Scars from a Semester

It’s easiest to see the scars when it’s cold. One is on my left hand, on the middle knuckle. Sometime while I was lugging my luggage from Heathrow to my hostel the handle of the rolling one took off a piece of my skin. I still have my London transit card that I bought that day. It’s called an Oyster card and it’s sitting on my desk. The jacket that it came in says, “Don’t throw away your Oyster card, you can use it again and again.” It’s not the comma splice that bugs me. London can make up their own English grammar and I don’t care. I just don’t like it because it’s false. I can’t use my Oyster card anymore. But I still won’t throw it away.

The other scar is on my right hand, on the middle knuckle. It is in perfect symmetry with the first scar, except that it is four-and a-half months fresher. The handle of my rolling luggage gave it to me on the day I left Spain.

In Spanish, notable sentences like questions and exclamations get punctuation on both sides. My body is making up its own grammar, where notable periods get periods on each luggage-pulling fist. The little round scar on the left let me know that something was definitely going to happen and the little round scar on the right let me know that it was finished. Now I hold my cold fists at my sides and try to read this sentence inside me. I question, I exclaim, I declare, and I hope these scars never heal lest I start to doubt.

Election Night

I promise to be in bed in an hour, which might work out to be right around the sugar low of the giant bowl of ice cream that I just ate. It was for the election. Ice cream is the extent of my political involvement. I didn’t vote.

The week that my voter registration card proved useless and my car got donated to the Right to Life, I didn’t really care about the government. It makes me sad– not that I don’t have a permanent address and not that I don’t have a car, but that I am less informed about the candidates than the average homeless woman. Whoever gets elected I better learn about, because I’m going to be teaching full time in a little over fourteen months. Somehow my students’ president means more to me than my own. I don’t think that’s a sign of selflessness. I think that’s just a sign of procrastination.

summer and winter

I saw it snow today. First time since the night I sat behind the wing and watched them de-ice the plane as we counted down the last ten seconds before 2008. I’ve seen snow since then– that mountain range somewhere between Heathrow and Madrid, those ski runs in the Sierra Nevada and those ice fields we trecked across to summit Mulhacén. One morning at Sol Duc I woke up cold and looked at the peaks past the pools and saw fresh snow. Even when Rachel visited me at the end of the summer we slid down snow to sit by the lake just inside the high divide. But I think this is the first day that I saw it coming down.

I saw a raccoon tonight, hanging from the sidewalk like an upside-down sloth. He reminded me of Ricky and Rocky and the one that showed up later who I called Rooky. Those raccoons would do laps around the edge of the roof of the Sol Duc lodge in the middle of the day. The guests would get so excited. Sometimes in the evening they would peak into Ryan’s window. Amy would go outside and feed them out of her hand, and I still regret not doing the illegal deed with her. That’s not the only thing I regret not doing this summer, but it would have been the easiest to do.

I saw a bare-branched tree shaking in the wind and I felt my nose stiffen from the cold. Winter will seem so long this year. But then, I’ve had a long summer.

Waking up.

Lately: I wake up and hit the snooze button at 7:50 and turn back towards the wall, burying my face in my body pillow, wanting to sleep again. But I dread that noise, so within nine minutes I turn and open the blinds, shedding light on the passage in Lucas. After a chapter, I stumble to the bathroom, then back to my desk, where I read any emails I’ve gotten in the last six hours– usually just the trollview.

This summer: I wake up when I hear Miranda tell her best friend Paige, “I hate you! I —-ing hate you!” as she plops onto the creeking bed next to mine and pulls a loose sheet over her torso. They are drunk, so I figure the hate will only last until sunrise. I make my watch glow and read “3:43.” Three hours to sleep until I must start setting up the breakfast buffet. The sun will rise by the time the coffee brews.

Sevilla: I wake up as Alaina gets ready for school. I fill in my grammar worksheet and read some Don Quijote while she blow-dries her hair. After she hurriedly gathers her books and tells me “paz fuera” I shuffle to the kitchen and pour myself a bowl of cornflakes. Sometimes I sneak a breakfast cookie. I get ready by 8:36 (or was it 9:36? I really can’t remember) so I can walk the mile through Triana, across the Guadalquivir and up the marble staircase to school.

A year ago: I wake up to a roommate’s cell phone alarm, strategically positioned about a foot from my head and three fluffy pillows from her head. After about a minute of that song playing too loud for that cell phone’s speakers, I gently set the phone next to her ear and curl into a fetal position facing the window and start to think. I know I won’t fall asleep again, so I turn off my alarm and follow my well-planned route from my bunk to the little patch of floor on the far side of the room.

That summer: I wake up to the first buzz of my alarm and turn it off right away. I slide out out of my slick sleeping bag and sneak to the bathroom. I find my athletic pants by the light coming from the bathroom, then I grab my backpack (Bible and camera inside) and walk out to greet the mountain and the morning.

Freshman year: I wake up at whatever odd time I set my alarm to. It drives Lori nuts, because she thinks alarms should only be set to the even hour or fifteen minute increments. I eat my fruit, yogurt, and granola.

The summer before that: I wake up when the sun overcomes the fact that I worked until one. I lounge around the house or put on my mowing pants and hit the cemetery.

Two and a half years ago: I wake up at 5:47 and think about pillows and blankets while I take a quick shower. By 6:20 I’m eating breakfast and at 6:50 I am driving Pootermobile to the corner. Kind of like last Sunday.

like the monarch

I wonder if the monarch knew
that he was about to die.
It would be the last time he flew.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I
stopped my walk along the highway
and stooped to hold someone
more broken down than me.
The feel of his flaked feathers
were as soothing as feeling
my frantic fingers touch leather,
finally finding my wallet underneath the seat.
I had that at least,
But what I needed most
I had to turn down.
You’re not supposed
to accept an offerred ride.
So I walked with the monarch riding in my palm–
he was too broken to say no–
eyeing the chain link fence
that told me that I,
like the butterfly,
don’t belong
along the highway
without a car.
It wasn’t too far
of a walk to the shop
where I startled the man
whose wrench I had heard.
My throat was tight and I looked a sight
with my socks, pants and shoes
drenched deep in ditch dew.
While I dialed, he said, “My car is broke too.”

Like I lifted the monarch,
the creeking old tow-truck
lifted up my broken-down car.
Now I rest beside Pootermobile
in perhaps his final resting place.
Five years, but only two birthdays together.
On this day of rest, we must wait to find out.
Like I let the dry wind take the broken butterfly
and carry him to rest in the dew,
I might have to let my car go too.


Sunshine coming this way.
My boyfriend said it would be here in a day.
Living over there, he gets the weather first.
He lives ten hours from here.
How far is that? One fourth of a year.
Seven weeks now, so it could be worse.


‘Nostalgia’ is an ugly word.
I’m sick of all these beautiful pictures.
What does it matter if I can remember
if I can never return?

I’m not asking to leave where I am.
I want more than a time machine.
I’m asking to reach from my past to my future
and not loose a bit in between.

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