In Which You Turn Three

Dearest CF,

I’m in the peculiar position of teaching Mrs. Dalloway on the day on which I myself am giving a party. I won’t buy the flowers myself, but I will buy candy and beer and lemons and ice. I will clean the toilet and blend egg whites and scrub the floors and make pisco sours and spike the punch to really get at the theme, which is Junior High. (Technically, I suppose I should leave the toilet as is.) Today I’m privacy-proofing my house. How I wish you could come.

Of course I sympathize with your rageful in-class moments. I have one pupil–a repeat from last semester–soft-spoken, sweet, deferential and considerate, who absolutely boggles and baffles me whenever she comes to office hours. She wrote a paper on a famous Yeats poem about rape. The aggressor is a swan. My student claims that the rape was the young woman’s fault. She must have been provoking the swan (this in a myth–there is no “he-said, she-said” version of this story). The essay is filled with startling turns, like how the young woman’s world was small and has now been “opened up” as a result of this event. The rape is “constructive,”  she writes elsewhere. The argument culminates with a dali-esque reading of the swan’s wings as Zeus’s “scrotums” [sic].

I am a poor teacher this semester. I stare dumbly. Today I was grading a paper in which the Whitman quote “hold my head athwart your thighs” exemplifies how one holds a baby. I wrote “?” and then “sounds dangerous?” then gave up and turned the page.

I am better. I awoke today in a positively Clarissa Dalloway-esque mood, larks! and plunges! everywhere I went. It felt risky to feel happy. “Shouldn’t I…” the familiar voice kept saying, but something over which I have no control refused to ponder the missed phone calls, uncharitable thoughts, the dusty socks and unfinished embroidery and chances (someone yesterday, for instance, with pretty eyes), the feeling of measured sameness speckling every new hour that will never change because I absolutely refuse to make anything  happen. It was all there, but hiding under the bed, like my ex’s boxers. Suddenly it feels like I can do things!

So, tonight, I am boiling potatoes and pleasurably pondering wings and scrotums and in what way they could possibly be said resemble each other.

I miss you, dear friend. I hope to visit soon.


PS–HAPPY THREE YEARS!!!! I am so terribly pleased for you, and toast you from afar.

PPS–What will you be for Halloween?

We Are Strong, Benatar Style

Dearest Millicent,

Quickly, because all dream descriptions that don’t involve expanding and shrinking ballon nipples should be quick, I have a dream for you.  Last night, I dreamt that I opened my door this morning, and you were there.  You said “I didn’t have anything else to do.” So, you had driven to my city, and we went out in the world to run errands.  On of our errands was to go talk to your past mother-in-law.  She was being mean, and we told her off expertly.  It was very satisfying. I wish you were there as cognitively as I was.  We were, as they say, fierce.

Ummm…that phonecall, while terrifying, was a gift from the heavens to read about.  And, because there are too many Law and Orders on television these days, I must say, be careful.  But, wowzers.  Somebody threatened to “cut you!” I thought that only happened in 1940’s dice alleys or very bad after school specials.  And the reference to Dr. Phil.  Wise.  But we must also have a universal “What the shit?”  It is quite an intrusion, hilarious or not.  Any clues to who the missing link in this may be? When the drama rains, the drama pours, no?

Lastly, the fifth child must not be allowed victory.  You must crush him, probably through ignoring him and his evil evil ways.  You must pretend he is a sleepy-eyed SUV driving dolt that just wants to skip class to eat muffins and watch the Cosby Show (and shag his new college girlfriend).  He obviously has respect issues, or in a twisted way thinks that he is charming you with his intellectual avarice.  Pretend you are part of the No Child Left Behind program, and adequately (that’s all that is required) serve some while leaving the obnoxious (this stinker) far behind. Of course, easier said than done.  Also of use, my neighbor, our mutual friend, recently said that she has been going into class lately with the goal of being the worst teacher possible.  Then she congratulates herself when something goes a muck.  She says it has improved her attitude greatly.

If all else fails, you should introduce your mystery caller to your letter writer.  I bet they would hit it off on a magic carpet ride touring the planets, grooves and all. And then throw them this fifth child as a therapeutic craft project for their violent tendencies (too much?)

Yours always,