dirty chai before the concert started, which ended up being a good thing. We stood while Jillian from the Mailboxes sang about consent and mortgages, and it was nice to be holding nothing. By the time Bombadil meandered up to the front after the set change, everyone had taken a seat on the crumb-clad carpet, which was rolling up in places from all the pulling and sliding all our bodies were inflicting on it. The sun set while the band played. I saw it in the window behind one of the guitarists, right as it sank below the bridge. As soon as it was down, the lights on the bridge came to staticky life. All this occurred just in time for Bombadil’s Daniel to say into the mic how he wished he had ice cream and, moments later, to receive ice cream from an audience member. Three different kinds–a magnum bar, and two random Ben & Jerry’s flavors. Tonight Dough and something else. He was kind and awkward. The audience member gave the ice cream to a barista to place in a freezer downstairs where the non-concert goers sat and laptopped or cellphoned or talked, maybe. Bombadil played on. Mitchell told me the titles of the songs in the first few bars of each, and he only got a couple wrong. We laughed about those. We laughed about the ones he got right, too, because it was so special to be sitting in the middle of that dirty carpet next to strangers listening to music that moved us all.

 

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