Thursday, January 23, 2014

Brilliant Smart-Assery

The Final for my Dystopian literature last semester was a simple two-page essay to be inspired by one of three prompts given. We had two hours to complete the assignment.

Tentatively, I titled it "One Crappy Title." This is something I do every time I have to write an impromptu assignment, with the intention of going back and filling in an appropriate title once I've typed out all the genius things I have to say.

I chose the prompt about dictators which was a George Orwell quote from 1984.

I have always felt I do not work well under pressure. I spent most of my time staring at the numbers in the corner of the screen that indicated I was quickly running out of time. I hand-wrote an outline while the little whipper-snappers next to me typed away with graceful speed on their keyboards. I stared at the big, white, round-faced clock on the wall as I silently worked through my argument in my head.

I type very slowly. Despite being ambidextrous, I am quite sure my left hand has no idea what my right hand is up to. Perhaps I was secretly lobotomized as a child. Also, I cannot play any piano tune that requires both hands. I cannot dance.

I scraped out a compelling argument. I supported my ideas with examples from various novels we read during the semester. I read, re-read, revised and edited. I wondered if it made sense at all, or if I was just deluding myself into thinking I'm such a smarty-pants, I can whip out an impressive essay with such short notice. I'm just that good, folks. Brilliance, corporealized. I settled on my final product with forty-five minutes to spare, yet, I was not the first student to complete the assignment. Nor was I the second or third.

I began to doubt if I was brilliant at all, since the others were obviously so well-versed on the subject, they could materialize an essay out of thin air with no pencil-tapping, no screen-staring, and no nail-biting involved. I handed over the printed paper with a grimace. Dr. Dodson smiled and told me I was a wonderful student, and that she would see me next semester. I wasn't so sure she'd feel the same way after she read the crap I was turning in.

Relax, people. I got a 95 on the essay. Ninety. five.

I heard a rumor over the break that a few students had grouped up and gone to the Department Chair to complain that Dr. Dodson was too strict with her grading methods. This completely obliterated the idea that Dr. Dodson had been too generous with the grade I received. She does not strike me as a generous grade-giver, yet I have never received a grade lower than a 90 in any of her classes. What does this mean to me? It must mean, I am brilliant, Right?


seriously, psh.

I was thinking about that essay this morning. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to realize I had titled that essay "One Crappy Title." Hadn't I? That's the default beginning title for every essay I write. Surely, I had renamed it before printing it and handing it to my strict, comma-nazi, literature professor who spent a great deal of effort to remind us that the wittier the title, the better our grade would be. I fixed that, right? I couldn't remember.

I didn't inadvertently turn in "One Crappy Title" for my final and then bounce back into her classroom with a cocky little grin on my face for a whole new semester of Western World Literature. Did I?

Surely not. Brilliant people do not make such mistakes, and we have already established that I am as brilliant as they come. After all, I got a ninety-five.

But there it was, the nagging thought that I had indeed choked on this one aspect of the essay, and perhaps I could have gotten a hundred if only I hadn't been such a doofus and filled that line with such a stupid little quip that was obviously not witty at all. In fact, it seemed to me that a professor might consider it lazy, or, worse, smart-assy.

I'm not brilliant. I'm a smart-ass. (Which I've suspected all along, to tell you the truth.)

Here's the thing, though. I saved it on a flash drive just at the last minute. I almost forgot to do it, but I like to have a copy of everything I turn in just so I can go back and agonize over the placement of all my participial phrases and moan about my overuse of the words "very" and "just." Apparently, I can't get enough self-inflicted misery. The flash drive has more than two-hundred pieces listed in its various folders.

I didn't find the one titled "One Crappy Essay," but I did manage to locate the one I wanted.

Relax, people. I called it "Feed Me, Fear Me, Worship Me."

Because I'm brilliant.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

One Table Over: Neighbors

     The man on the other side of my bedroom wall is sick. Sometimes I think he might be dying. His low, rough coughing keeps me awake at night. Every once in a while, he calls for his caretaker. I can hear their voices.  

     He lives there, but it's her place. She moved him in several months after she started living there. She's like me. She does all her moving in one afternoon with the help of every family member she can round up. If I hadn't been home for it, I would have never known when it happened.  

     Mostly, they are quiet.  

     The people before had an affinity for loud music and marijuana. I knew too much about them: when they fought, when they made love, when the children were taken away. I even knew when they were evicted. 

     These new people are private. They never borrow eggs. They turn their television down. They never have parties. It's like they're not there. 

     Except for the coughing.  

     I feel bad for them. They have me for a neighbor.  Oh, sure, I'm the only one who lives here, but I have family. When my kiddos visit, it's as if they live here. They turn up the TV. They help themselves to a hot shower. They do their laundry. They bring their sweet, rowdy spawn with them. We yell from room to room. We play a lot of "Boo!" We laugh and squeal and run and drink and move furniture and hang out on the patio. 

     To her credit, she's never banged on the wall or hollered for us to keep it down.  

     It occurs to me she might welcome the noise. Maybe we are music to her ears. Maybe she's tired of the sound of so much coughing.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ask Me About My Five Year Plan

I don't want to read right now, but school starts up again in less than two weeks. There are six novels on my list for the semester. Getting a head start would be wise, since I'm taking three Lit classes on top of Spanish and Texas Government.

I've already tried to avoid it by doing a load of laundry, cleaning the stove, moisturizing my old lady face, organizing my granny-panty drawer, writing a grocery list, losing my coffee three or four times. Also, I took out the trash and waved at the roofers across the way. I've got my eye on the cute guy in the red hoodie.

I played Temple Run for about a half an hour. good times.

The truth is, I'm about halfway through The French Lieutenant's Woman, and I've already made up my mind about it. I'd rather read Anna Karenina. Please somebody save me.

This will be the semester I graduate the community college with an Associates of Arts in English. Next Fall I'll be driving back and forth to Canyon in pursuit of the mighty Bachelor's. That's where West Texas A&M University is. (Unless, of course, I manage to score another huge scholarship. Cross your fingers.)

I want to, should, might, probably ought to move to New York City. Struggle. Study. Drink. Get lost in the shuffle.


Move to Alaska.

Start a blog.