temp29552Although I was in a neighborhood that is that supercool Brooklyn, I entered none of the charming places, instead I went into Dunkin Donuts.

Although it was a full sunny day and I had had a perfectly restful and productive morning, I hated everyone and everything, and I had decided the only thing that would make me feel better was a blueberry doughnut.  I walked up to the counter and I said, “I’d like a blueberry doughnut, please.”  I added, “If you have one,” and this jinxed me, as the woman said, “We don’t have any blueberry,” and I thought a beat, about not looking like the kind of person who can only eat one kind of doughnut, or eating a doughnut that was not really what I wanted, if I was going to eat a doughnut, I want to enjoy it like a little pig in mud.

I swept everything off the counter with one foul swept and I said “Yes, you do!  Go get it!”

No, I just said, “Okay, thanks,” and walked out and told this lady who asked me where the subway was where it was and went down the stairs and waited for the train while someone played the banjo and I hated him for playing the banjo, what kind of hipster nonsense was that, the fucking banjo.

I couldn’t wait to get to Manhattan where everyone wasn’t trying so hard, we were just going about our business.


I was reading about the bombing of Berlin, and it should have cheered me either that my city was not being bombed to kingdom come, or that the Nazis were about to be defeated in my book.

I considered going on a hunger strike to prove how angry I was at life, but then I decided I should go to Chipotle like a reasonable human being, and just eat another burrito even though all I ever eat is burritos, half of them from Chipotle, $9 at a time, an outrageous price for beans, rice, and a tortilla that costs the corporation 78 cents.  A guy was standing in front of Chipotle’s door.  “I’m sorry, ma’am, we’re closed.  We’re having trouble with some of our equipment.”

I was denied a blueberry bagel for my heart, and a burrito for my body.

I had taken a cab to my meeting this morning, and the guy drove me through Williamsburg, I was looking at all the Hasidic people who were walking around as if there was God, and I thought, I should really get out of the car and tell them there is no God.

Frequently I find seeing someone who is orthodox or Hasidic gives me a good feeling, like, well, at least someone thinks God (well, G-d) is real and tries to do something about it.  It’s not the something I want to do, but, still.

When I went to church on Saturday, I was walking down the beautifully treed and brownstoned street to church thinking, I don’t want to go.  Which is a rare thing for me, I pretty much always want to go, whether I’m getting off on the spiritual stuff, or hearing great literature, or seeing everybody there are so few of us, I will be missed, or sitting in the beautiful room with the blue and the gold angels and the dark wood, or just carrying out my routine, which I find so soothing.

Usually it’s enough that I want to say I’m a practicing Christian.  I don’t know why I’m practicing, exactly, but I practice.

I believe in commitment, I guess, and practice, I believe in them, I just hate them, too.

I wasn’t mad at God, exactly, that would be cleaner, I was more just so sick of His shit that I was shut down.  I listened, I took communion, because you only have to shut up and take it, and it might improve you.  I got to hear a baby gurgle through the prayers.

I become sane and sober and mature, but it does not follow that my life is happier or easier.  Life always has difficulties and sadnesses.  And that pisses me off.

I miss people, it’s been a long time since I’ve been with my family , I feel exhausted from not knowing what’s going to become of me, and maybe mostly, there’s the fact that it is dark at 4:00 now.  I really don’t wake up until like 3 pm, so this is bad, bad, bad, I already feel like a vampire.

I was back teaching in the afternoon.  Another teacher told me about teaching “Harrison Bergeron” and talking about the Constitution and how fun that was.  One of the kids came by and told me the Royals sucked, which was way delayed conversation from when I gave him shit about the Mets last week.  Another kid asked me how much money I made, and then we talked about taxes and how they work, and then this:

“I’m never gonna be a teacher.”

“That’s okay, you don’t have to be.”

“I could never.  I don’t got the patience.  Teachers got so much patience, man, I would strangle a kid.”

“Well, you’ll probably get more patience as you get older, if you work on it,” I said.

“I don’t know.”

“You will,” I said.

Image: a portion of “Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter,” made in Cologne, around 1315, Metropolitan Museum of Art.


IMG_0634I went somewhere I could see the sky, they talk about sky in Montana, I have been there, we have as much.  Sky.

The stairs up, up two stories, metal stairs, open, a little scary, and the High Line once I’m up there makes me a little agoraphobic.  It makes the city zoom up around me.  It gives me a little of the deer-on-savannah feeling.  I like the treed corridors, short as they are, tiny forests.  I like to live tucked-in, mostly, tucked-in and where I can see the vista without it gulping me.

Near the river, a big raft of wood, enough for four or five grown adults to lie peaceful, much better than a bench, I sat on the end nearest the city and lay back.  (Mrs. Winston, 8th grade  English, “green gloves” alliteration in “Evangeline;” lie, lying, lay, lain.)

The sky had room for every cloud, and a sea gull alone.  And one airplane.  And Philip Glass.  And what have I done. and is it really, now, everything that has happened.  And the Empire State Building, straight on, and tucked to the left, north, the Chrysler Building, which is dull without the sun flicking it, the sun did, on and off.  I felt open-hearted, for a minute, and my eyes welled, I wasn’t sure why.

No one else was there, though, just me on the raft, without Huck.  Or without Jim.

The High Line was a full-on railroad line originally, not elevated passenger rail, as I thought.  Then it fell apart.  Then it got fancy.  Someone was repairing a scratch on another bench, and I wondered how long this would be kept up so nicely, how long would people pay for that?  Living in New York in boom times, building times, everyone crowds in times.  When I was first in New York, that was not the time it was.  It will be not this time again, some time. They are building many towers in Manhattan now, and one of them was there, closest, being climbed by one of those cranes that climbs the side as it builds, it makes itself a way up.

I had been to see these nudes that were Manga-faced, classical and assertive and round and magical without being exactly mystical, the more I looked at them, the more I liked them, their commercial taste, the way their genitalia suffered, not quite real, almost dessert, hardly reproductive.  (Mrs. McCue, European History, people are naked, art is nude.)

After standardized testing, I had decided the kids would play Jeopardy.  Instead of me spending an hour asking, begging, bitching, sighing, because they would not work on their essays. They were loud, but that was because they were into it, they believed in my promise of extra credit, though I am known to make extra credit, even in its rarity, mathematically insignificant.  I used to work in research.

One of the questions was what is the name of my cat, and the kids did not know, but afterward they said, oh, you told us that once.  I used to use my cat more in grammar examples.  I go through phases.

Ten years of teaching.  Every one of them has been hard.  In different ways.

I took a quiz to see how much “grit” I have.  I think I scored too high.  I am trying to be smoother.

The sun was on me, that is still one thing to miss here, the sun, the vitamin D full blast sun you must seek out, it won’t happen to you, but there I had it, better because my sleeves were black, they drew the sun deeper into my arms.

Pictured: Kris Martin’s “Altar” on the High Line. The nudes I referred to.


dynamiteWhen you sit next to a kid who tells you he wants to drop out of school, you worry a little about what to say, this is what makes some people praying people.  “I know you can make money doing things that are illegal, but doesn’t  pretty much everyone who’s doing that stuff eventually go to prison? ”

Long pauses.  Wait almost too long for the kid to talk.

“And then you can’t get a real job after that?”  Sit next to kid, facing the same direction.  “I mean, I hate it, I wish it wasn’t that way, but that’s the way it is, isn’t it?  But you have to make your own decision.  You’re almost an adult.  It’s up to you.”

I know this is the right way, that is, the honest, loving one.  Still, I shake off my hands afterward, as if they are wet.

After my friend was hurt, I prayed The Great Litany.  That is what it is there for.  It is very long, in church we only do it at the Easter Vigil when we are pulling out all the stops. The next day, it was a Monday, I went into a shop that looked wholly foreign to me, a white Protestant girl, a storefront looking so handmade as much does here, shelves full of prayer candles, odd pieces of fabric, African masks, the door would not shut properly, the clerk had just asked the previous person in there to shut it.  In the city, doors don’t close.

Most of your usual saint choices were on the shelf: Our Lady of Various Things, Jude, and then one had the devil on it, and one had money, which made me feel dirty.  Then there was Saint Francis.  He was fine.  My friend loves animals more than people.  So do I.  I bought the St. Francis candle.  It only has prayers in Spanish.  I do not speak Spanish.  St. Francis would have to operate without me.  The clerk wrapped my candle in white paper and I carried it home against my chest.  It felt like fat dynamite.  It was cold.

The kid keeps coming to school, so there’s that.

I kept lighting the candle every evening.  I stopped formal praying.  I have a hard time believing something bad actually happened, I keep hearing about it, waiting to believe it.  It’s too crazy to have feelings about, too crazy to believe.

And it is near Christmas, and I get frightened that I have no babies, that maybe I never will, I also hear about this and don’t quite believe it.  We read the Elizabeth parts of the Bible, with old Elizabeth miraculously having her baby.

And I think, the time we would get together at Christmas, with my friend, we won’t do that.  We won’t be sitting in our usual restaurant at our usual fourtop with the French cafe chairs, shooting the shit and making fun of each other for the things we have been making fun of each other for for a long time, since we were young adults, now we are just adults.  He won’t order a beer.

One of my students has gotten it in his head I revise things 25 times.  Probably because I said this.  I don’t know what I say.  “Ms Schurman had her writing published, but she had to revise it 25 times.”  Sure.  Twenty-five.  That’s it.

We beseech thee mercifully to incline thing ear to use who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have asked faithfully according to thy will, may be obtained effectually, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

It’s always the long-term that interests me.  How long you can be friends with someone.  How long you can teach.  Can you write a book, a whole book.  Can you stick it out.  When someone is hurt, when people grieve, it is an explosion with a long road away from it.

Image: Double-Flash Photograph of a No. 8 Du Pont Dynamite Cap, Harold Edgerton, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Speak Tenderly

glassesThis week: the social worker was trying to talk to this woman with her eye swollen out of her head, the woman was thrusting her cell phone at this very young social worker demanding she talk to her dad.   The hospital security guards talked about what to have for dinner.  A college girl from Columbia waited for her dad, and then her dad put his jacket over his face and lay down to wait.  The receptionist called people to tell them what time to be there for their surgeries.  A guy I wasn’t sure if he was homeless ate a banana and then he picked up all his stuff to leave and clearly he was homeless and keeping himself together very well.

I typed up a unit plan for the Aeneid and played Candy Crush until it wasn’t fun anymore and squinted because the light hurt my right eye.  I was so pissed this was taking so long, waiting is one of my primary anxiety triggers, that is why I try always to be late for everything.  All elsewhere around the city people were marching and chanting and yelling and lying down in streets because a cop who killed a guy had not been indicted.  I saw one of their signs resting against a newspaper stand the next morning when I was walking to work.

Also this week: one of my students sat toward the back.  Was trembling.  I know what to do.  At least not to make things worse.  Sit next to.  Pat on arm.  Tell everything will be okay.  Let friend take over.  Compliment friend later when he rejoins class.  Thank him.  Go back and offer to listen to problem.  Student tells me what I already know: cousin was stabbed, can’t get cousin on the phone.  I told student you can’t use your phone in the hospital, I was sure cousin was fine.

I still haven’t really felt this.  It takes time.

After spending last Friday night throwing up and hoping to throw up and wandering my dad’s house looking for some kind of medicine maybe I should take, I pulled myself out of my brother’s old bunk bed with the model planes flying above me and the giant stuffed pony on the top bunk watching me like some kind of creep to be driven to the Christmas tree farm where we talked with Jack Russell’s son (Jack Russell died last year) about the prospects for keeping the tree farm open, and how much water the baby trees need.  My mother took the tree home, I went back to the bed with the model planes above it.

At church tonight we didn’t pray together for Eric Garner’s family, or the police, or the city, it is unusual for us not to be on something like this, but we are between priests.  We did have Isaiah, though: “A voice says cry out! and I said, ‘What shall I cry?  All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.”  Or perhaps you would prefer: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

I heard our neighbors knew Eric Garner, went to barbecues with him.

I told people who were going to the protests that I hoped it would be fulfilling.  I think it was like telling people I hoped a funeral would be good.  Some funerals are better than others.

In my advisory, we watched the CNN video about the Garner verdict and I told my students black kids look like my kids to me.  They talked some, too, and then they wanted to play Uno and loud music which I generally don’t like except for the new Beyonce song, that I might like.  “Oh, my God, Ms Schurman, you know this song?”  And we talked about the video, I liked it, she hated it.

I’ve been wearing my glasses for a week now, very unusual.  I had eye problems that made doctors forbid me to wear contacts, but it’s been years.  I used to put them in to go dancing, against medical advice, I couldn’t stand the idea of going out, dressed up, in glasses, I did not feel pretty in glasses, also the way we danced glasses would sweat or fly off my face.  This week the problem has been that it has rained.  Without an umbrella on Friday night it got hard to see, walking from the subway home.  I just took them off.  Nice, rain on your face, when it is not too cold and you know you are going home.  I could hardly see at all, blurs of red tail lights and smears of yellow streetlight and none of the sidewalk cracks.  I got there anyway.

Image: Spectacles, Met Museum Online collection, gift of Mr. Alfred M. F. Kiddle, 1940