23 November 2009


This morning, I found myself walking behind a single person in the hallway, and with every step, I heard the corduroy swish of said person's trousers. I have yet to meet anyone who can walk silently in corduroy--no matter if one has thighs the circumference of a stork's shins, one walks loudly in the cozy, ridged fabric. Blue jeans, too, have their quiet sound, though perhaps not if they are old and worn enough. There is little opportunity for me to wear that perfect, butter-soft, decaying denim at work, though. Perhaps if my office were not a scant hallway from the college president's, I might be so bold.

The sounds of walking aren't a revelation--how many odes have been written on a leaf's crunch or gravel's grate or a new snow's peculiar hush, and how many have I written myself, of course--but indoors, they are different. No one waxes about the flapping slap of flipflops springing from carpet to heel, or about the purposeful clack of someone's sensible business shoes on tile. I remember high school: the principal's shoes--always the boxy shine of professional's leather, always with heels so dense and hard that they exploded on the linoleum like little firecrackers as she walked--harbingers of doom. She couldn't catch a soul at anything because we heard her coming for miles.

I remember that, and I dress as quietly as I can. I walk toe to heel on the short indoor-outdoor nap of the halls. My arms do not swing in any jackety rustle. Sometimes I hear my trousers make their muted swish--not even corduroy, but polyester and wool blends--and I slow myself. I take more care. I do not think I am visibly bow-legged in my efforts, but I suppose I couldn't see myself to know. I wear boots with thick rubber soles or sneakers cut low and close to my feet so that when I am trying at all, I can turn any corner with surprise.

I don't know what I'm hoping to sneak up on, but I certainly won't find it if it hears me coming.

17 November 2009

Slant of Sunlight

For the first time in my life, I am in an office where I have had to close my blinds so that the sunlight doesn't render my computer screen unreadable. I am fairly certain that this is the first office I've ever had where there's been any sunlight at all, and I feel quite guilty shutting it out in the name of productivity. I'm hoping to find a happier solution by rearranging my office at the earliest convenience, as it's still a very ecru-walled institutional space.

The first addition to the office, though, is a very lovely, warm-glowing floorlamp that a friend picked up for me from Ikea. After having been on campus last night well past the hours of natural light, I can say that it creates a very pleasing atmosphere for work. The one thing that does concern me is that the dimness might make people think I am not here (though my door is open).

11 November 2009

On a discarded corduroy slipper

I've been taking a slightly different route to school these days, essentially the L side of the L7 square that is one full block in my walk. I'm not entirely sure why I changed--perhaps the perception of it being 50 less feet in the sometimes rather chill mornings, but more likely I've changed because it's on the less-traveled sides of the streets. It's a mostly unremarkable change--still residential, still perilously sidewalked, and perhaps skirting a marginally less affable block, but nothing that anyone can honestly notice at eight in the morning or four in the afternoon. I think the reason I keep walking that route is because one of the yards contains a discarded black loafer. It's got a red plaid interior, and the shoe appears to be in fine condition. It doesn't look chewed or stained or soiled. But it is certainly a black corduroy loafer near the farthest reach of their fence (because most yards have fences here--to keep dogs in or to keep dogs out or both, in fact). I don't stop to look more closely at it--no one wants an odd, trenchcoated person eyeballing her yard before lunch--but I wonder who is looking more closely at it. Certainly it's not the yard-owners, because it's been there more than a week. But there is a spindle-armed shrub that grows through the fence not ten feet from the slipper, and every morning and every afternoon, it's full of small, busy sparrows. I have to walk around the naked hedge because it spills over the sidewalk, but I am close enough that the little flock--four or five of them, not dozens--puffs and flits to the next shrub. I pass that one, too, and they hop along to the next, and it's only after that do they mutter into their stitching feathers and go back to their original place to contemplate that single slipper. They rattle like crumpled paper in the dry branches, making leaf-crunching noises where there are no leaves to crunch.

05 November 2009

Vampire Bats

Seems like a more appropriate title for a post from last week, no?

Yesterday, I attempted to be a responsible, health-conscious adult.

Yesterday, I failed pretty spectacularly at it.

There was a free campus blood draw & test (the kind where they take your blood and then mail you an analysis of all of those things adults are supposed to know and monitor: cholesterol and glucose and triglycerides and so on), and I decided that I would go. (Not only because doing so would help along a program we have for reducing one's insurance premiums, but because I'd never done so before, and I would like to know what's going on with my hemoglobins.) Friends of mine were also going, and so it was going to be a group activity and, because I was expected there, I couldn't chicken out. (Believe me, I thought about it.)

You see, I have an incredible aversion to needles. It's not the pain level (it's really a very tiny pinchy feeling), but it is the kind of pain and the concept of it. It's invasive, and having teeth drilled doesn't freak me out even a third as much. Also, it's traumatic: I have small veins, and I have blood that doesn't really want to come out of them. My one trip to the Red Cross Blood Drive left me with a collapsed vein and a full hyperventilation. How very embarrassing, on top of everything else.

I reasoned that yesterday would be different because they weren't trying to fill a bag; it was just a wee test-tube. I was nervous, though, and just holding my arm underside-up is enough to give me palpitations. The elbow is there to bend and protect, like the knee, and I don't even like to look at the insides of my elbows, let alone bare them for needles. It's against every instinct I have.  But I survived the stab, and I felt the needle withdraw, and I was relieved. I hadn't cried, I hadn't hyperventilated, and it was over.  And then I was told (because I certainly wasn't looking at the process) that she'd missed, and rather than stab me again, I was to be sent to Roanna, two tables down, who was an expert, and she'd get it in the other arm, no problem.

Roanna did, indeed, get the blood lickety-split, with no fishing or anything, but the damage was done, so to speak. While I didn't hyperventilate (thank God) this time, I teared up, I shook, and I was thoroughly mortified (because there's nothing like being sniffling and blotchy in front of people you've only just met).

Luckily, there was a good 2.5-hour cushion between that and my needing to teach, so I sat in my office and answered e-mails until I calmed down, and then I had coffee with one of the friends who went along and tried very valiantly to be comforting and cool about the whole thing. And I survived. But I'll be wearing long sleeves and avoiding my own elbows for days.

Here's the question for discussion, then: how does one get over fear of something if doing the thing consistently contributes to the fear?