And Then There Was One

I roll out of bed at three, having woken up hours earlier and given into my malaise, drifting in and out of sleep before the final plunge off the mattress. I eyeball my kettle, full of old grounds, and tiptoe through a week’s worth of webs and spider husks, wondering if I’ll get up the ganas to sweep. Typical Sunday. My phone rings and the number’s too long to be domestic, so I know it’s Trey, and that cheers me up as I wait for him to call again. I saw the guy just enough over Christmas to remember how much I’ve missed him since he took a job with the state of California.

Look at him

Look at him

It rings a second time and we go through our how do you dos before he tells me Janessa’s had an accident in Panama, that she’s in the hospital down there, gone into surgery, leg full of pins. I’m doing the math as he’s talking—we’ve got forty-five days out of country to recuperate on medical leave, and two bones in the leg spell more than that.

Two down...

Two down…

Another volunteer got medically separated for a fucked up ankle, did it stepping off a bus. I ask Trey what it is with us volunteers and getting down from stuff. He laughs and tells me to be careful and we hang up.

I call Ben and break the news just this one time, to get it out of me. I keep thinking I left them both in a rush in the city, that it was the only time I haven’t said “take care” to another volunteer as they left for a trip. I pull out a cigarette, me who never smokes in daylight, and my hands shake through a cup of cold coffee. The next month bears out all our hurried calculations, and Peace Corps in DC medically separates her before the forty five are up. Not sufficiently ambulatory. After fourteen months, I am alone in site.

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The Long Goodbye

These are sad times. End times. Graduation has come and gone. We’re in the grey valedictory, suffering through the anticlimax as friends and lovers drift back to from where they came. The end of college was the death of a family for me, and I’m wading through a second aftermath already.

There is a bar in Georgetown called the Tombs.

They made a movie about it

They made a movie about it

It’s a block away from campus, and it’s the only bar for almost a mile in any direction. My university is notorious for fake IDs and DC bars are notorious for taking them. Police crackdowns switch up the underclassman bar of the moment every couple of weeks, and there’s a constant trade in buybacks from bouncers and licenses from similar-looking older siblings. But The Tombs is special. By tradition, the earliest drink you have there is on your 21st, and sneaking one beforehand is bad form. You walk in after midnight with as many drinks toward twenty-one as you could muster since morning, they stamp your forehead, and you try to hit the big two-one with the cascade of shots and beers that pours in afterward. You’re carried out, and you feel like dying for a couple days. It’s a rite of passage, it’s the way you do it.

I was away, so they caught me on the cheeks for my 22nd

I was away, so they caught me on the cheeks for my 22nd

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Back from Hiatus

Hey Everybody—

Bit of a mea culpa here. I haven’t posted anything since August, and that’s largely because I haven’t written anything since August. The arrival and departure of a Mexican girlfriend, the All-Volunteer Conference, the Close-of-Service of some of my dearest friends, a trip to Istanbul to visit the much-mentioned-here Alex Guyton, and general laziness have kept me from putting key or pen to paper.

As a result of that, though, I’ve got kind of a lot of posts backed up inside of me, as it were, so I should be putting one up every couple of days, and I want to stick to at least two-a-week for as long as I should be in Mexico.

Friendly reminder since I think I’ve picked up a few readers by [my own] word of mouth since I last posted: you can subscribe to this blog by email, and it’ll poke you every time I put something up. So you can do that and never have to worry about checking this site or whatever. First new piece is coming down the pipe today.

Greetings from Mexico, folks.


Buckle up

Buckle up

Contact Hangover

A new desk can’t help that it’s gloomy here at home.

This is a crummy cell photo

The six o’clock rain has come on schedule and it’s starting to fill the hall.

Today is the seventh of July. Yesterday the last of the volunteers who showed up for Independence Day made their way to the bus station and back to site. The weather, true to Faulkner, has obliged to fit my mood. Of all the hardships and frustrations that Peace Corps manages to work into our cushy post, leaving volunteers has to be the worst.

We’re like a family here in country and not in the sense of the usual platitudes. If this were high school or college or any other normal stage of life, we would most of us not know each other, and if we did would not be friends. We’re disparate people, more so than anyone’s ideas of the Peace Corps would lead them to believe. We have teachers and organic farmers, but also marine biologists, computer scientists, graduates of psychology and criminal justice, writers failing to aspire. I don’t know the new kids that well, but as of May we can count on at least one fracking engineer.

We should not fit together, but training and service push us into an artificial closeness. For three months we share everything, every day, and then we lead the same lives for two years. Just like in families, that closeness breeds love and friendship. Along with annoyance, constant frustration, grudging tolerance and occasional enmity.

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Letting Go

I’m worried about missing things. Or at least I’m sad about it. Melancholy. Prematurely nostalgic. Something like that. I’m going to be gone a hell of a long time, and I’ll be far farther out of touch than I was when I was in Spain. Not to mention busier. It’s all sorts of things. The first I had to overcome was the idea that all the shit I’d be doing here for 22 and 23 and 24 would be worth staying for. A summer spent in DC doing what I always do in DC (mostly nothing) has helped to disabuse me of that idea. Still, stuff remains. I won’t be here for the next two Hobbit movies, for instance. Neil Gaiman just came out with a new book, and since I haven’t got it or time to read it this summer, chances are I won’t know what it’s about for a couple years. Ditto every book I might have picked up. I can’t imagine English book will be as hard to get in Mexico as they were in Spain, but it won’t be as easy as, say, here. I might not see the end of this season of the Newsroom for a very long time. I have to call all these things up one by one so I can see how petty they are and let them go.

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The Old Lie

This is another one of those days when I was too insomniac the night before and too lazy the morning after to catch the sun. So while I’ve missed out on toasting myself, my time on the deck has been agreeably shady today. If anyone’s wondering why I keep updating you on the state of the deck, its because I hope that wherever I end up writing in Mexico will be a little more visually interesting, and the pictures will give you a better sense of my day-to-day.

This deck

Today I’m on the deck

I’m going to talk about saying goodbye again, but this time it’s about saying goodbye to places. You know, trying to give yourself a big send-off, really trying to live up to the last few days, see everyone and everything that makes a place your home. I’m bad at that too. For one, anyone who’s been to one of my parties knows how well they go. Ditto for bar nights, excursions, and outings. What’s more, with half the people that mean home to me out of the picture, it’s hard to really hold a get-together to say goodbye. With Gebeily, Martinez, Guyton, Rice, Lujan, and God knows how many others off in parts unknown, a farewell in DC can’t be complete.

I don’t have the cash, the fortitude, or the partying acumen to make my way to enough cool bars and clubs and venues to have a last real go-round in the city either. It’s never been my bag, as much as I would have liked it to be. But the real reason that wouldn’t work is that DC isn’t really my home. Not the whole city, anyway. Love or hate the fact of it, but since my folks left Detroit and Akron and moved to China, Georgetown is the only home I’ve got. Not the neighborhood, the school. And the last time it still had any chance of being home to me was graduation weekend, when the mass of familiar faces was making its final appearance. I find myself taking long unnecessary walks, constantly panning and scanning, ogling campus like the open-mouthed summer program kids and trying to catch a whiff of what the last four years smelled like.

And taking really bad photos

And taking really bad photos

Georgetown now is full of naïve and unbearable high school students that make you hate them and wish for just a second that you could be that dumb and that excited just to be here again. But you can’t, and they aren’t us, and their Georgetown isn’t mine, and my shot at saying goodbye is long gone.

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Adieu, Adieu, to You and You and You

Porch time’s a little more hospitable today.

See how there's shadows and stuff

See how there’s shadows and stuff

The heat’s gone and been replaced by an autumnal cool that I’m perpetually up too late to enjoy. The reason that I could be so tardy to the writing porch is also the subject of the post today: unemployment. Up til now, I’d had fairly regular work at the T. Box of DC M St fame, and would be two hours into a Friday evening shift as of time of writing. Unfortunately (or not), I got a call from my manager around noon to let me know that we never had the legal go-ahead to serve food upstairs and that they wouldn’t need me for two weeks. Fourteen days is a long way to go without income, and as the chasm stretches in front of me, I can’t help but thank the Peace Corps, because no matter how intimidating or challenging it’s going to be to go abroad and start a life from scratch, it’s better than unemployment. And the Corps gives me a chance to wait out our crisis, with the option to put in another two years of procrastination with a Master’s program. Sweet!

I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised about the Box. That the owner hotboxes his office on the reg, that our white wine thefts are the sole responsibility of his wife, that if you talk to any ten bartenders in this city, one has a story about him being a shit, that both of his restaurants have been shut down for health code violations in the last month, and that the AC upstairs has been raining into the mold colonies in the ceiling for more than three years without even the most jury-rigged repair all speak volumes about the business practices in place. But uh, more time for me, I guess.

Moving onto topic, I’ve got a bit of saying goodbye to do, and I’m not going to do it. Not that I don’t want to or that I’m afraid, but because I’m bad at it. Always have been. All the feelings, the heartfelt, touching stuff that needs to be said, the pain of loss and separation, the anticipation of long gulfs of time without the ones I most love, all that only ever hits me way after the time for it has come and gone.

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