As the light at the end-of-the-term-tunnel approaches, skippering half-thoughts firefly through my accordion-like mind.
Not a round-up, not yet, as I am not finished, but so close. One big nagging developmental editing project to start and finish, two solid re-writes in fiction and non, a semi-ton truck load of papers and portfolios to mark, the daily slew of emails to wade through making sure the next term is more fruitful and streamlined—scheduling and course picking is a fine art, corners should not be cut. Meet the professors, read the syllabi, ask cohorts what they did and thought, spin the bottle click the plunge.
But summer, ah summer and getting off campus is pounding on the door and the idea of returning seems distant. Why not just go back to where I came from and never return? Why not become a postman or a steady-salaried insurance salesman in a country where I am fully-legal and don’t have to worry about guns and healthcare and bitter slum-lords and offending new-friends with comments and feedback and how to help each other best? Why? Why not?
I’ll answer with an anecdote.
A faculty member scores tickets to an event in Santa Fe. Emails are sent and returned and maps and meeting points and times are set for a Wednesday afternoon. The class piles into several cars and pool north. The Sandia mountains glimmer to the east, empty sunlit grassland plains to the west and very little I-25 traffic. No problem finding parking, although who uses coins anymore? A long table of green and yellow and red Thai curry awaits the group. Tickets are distributed. There is an hour before curtain. Some wonder off for beer, others hit bookstores, couples wander the plaza holding hands, a native plays Paganini solos outside The Palace of The Governors. At ten to seven, a crowd spills onto West San Francisco Street outside the Lensic Performing Arts Centre, that pre-show energy bubbles and shuffles, last minute smokes, handshakes and hugs, extended families laughing after dinner, the monthly double-dating of couples pat backs and kiss cheeks, the stood-up—two tickets in hand, frantically thumbing phone, the high-school class pushing and shoving, everyone take your seats please! Tickets torn, ushers flash-lighting aisles, the restroom rush and line, the phone on silent.
Zadie Smith walks across the stage to the spot-lit podium. Her sultry North London accent amplifies through the theatre, I’m transported to the year 2000, the top of a double decker rumbling over Waterloo Bridge in the pissing rain hunched over White Teeth, thinking how can anyone write this well and so damned young, and she introduces Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgaard, who takes the audience to a Bergen youth through drink and art and shame with honesty by battling memory.
My Struggle, Volume 6. For a few minutes, all struggles evaporate, unite, inspire radical empathy. Commune.
After the reading, Zadie and Karl sit on stage and discuss intelligent ideas with intelligence. So nice to be a theatre, I think, so nice to be warm and listening close, so nice to be so close to the source of what we are all trying to do. The night, perhaps like an MFA, passes in a flash.
Thanks to the ticket, the program, the faculty, the cohort, Steve—the guy with the car, the foundation that funded the event, Zadie and Karl, I am renewing my MFA vows, with more resolve than ever before.