Friday, May 16, 2008

A couple of quotes

From Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:

"You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness."

'"It was a horrible sight, Oskar: their arms in crude splints, straight in front of them like zombies! They couldn't feed themselves, because they couldn't get their hands to their mouths! So you know what they did!" "They starved?" "They fed each other! That's the difference between heaven and hell! In hell we starve! In heaven we feed each other!" "I don't believe in the afterlife." "Neither do I, but I believe in the story!"'

"Everything that's born has to die, which means our lives are like skyscrapers. The smoke rises at different speeds, but they're all on fire, and we're all trapped."

"I said, I want to tell you something. She said, You can tell me tomorrow. I had never told her how much I loved her. She was my sister. We slept in the same bed. There was never a right time to say it. It was always unnecessary. The books in my father's shed were sighing. The sheets were rising and falling around me with Anna's breathing. I thought about waking her. But it was unnecessary. There would be other nights. And how can you say I love you to someone you love? I rolled onto my side and fell asleep next to her. Here is the point of everything I have been trying to tell you, Oskar. It's always necessary."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

On the Things I Cannot Say

The weather outside is absolutely beautiful. The sun is shining, it's warm on my face, the birds are singing, the breeze is lovely and fragrant and tickling the trees. But today is the day you left, and though you haven't been gone long your absence is a presence in my life already. I read my book to make the time past, at home and at the dentist's, and it is profound but it is also sad. It has a red handprint on the cover. It's of a left hand, like the one I use to write. I place my hand upon the shadow of a hand, but the red hand is too big. My mind traces the curves and lengths of your hands, and my measurements say this hand on the cover is about the same size as yours. It makes me want to hold your hand again, to trace its soft lines. Last night we were holding each other close and in your arms I almost said the things I cannot say. It's not that I don't want to tell you, in fact I have the feeling you already know, but I have never told you in so many words. I want you to know every part of me, even this part, but for some reason it is very hard for me. Part of me says it's because I don't know how you feel about it, that it might scare you that I feel this way, that maybe it's best if you don't know. But really it's that I am afraid and a bit superstitious. The words are the shape of the ways I've been damaged before. My fears are related to the way you would answer; or worse, the way you might not answer. I know that it is likely you feel the same: maybe you too are scared of this type of thinking. If you didn't answer it might not reflect how you feel, it must just be the way you can't say it either, even after I had, or that you were happy about it and just wanted to savor the moment and not mar it with words. But the problem is I wouldn't know. I'd want you to answer and maybe there is nothing to say. If you don't feel that way, I wouldn't want you to say you did, but it would hurt just the same that you don't. I am hoping you too, and all evidence points to that. But the anxiety to say it, this one little category of things I hide from you, is growing. Every time I think about it, I think, I'm going to say it, something, anything, to let him know, next time we're together. But then when we are together I just want to be in the moment. Should I even be worrying about the future when the present is so wonderful? But I know, too, that we are eventually going to have to talk about it. Is it an unspoken rule that we can't? Or just a boundary in my mind? I mentioned it's where I've been damaged before, and now I'll tell you why. I've said it before, planned for the future in the past, and it has never worked out the way I hoped, the way I longed. I felt like the fact that we'd said it made it all the worse to leave behind. I'm beginning to doubt whether it makes much of a difference in the end if it doesn't happen: I'll still have thought it, and you'll have never known how I felt. So even now I'm convincing myself it will be better to make it clear to you, and that I should just say it. But that doesn't stop the freezing of the words, the times when I push myself to say it and end up going further into myself and holding tighter to the words, and staying silent and you probably are wondering what I am thinking of, but you don't ask so perhaps you are thinking just as feverishly. Or is that it is just not in your nature to ask? Maybe that's okay. Maybe one day I'll be ready to breathe you in while we're embracing, and lift my head and look you in the eye, and draw in a breath and open my mouth and let loose the words: "I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer came to my college this past semester, and gave a speech on the purpose of laughter and its application in Jewish culture. He was everything you would expect from reading Everything Is Illuminated: intelligent, funny, Jewish. I wanted to meet him but couldn't think of any questions to ask, and didn't have any books to be signed, so I thought it would be too awkward. Instead, Ted and I just left and talked of books we liked, such as House of Leaves. Well, I am now reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and the writing style reminds me of House of Leaves. It's disjointed but insightful so far. I'm really enjoying it and hope it's as good as I expect it will be. This is the kind of writing that inspires me to write as well, so also hopefully some good creative material will come out of it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Jumping in the James

Yesterday some friends from my hall (Devin, Ted, Erica, and Huang) and I went to Jamestown Beach on the spur of the moment. Everyone was finished with exams, and we were ready to have some summer fun. We left five or ten minutes after we decided to go - no one had time to change or anything, it was very impromptu, which I often like. It was beautiful out: hot, sunny, free. We piled in Devin's Jeep and drove over. It had a digital readout: Distance To Empty. It read 19. So we had 19 miles worth of gas left - not much. Devin kept a nervous eye on the readout as it quickly flew down to 13, 10, 7... but at times it would jump back up. Jamestown Beach is not far, but the car kept recalculating how much gas it really had left. It was like we were in Speed... only we were trying to maximize fuel economy instead of go above 50 or whatever. We got to the beach: 3 miles to empty. Maybe we were going to have to walk home, but by god we were at the beach now and we were going to enjoy it. The beach was crowded with mostly college students, celebrating the relaxing summer status of us all. Most people had bathing suits, of course. Not us. We set down our towels, and Erica immediately jumped in the river: fully clothed, in fact, in a dress! Devin stripped down to his stylishly striped boxer-briefs and did a flip into the water. Huang laid out on a towel, and Ted and I skipped some stones and waded a bit. The water felt amazingly warm. I wanted to jump in but my cellphone was in my pocket... and I was wearing clothes... and I have a bit of a thing about going in water that's not the pool.
Jamestown beach
But it was beckoning so strongly that I put the stuff in my pockets on a towel, took off my glasses, and walked in. It felt as good as I expected. I played around with Devin and Erica in the water until Ted alerted me to the fact that a large group of people down the beach were calling my name. I was pretty blind at this point, so I walked toward them not knowing who they were. It turned out to be Carla, David, Cassondra, Matt, Audrey, Pete, and some other people I didn't know. They gave me half a bread end with some cheese spread. I was really glad to have seen Carla before I left. After a brief conversation, Devin told me he needed to take Ted back and that I could decide whether to go then or later. I was starving so I chose to go. I was completely soaked and nasty, but luckily I had brought a towel. Devin was not sure we'd make it back without running out of gas. As he drove up to the Spanish house, the DTE was 0. He wasn't sure whether he'd get to a gas station or not, and we wished him luck and departed. I took a shower and went to dinner, eating with Tim, Mike Vance, and Frances. It had been over an hour since I'd gotten back from the beach and Devin still wasn't back with Erica - we were afraid he hadn't made it to a gas station. But it turned out he had, and everything was good. Later we went to Cold Stone Creamery and watched some movies. It was an awesome last night with some amazing people. I'm going to miss them when I'm in New Zealand, and also this summer.