Today marks a highpoint in my first-term residency at Bennington College: I shaved my legs. It’d been about week. I’d have probably gone longer, at least until home and forced to put on a pair of shorts. But something struck me last night in bed. No, not the seven days worth of itchy stubble. Not a long-distance virtual striptease with PAL. Not a sudden impulse to practice prim and proper. My reason for finally rekindling a relationship with my razor was far more compelling: I was afraid I’d pass out.
My heart hasn’t stopped thudding since my arrival. From sitting in on lectures I find at once inspiring and incomprehensible, to having my work critiqued by some of the most admirable and grand minds in the litscape, to standing forlorn and tipsy in front of an audience and reading one of my own stories, my heart is working overtime. It flits to throat and dips to toes, and seems, at any given point, on the verge of clicking off.
So the passing-out nightmare would ensue: my head clunks the wood floor of the Commons, the paramedics arrive, and for some godawful reason related to the strange rules of resuscitation, they remove my pants. VOILÀ! legs of Chewbacca. And what do you know—there is Philip Lopate, or Bernard Cooper, or Lynne Sharon Schwartz, or Rachel Pastan, or Amy Hempel, or Martha Cooley staring down, all wise consolation.
Grace. I’m just not feeling here. Not yet at least.
Grace. The word appeared on the treadmill’s dashboard this morning. The words from right to left read: MILES, SPEED, and then GRACE. Or so I thought. As the real word registered, I was already beginning my slow cartoonish tumble off the machine, but managed to find the side rails and avert disaster.
Idiot. It said GRADE.
Same thing happened to someone else here. During an introduction, a few days ago, our program director, Sven Birkerts, explained how minutes before, he’d walked up to the electric hand dryer in the bathroom and read EMOTION DETECTOR, rather than MOTION DETECTOR.
EMOTION DETECTOR. GRACE. Not on equal planes as we speak; the emotions are high, the grace is low. Perhaps with time—the great arbitrator of trepidation—I’ll find my fulcrum and fly straight. Perhaps once I’m back home in San Diego thawing, I’ll homogenize and everything I’m learning here will apply to most everything I’m doing at home. Except of course, how to cook a meal.
That’s a whole other kind of school, girlfriend.
And for you PAL, more bonus sex points for being there for the first time our boy pedaled his bike sans training wheels.
And this maternal love note from a thousand-something miles east. Of course, as promised…