Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Ice Cream...


Not late to class today. I am bursting to tell Geary about a short story in graphic form in the Flight 2 anthology. I'll have to bring it next week to show her. In class we discuss the points of narrative: plot, setting, characters, theme and detailing. She draws a diagram of conventional plot and chronology, something she says should look familiar to us from previous English classes. I've never seen it before. It looks like the slope of one side of a volcano, starting flat, parallel to the bottom of the white board, turning to rise steadily and then dipping down again toward the floor just before the end of the line. She labels parts of the line: setting, characters, problem, tension---->tension---->tension, climax (this part has explosive lines drawn around it, as if it's bursting its way out of the diagram) and resolution or closure. She mentions chronology and asks for examples in film and literature of unusual chronology in storytelling. We talk about The Prestige, which begins at the end, jumps into three story lines in media res and converges all of them at the end. Other films mentioned: Memento (more fantastic storytelling by Christopher Nolan), The Butterfly Effect, Groundhog Day. Geary hands back our papers at the end of class. I sit at my desk as the students file out, reading her comments. The comments are positive. She highlights the closing paragraph, saying I should rework it. I agree with her. I thought it was awkward when I wrote it. I was just too worked up over the paper to put anything more into it at the time. It was like doing a painting, I get to the point where I have to say, "DONE." Otherwise, I'll obsess myself to distraction. The guy sitting two desks in front of me had asked every class period before this when we were going to get our papers back. He sits reading his comments too. I ask how he feels about it and he smiles, "I feel good about what she wrote," he answers. I'm glad.

I walk down the sidewalk a ways with Geary, and tell her about the short story in Flight. When I tell her it's composed entirely on Post-Its, she laughs. I think she'll like it. It has one of my favorite phrases, other than, "The meat settled, quivering."(See A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury):

"Mass crustacean suicides."

I find a table outside on level two, overlooking the waterfall. I study the end of chapter 2 in my psych text and take the practice test. I only miss one out of fifteen and feel accomplished. I watch the clouds floating overhead and make a photo with my camera phone. I need to be writing. So many ideas soaring around, like those clouds. I just have to pluck one from the nether and describe it. It is an exquisite day. My eyes film with tears when I consider the beauty of it all and I take a few deep breaths.

I stop by Scoops on the way down to Health. I just want to check it out, to see what they have in there. I'm trying to become more familiar with campus. The boy behind the counter asks if I want to try anything. I tell him no, and he offers a couple of flavors. I ask what his favorite is and he names five, one of them being spumoni. He says I should try the spumoni and I do. When I raise my eyebrows, he says, "Good huh?" I nod and tell him I'll be back after class .


We talk about stress. Sorenson discusses fight or flight (she neglects freeze), the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems and Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome. "Now this is just a theory," she says, "based on his experiments with mice." G.A.S. describes the body's short-term and long-term response to stress involving two major systems in the body: the nervous and endocrine systems. The three states:

Alarm Reaction: (fight or flight, prepares the body for physical activity, but decreases the effectiveness of immune system)
Stage of Resistance: (if stress continues, the body adapts to the stressors. Boosted immune system, less sleep needed, etc.)
Stage of Exhaustion: (if stress is unabated, the body will eventually collapse, unable to perpetuate the state of adaptation forever. Most evident as disjointed thinking, inability to concentrate, nervous breakdown)

I listen to this. None of this is news to me. I don't think anything in this class will be new information, but it is interesting to hear this concept presented this way. I think, Wow, I actually have anecdotal evidence of the validity of this phenomenon. I stare out the window during the last half of class. It's raining.

After Health, I walk back to Scoops and order spumoni in a cake cone. I bite into it as I walk down the hallway, savoring the texture: cold, creamy, an occasional pistachio or bit of cherry. The color is bright green, matching my shirt and my fingernails. I finish the cone before I get outside, walking all the way back through the PE and LA buildings. The rain has stopped. I put on a gray beanie and walk past Einstein on his bench. I wave at him, as usual. He is smiling, as usual.

On the way home, I stop by the grocery store. My sweetie has come down with a cold, and I promised him that I would make homemade chicken noodle soup. I wander through the produce section, touching fruit, admiring bell peppers lined on a shelf. I see someone I know from work, walking hand in hand with a pretty girl, and he smiles at me. I don't recognize him at first, lacking the context of the familiar work setting. Then I place him and wave. I can't find bay leaves, but I think I have some at home. I fill the cart with soup ingredients: one whole chicken, bright orange carrots, stalks of celery, garlic, an onion, parsley, chicken stock. I put a couple of cans of Campbell's chicken noodle in the cart, just in case. It's strange to be shopping to cook. I haven't cooked in so long.

At home I rinse the chicken, dice vegetables and dig out herbs. It is strange and yet familiar, the old motions returning like something out of another life. My kitchen is much smaller than the one I last cooked in. About six times smaller. I remember the striped wallpaper in that kitchen, the tall windows that looked out over the sprawling yard in Texas. I remember setting out at least four small plastic plates or bowls, several times a day, filling them with food I had cooked. My life is quieter now, smaller, like this kitchen. I put the chicken on to simmer for a couple of hours, covering it with vegetables and seasoning. I pull the chicken from the bones later, burning my fingers, as the broth reduces by one-third over medium-high heat.

I have to buy a new filter for my kitchen faucet. I have to forget Texas and study Psych chapter 3. I have to smell the pink roses sitting in a jar on my table and be here. I forget how to be here sometimes...

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