Because April is the cruelest month

Teachers know.

April is the cruellest month

Houston doesn’t really have much of a spring. Can you even call it spring when there wasn’t really a winter?

No.

April is early summer. Temperatures in the upper 70s, low 80s. Longer days. Sun. Thunderstorms.

The weather itself mocks both teacher and student. It feels like summer. But it’s not.

Summer is freedom.

April is testing. And prep for more testing come May.

But there are festivals and parks and patio bars calling, and you want to go do all the things. Or nothing. In a hammock.

April is that one friend throwing pebbles at your bedroom window, slyly begging you to come outside and play when she knows you’re grounded for 2 more months.  sad cat

Breeding lilacs out of the dead land

The lilacs are the children.

The dead land is you. Or so it seems, on Sunday night, when there are still papers left to grade. Calls still unmade. Lessons undifferentiated. Emails still flagged. And you haven’t washed your sheets/hair/car/Tupperware.

But you’re not dead. Dead tired, maybe. But not dead.

There is a layer of hope beneath the cracked topsoil. A water table. Not all of the bulbs will bloom this season. Some will. Some, next year. Some in 5. Some at a future date TBD… maybe.

You are doing fine.

If someone else’s grass looks greener, just know, it’s probably Astroturf.

Mixing memory with desire

There’s a good chance you’re looking back on Spring Break with longing, or back to last summer. Or even further back to the halcyon days of…whenever. Things were easier then. You were happier, right? (But were you? Hindsight is a Snapchat filter.) And you want that again. Now.

But it’s April.

At this point, every Friday is good.

Stirring dull roots with spring rain

Maybe your roots are dull (and, as if to add insult to injury, graying). Maybe your students, the lilacs, are dull-rooted, too. And in April, it’s hard to imagine them springing to life. Or to imagine it for yourself when the alarm clock goes off at 5:30 am. And it’s only Tuesday.

After all, you’ve tried. For months. Years, even.

But if you close your eyes and breathe deeply, there’s an earthy, metallic quality to the air. Thick and redolent. A welcome presage.

There’s word for this. Petrichor.

From the Greek word for stone, petra, and ichor, the blood of the gods. Petrichor is the smell of impending rain.

That’s the thing about April.

No matter how dull the roots, no matter how many dry days lie ahead… it will rain.

single-green-plant-desert-close-up-43526626

 

 

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The Waste Land. New York: Horace Liveright, 1922

 

*This essay is dedicated to LAR.

Implosure

It takes about 6 1/2 hours to drive from Houston to Arkadelphia.  That’s a lot of thinking time, and that’s what I do whenever I make that drive. Think and sing along to my 90’s R & B playlist made especially for the occasion. (Ooo yeah)

Arkadelphia (no relation to Philadelphia) is a small town in southwest Arkansas. Population 11,000. There are two universities there, literally accross the street from each other, planted in perpetual face-off.  State school against private Southern Baptist institution.

It was in Arkadelphia that I lived out my formative dating years, in spite of the fact that I am related to at least a 25% of its residents. No, I never dated a cousin. In fact, most introductions began with “are you related to any Knox’s, Bullock’s, Jones’, Newborn’s or Hunter’s? Are you sure?”  You see, in Arkadelphia, there are only about 3 degrees of separation. Any person I see driving along Pine Street or pumping gas at the Tiger Mart or watching their children play at the Arkadelphia Aquatic Center is either a relative, or lives next to, works with, dates or has dated, hates or is related to someone who knows someone who knows me.

This makes it home.

Every time I go there, I imagine myself running into a former love interest.

I walk into Walmart and, lo and behold, there he is, standing in the express checkout lane, fat and ratchet wife in tow, surrounded by a half-dozen raggedy kids.

He sees me. Radiant and confident after all these years of big city living, my figure unphased by having carried a beautiful, talented daughter who is not his. His eyes are full of regret, and I glide past, vindicated at last.

Of course, this never happens.

Ever.

I don’t see anyone I dated or had a crush on. No matter how many times I go to Walmart. But it feels good to think it could happen.

(return Walter-Mitty-style hallucination)

Yes. We’re in Walmart. No…Tiger Mart.

No. It has to be Walmart. Bigger crowd.

We’re at the “eyes filled with regret” part. He falls to his knees, rends his shirt from his chest, piles ashes upon his head, throws his hands up to God and cries out.

“Faith! Please forgive me. Please. You are so amazing. I was so blind and stupid.(pounding fists against the sides of his head)  Stupid. Stupid. STUPID! Ahhhhhh!”

Then, overcome with regret, he impodes*.

Implosure

This, I think, would bring closure.

Implosure.

But, the thing is, I realize, that I don’t need him to implode for me to have closure. I mean, it would be nice, but unnecessary.

With the same power I have to conjure up the Walmart scene, I can call up the memories that haunt.  I can return to the door that I left ajar, ghosts slipping in and out at will. I can close it.

So I do.

Because you don’t need anybody to give you closure. You close it.  It’s your move.

But imagine the imploding thing first.  It’s fun.

 

* I realize that the gif is an “exploding” man, but I couldn’t find an imploding one. You get the idea though.

How to make the world suck less

It smells like pee in here.  Pee and hopelessness.

I sat clutching my call number, scanning the room for the source of the sour smell.

I turned to my husband, nose wrinkled in disgust.

“Do you smell that?”

“What?”

“It smells like pee.”

“Oh, is that what that is? Maybe some kid couldn’t wait to go to the bathroom and went in the chair. “

This chair? Gross.

There’s nothing pleasant about sitting in these kinds of offices. The IRS, DMV, SSA, DHS, USPS, traffic court.  All the same.  Ambivalent, if not outright disgruntled, employees. Long lines. Unnecessary restrictions. I mean, why can’t you read in traffic court? No reading? Seriously?

They must be afraid that we’ll learn something.  Knowledge is power. And this, my friends, is why it is regulated by those determined to keep it for themselves.

I’d had to come to the IRS office to get a copy of my 2012 tax return transcript to send to the student loan company. They were trying to charge me $1500 a month to pay back my grad school loan.  Fifteen hundred dollars!  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

This experience offered its first sign of insult in the form of, well, a sign.  One-hour limits on free parking (at an office that averages a wait-time of 2.5 hours).  In fact, the IRS employs a whole person to sit on a scooter, hiding out in the paid parking garage, to monitor the visitors, presumably to note when your one-hour limit is up so that he can scoot over and slap a ticket on your windshield.  Want to avoid a ticket? Then you have to come out of the office every hour and move your car to another spot. Hopefully, your call number won’t come up while you’re outside, and the numbers aren’t called in order, so…

Upon entering the office, you have to go through security: three surly guards, a conveyor belt, and a walk-through metal detector.

My husband and I had been directed over to a long line in a narrow hallway to await permission to enter the actual waiting room, where we’d have to stand in another line to get a call number, sit down and wait some more.

“Hey! Hey!  Don’t sign the sign-in sheet! DON’T sign it”

I leaned out of line.  The security guard was essentially shouting at a woman who, instead of being clairvoyant enough to know that the sign-in sheet is for other guests of the building, not for those going to the IRS office, had stopped to sign-in.

Really, was all that necessary?  How was she supposed to know?  Why not a simple, “Excuse me ma’am. If you’re going to the IRS office, you don’t have to sign this”?

Moments later, I heard the same guard rudely inform another entering family that they could not bring in more than 3 electronic items.  “You gon’ have to take that back to your car.”

You’d think they were paying her to be an asshole.  If she had been polite, maybe coming to the IRS office wouldn’t suck so much.

I realized that this is what makes going to places like this so unpleasant. It’s not the place.  It’s the people.

People aren’t nice.

Maybe it’s because they think it would take too much to do it.  Maybe it’s because some are actually assholes.  There’s not much one can do about the latter.  Thank god & the universe for karma.

In response to the first possible reason, I offer you Exhibit A.

Benefit-Cost Chart

*cost-benefit ratio for “giving away money” is circumstantially dependent (i.e. giving a crackhead $5 may result in a BCR <1, while paying off the hitman who is targeting your family has a significantly higher BCR…at least on TV.)

Conclusion:  Being kind is an ideal investment.  Low cost. High potential return.

I want to live like my default setting is kindness and courtesy instead of cruelty or complaint.

In an effort to be kind, here are four things I’m going to do. On purpose.

  1. Smile at someone who looks serious, sad, worried or angry
  2. Pause and sincerely thank people with service jobs (servers, cashiers, receptionists, tellers… anybody who does stuff for me).
  3. Compliment a stranger (nothing creepy)
  4. Surprise somebody with something thoughtful

It’s tempting to say that one person can’t make a difference in a world full of stupid people.

Stop waiting on the world to change. You are the world. Change yourself.

Are you gonna try it? What are some other easy ways to show kindness?  Post below.