Down three flights of stairs, round around, our walls stamped with a flowery pattern and the linoleum floor and stair treads, all 19th-century filthy, probably at some point a whitish and all a who-knows shade of dinge now. Sometimes I think about taking out a bucket and scrubbing the steps until I feel better.
Today I learned that the “Schur” in “Schurman” probably meant “scrub.”
Twice I’ve gone to take tests at this office building a block from the East River, right near the Brooklyn Bridge. This time I went into The City, downtown. So much shininess down there it is almost sci-fi. There was an atrium between parts of the building, connecting either side of the block, and on one side there was a closed florist’s shop two stories tall that was lit with green light, on the other doors to the huge and shiny lobby with two security guards and those gates to keep you from going to the elevators without permission. I showed him my driver’s license, and he gave me a paper pass and directions to the proper elevator. Above the elevator were two circles, and the one on the left lit up to say up.
You have to put your palm on two different readers four different times. It’s this plastic thing with spikes that make your fingers spread. They are taking a photo of the veins in your palm. I don’t know how mine are. Healthy-looking? Sexy? How are the lines? What do they say? They didn’t give me a copy. You lock up your stuff, get escorted into this room. Every time I’ve gone for these tests I have coincidentally worn a simple little dress, so I do not have the pleasure of being physically searched by a stranger.
I tried to read as quickly and as little as possible, like a good English major. I was timing myself to see how fast I could get it done. Ninety questions, one essay about main idea and figurative language: 50 minutes.
Life is a timed test.
I asked a woman I met in a bar: “What theater company should I get season tickets to next fall?” Then I realized she was in her twenties, and she has no idea. I had asked a very 37-year-old question, a question of someone who has money (even a little, even sometimes), a Career, and a plan for life that extends more than unto next weekend. Even at my slow pace, I have gotten there.
The next night a man in a bar asked me, “Who do you write for?” and I wanted to cry and say, “No one,” but this actually isn’t true. “A few little places,” I said. He was at least ten years older than me.
Our roof, right now, has a blue tarp wrapped around the door. In the daylight, when you step out into the hall, it is blue from the light through the skylight. Under the sea, I think, most times.
Friday I just wanted to get through the movie. Hide your phone in your lap. Put your head down. The second-to-the-last day, I’m only going to try to wake you up three times, not ten. Here where state tests replace final exams, the end of the school year is not a bang but a whimper. We are watching “The Tempest,” the Julie Taymor film.
Parts of it are ridiculous, the visuals so goofy hot they make the kids laugh. And the songs remind me too much of her Beatles movie, but we are all in the movie, the kids, the young lovers, requited or not, and me the puppet master, although I do not have that kind of power, I do feel confused and exhausted as I think Prospero does, and this time of year I always feel ambivalent about breaking my staff, that is for sure.
Last night was supposed to be a special moon. The moon was not here. It was overcast. Here, the roof is the closest to the sky, the tar and the bumpiness and the uneven and the cords and the satellite dishes, the long, Gothic brick school across the street, not descending to the yard and looking up, as I used to from my crumbled driveway with my hostas and impatiens or hyacinth or my ice or my mud and the mansion’s clear leaded dining room windows, or, in the last year, the sad lack of them.
At church today I saw there was a stained glass window that is between the sanctuary and the sacristy. That is, between where the altar is, and where the priests robe, the file cabinet with the rows of ropes that are my choices for what to tie around my waist. I told the priest I would never remember how to tie the special knot, and I was telling the truth. I just do a regular old knot and it loosens sometimes during the service and I tighten it. How is that window, between two indoor areas, ever lit? Right under it are the wind chimes that I ring by circling the weight at the bottom. This is the signal that the priest and I are coming. I rang it. We went out.