Usually these stories depict events that happened close to the same date that I post them and one week's story is set about a week after the previous one. This month I'm doing something different. Today's post is set in the second week of January. --D.
I got back on campus about a week ago. It's good to be back, but I really don't know why I'm here.There was a meeting of the graduating class--most of us, anyway--yesterday, and we were supposed to be here for that, but I don't know why it wasn't scheduled later in the month. The masters aren't even back yet, except for Greg, who led the meeting, and it's really not his thing. At the meeting. he talked vaguely about events and responsibilities we need to be here for, but he wouldn't explain what they are, and at the moment there doesn't seem to be anything to do.
Not that I'm not busy--I'm applying for caretaking jobs for the summer and working on my grad school application (both of which seem incredibly complicated after the elegant simplicity of how they do things here) and I'm training for the Appalachian Trail. I'm now hiking ten to fifteen miles a day, mostly in circles, in the woods behind the school, with a pack on my back. None of it is for school, but it is important, and I couldn't do it as well at my parents' house. And there are some of us doing school work, running around, dealing with last-minute paperwork problems, settling up fees and debts and resolving issues with lost records or misplaced credits...I never appreciated before that in January Sharon (and Malachi, who handles money) has her hands full with graduating students as well as the new prospective students, who are wandering around looking amazed and confused as per normal.
But why am I here, why am I on campus? Why have they clearly arranged for us to be here, and then given us nothing particular to do?
I know why I'm here--it's to do something I'm not supposed to know about. And I don't know about it. I don't know what it is or when it will happen, only that something is. I don't intend to try to find out, as I have no desire to ruin the surprise.
In the meantime, the campus is covered with snow. It snowed, remember, back on Yule, only an inch or two. That melted the following day, but then late in the afternoon on Christmas it snowed again, a good eight inches, and while we've had some melting since, it's never all melted, and we've had several more snowfalls. At the moment, there are about six inches on the ground in most places, not counting the drifts, with a bit of a crust on top, so you can't make very good snowballs with it. When I hike my way through our hills, I break through the crust, crunch, crunch, crunch, as though I am exploring a magical world made of sugar, a sweet world of snow. I have not had to use snowshoes, yet, the snow has not been deep enough, but I hope that changes, soon. We're supposed to get more snow tonight, and I want to get some practice in.
Since I've been back, I have not had any more "encounters" with Joanna. How does it sound to say it that way? Writing it, I wonder...it seems euphemistic. Charlie would say not to hide from the world with euphemism. Kit would say not to treat sexuality as a thing that must be hidden. Not that I've actually spoken with either of them about my sex-life. But "had sex" sounds clinical, impersonal, and despite my initial worries on the subject, that's not how it ever felt with Joanna...and regardless of what you want to call it, we have not done it since before the holiday.
I had wanted to. I hadn't expected it to be over, yet, but after I got back--she was back already, as she doesn't celebrate Christmas--I found myself avoiding her. And I think she was avoiding me. Finally, yesterday, circumstance brought us together unavoidably as we both found ourselves waiting in line for the toilet in the Great Hall after breakfast. The awkwardness of standing next to each other even for just a minute or two was impossible to ignore, so after we'd each used the facilities, we sat down at the polished table in the Bird Room to talk.
"You don't want to spend time with me," she stated. It was not an accusation.
"No," I told her with some reluctance. "But I don't know why not."
She smiled at me, warmly and knowingly.
"Try this," she suggested. "What happens, if we do get together?"
"We have sex," I said, promptly. "It's kind of the thing we do."
"So, do you want to?"
"Yes," I told her, again without hesitation. "But, I don't know, I think I want more than that. I feel...I don't know. I don't know how to describe it."
"You romantic," she told me, as though she were teasing me for something embarrassing. I happen to think being a romantic is a good thing. I frowned.
"You haven't been trying to hang out with me, either," I retorted, trying to reclaim some of my dignity with her. But she just giggled, like I'd caught her at something. I've always found her impossible.
Then she grew semi-serious again.
"I think it's time," she said. "To get out or to get deeper in. This thing has run its course."
"Get deeper in?" I asked.
"That 'more' you wanted. Do you want that, a relationship, with me?"
I said nothing. I couldn't understand why she was making it entirely about what I wanted, as though I were a therapy patient or something. I knew perfectly well she didn't want to be in a romantic relationship with me. There were so many things I wanted to say that none of them made it out of my mouth.
"Then I think this thing has run its course," she repeated. She took my hand, for a moment. Her skin was cool and smooth. "This isn't a break-up," she told me. "That's the advantage of not going out, we don't have to break up."
But it felt like a break-up to me.
I wanted to say, what occurred to me to say, was "So we don't get to have sex anymore?" But Joanna would have laughed at me. I hate when she does that. And it would have sounded as though the sex were all I cared about, when it isn't, or shouldn't be, except that that's what all this was supposed to be about, wasn't it? Just sex, with no strings attached? I never wanted to date Joanna, I just got tongue-tied in her presence because she's goddam beautiful, and because she always invades me just slightly. She keeps me off balance, just slightly, all the time. Of course I wanted her, but only on the surface. I would have been crazy to want anything else. And it was on the surface that she offered herself, so I said yes...and somehow I ended up with all kinds of strings attached to a woman who obviously never liked me to begin with. Except sexually, she was never nice to me.
But the sex...I hadn't expected that to end so abruptly, to go from having a lover to not having one in a conversation around a dining room table. But then, how else do such things ever end? And how that felt...I can't explain it, I can't name the feeling, the way Allen taught me to do, not precisely. The best I can do is say it's like being cut off, walled up, sealed in...I am suddenly alone in a way I wasn't before.
I walk around campus, watching the janitorial and maintenance teams working to prepare for the influx of new students, watching the yearlings going to meditation, meeting in their therapy groups, finishing up their assignments from over the break, and watching the new, prospective students wandering around, confused and amazed. It all looks so normal, so reassuringly ordinary.
The number of things that are simply over for me right now is heavy on my mind.