They Met at Graduation

They met 45 minutes before the graduation ceremony. Donned in suit and tie, dress and heels. Hair gelled in place, skin glowing, eyes the color of the sun.

She stood in line and waited behind hundreds of her fellow post-grad to be’s. She sipped her tea while she waited and watched guests pass her by as they ambled down the hill towards the auditorium. Only forty five minutes left, she thought.

He was standing in front of her in line. He happened to turn around and when he did, he saw her – he noticed her eyes first, then the plastic cup pressed against her lips. “Is that tea?” he asked. She looked up, said “yep.”

“Smart,” he said. He smiled.

She thought he had a nice smile – nice eyes too. She moved a strand of hair behind her ear.

They talked about graduation first – how long they’d been waiting for this day, how excited, how relieved they were to have gotten through it all. Then they talked about their families, then their goals for the future.

He was thinking about law school, public policy. She wanted to be a writer.

The line started moving and they went forward together. They received name cards from a man in a blue suit at the entrance. They wrote down their names on the cards with careful, deliberate strokes. And then they made their way through the auditorium alongside their peers, eyes gleaming, name cards pressed against their chests.

She sat beside him during the ceremony. He asked her about what super power she would want and she answered, “I would want to control time, because then I could go back.”

They were sitting at the end of the second row from the front. When it was their row’s turn to stand, he turned around to say to her: “Ready?”

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready,” she said.

She walked a step behind him, in line, then onto the stage. She watched him accept his makeshift diploma, shake hands with the commencement speaker, smile for the camera.

And then it was her turn – her turn to hold the paper in her hands, shake hands, grin and wave up at her family in the stands. Her mom’s camera was raised, pointed at her.

He watched her amble down the steps, down the carpeted aisle, and return to her seat beside him.

The remains of a smile still at the edge of her lips, she held the diploma in her lap – she ran her thumb over her name in print.

The chorus of applauses, one after another, echoed through the auditorium.

I’ve made it, they thought. We’ve finally made it.

 

 

Excerpts of a Conversation I Eavesdropped On

“I just have fond memories of New Jersey. I think I like change. Because I moved around so much. So being around the sun kind of bugs me sometimes, in a weird way.”

“Yeah because you don’t have a feel for the seasons.”

“Now that I’m older it’s probably changed. See, when I was younger I didn’t have to work in the snow.”

“I’ll be right back.”

“Sure.”

“Yeah, I’m going to church tonight because I’m going to play golf tomorrow.”

“Oh, I’ve actually never been golfing before.”

“Have you been to a driving range or anything?”

“Been mini-golfing.”

“Does your dad golf?”

“No.”

“Interesting.”

 

Between wanting and having

Sometimes I feel such an earnest, intense desperation not just to be a writer, but to succeed as a writer, to be lauded as a writer – it is a desperation so fervent that my breath quickens and my stomach starts to churn and one thousand worlds are all at once sitting atop my shoulders.

I want to write and write and publish my work and talk to people about my work and lecture at universities too, or speak at conferences, or both. I want to do all of these things that are big and grand. But there is a disconnect between wanting and having. There is a gaping hole between here and there, we are Grand Canyons apart. It’s overwhelming because I know that I am so far from where I want to be. And there is so much work that needs to be done before I am anywhere near where I want to be.

But I suppose all I can do is keep writing.

 

Seaweed

Cigarette smoke has an aftertaste like

roasted seaweed.

It doesn’t go away even when you spit,

even when you eat icebreaker mints.

I didn’t think I would ever know

what cigarette smoke tastes like,

but I do now – it’s like seaweed.

And it coats the roof of your mouth

and the back of your throat.

It lingers on your tongue

the way the smell lingers

on your sweater. Perfume

doesn’t make the smell go away,

by the way, the two smells just mix

together and they become bittersweet –

like rose and rusted copper –

and you wonder if anyone else

can smell the copper on your collar.

I took off my sweater the first time,

just in case. Because no one can taste

the seaweed on your tongue,

but they can smell it on your clothes

because it’s so strong

it’s almost a different color.

And God knows what’ll happen

if they smell it on my clothes.

Cheery I, Cheerio!

I’m eating Cheerios for dinner again –

the heart-healthy kind, the gluten-free fortified kind

that’s supposed to lower my blood pressure and

give me skin that’s moist to the touch, oh and silky hair.

All the freshness folic acid Vitamin A B D I need infused in O-shaped

whole-oat oats holy moly that’s a whole lotta wholesome goodness.

There’s only 2g of protein but that’s okay because

there’s protein in milk and I drink the grass fed kind.

And you know stuff’s high quality when it’s grass fed right?

Next time I’ll try the Multigrain blend because one serving

will give me 3g of dietary fiber and may reduce heart disease!

To Julia, 2007

A letter to my 11-year-old-self. 

Dear Julia,

Congratulations on winning the poetry contest! I’d forgotten about the contest, but Mama found a printed copy in her bottom desk drawer last week and she sent it to me. I enjoyed rereading it! I also read the note that Mrs. Kennedy left for you too – did you read it? In the note, Mrs. Kennedy told you to consider becoming a poet someday. You didn’t take that to heart though, huh? Because you thought poetry could only ever be a hobby. There’s no such thing as a professional poet, you thought.

Poets don’t make money, you thought. They can’t support themselves. So you decided to keep poetry as a hobby so you could focus on your academics instead.

You’re going to do really well in school, you know – you’ll get good grades all through middle school and then high school and then you’ll get accepted into a prestigious university. (No, I’m not going to tell you where! That would spoil the surprise. It’s a nice one though, trust me.)

But when you enter college, you’ll realize that you have no idea what you want to do with you life. You’ve spent the last few years devoting your time to things that SCHOOL wanted you to study, not what YOU wanted. You never gave yourself the opportunity to figure out what you really care about, so once you had the chance to choose – you got lost. You didn’t know which direction to take because you had no idea what you really wanted.

So you asked Dada, what should I do? And he told you to become a lawyer because lawyers love reading and writing and you’ve always loved to read and write. So that’s what you did – you chose to major in Political Science and focused on doing well academically again, since law school expects applicants to have perfect grades.

But that won’t make you happy. In fact, it’ll even make you sad, frustrated, and hopeless.

Now, I know that this definitely does not sound like very good news, but don’t worry, you won’t be sad forever. Because at the end of your 2nd year in college, you’re going to make a life-changing decision – you’re going to take a creative writing class! This class will give you the chance to write again. But not academic writing – CREATIVE writing. You’ll get to write a poem, a short story, and a creative non-fiction piece. You’ll write a poem and your professor will compliment it in front of everyone. You’ll thrive in that class. Your passion for creative writing will be rekindled. And then you’ll realize that writing is the only thing that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life. Not law. You want to be a writer, Julia, not a lawyer. I need you to understand that now, while you’re still 11 years old. Imagine how much you – we! – can write in ten years. A lot!

So even if you don’t like the stuff that you write, write anyway. Even if you don’t think that you can support yourself as a writer, write anyway! Because you are born to be writer and you will want to be a writer for the rest of your life. Trust me on this.

Because now that I’ve finally decided to devote my life to writing, I’ve never been happier. And I want you to be happy, Julia. I want us to be happy.

From,

Julia