Dispatch 16 (Oct. 23-24, 1998)

     Writing is supposed to be a kind of confessional, transmogrified a little, but ultimately the place where your triumphs of pride and the sins of your past go to blend with fictionalized elements.
     Being a non-Catholic (Mom never asked me to go to church and I never offered), I’m not familiar with the confession booth, but I imagine it must be something like this, begging forgiveness from a perceived higher power and losing yourself a little because saying what you’ve done out loud makes it real and harder to rationalize.
     David is the professor’s name, the one who paired me up with Gina.
     Yesterday, almost a week after our trip to Dallas, I was looking through the old pages of this journal and worrying that I hadn’t done enough; that I haven’t captured Gina. That I’ve been onto my own neuroses, failing to understand what makes Gina act the way she does.
     Midway through the semester already and it’s progress report time. I’m to meet with David The Professor Who Prefers to be Called By His First Name Despite the Fact That He Looks Like a Banker and Calls Me Ms. Yi.
     He has a window looking out onto campus, but the office is dulled by another gray afternoon, the last remnant of bad flood weather. The mostly wood and maroon Serious Literarian Furniture still shines a little amid old books and copies of older magazines and literary journals.
     David, The Professor Who…, is Tom Wolfian, with a graceful wave of once-blonde hair combed back from an angled, taut face.
     "Can I record this?" I ask him as I sit in the mostly wood and maroon chair across his desk. I’m pulling out my little Panasonic recorder, and he seems to look at it with alarm.
     "Certainly, Ms. Yi," he says after a disapproving pause. "If it will help you."
     "I think it will," I said. "I have a good memory, but I don’t want to misquote you."
     "You’re going to write about this meeting, Ms. Yi?" he asked, leaning back in his chair, folding his hands together behind his head.
     "I’m here to talk about Gina, right? It’s relevant, don’t you think?"
     David, The Professor …, snorted impolitely. "That’s up to you to decide," he said. "Your voice, whatever its sound, will interpret what it will. Now, let’s get started, shall we? How goes the writing?"
     I shifted in discomfort in the comfortable Academia Maroon chair. "The writing goes good," I said. "It’s not the writing that’s bothering me."
     "What is it then?"
     "I got mad at Gina the last time I saw her. I don’t even know why. She was criticizing me and I completely blew it out of proportion," I said.
     "What did you do?" he asked.
     "I just got angry," I said. "We were on a trip and I was distant the whole way back. I haven’t really seen her since. I feel like I’m neglecting this project, but I feel no desire to be around her right now."
     "Hmmm," The Prof. began. "Has that been the case all along?" he asked.
     "No, I was more intrigued because of the way she carries herself and how people react to her," I said. "Now I see her as a real person and maybe she’s a real person I don’t particularly like."
     "You don’t have to like a subject to explore it and understand it," the Prof. David said.
     "I know that," I said. "that’s the other thing. I find myself inserted in these things and that’s not supposed to be the point, right? I’m not writing about me, I’m writing about Gina. So why is everything about Gina and I fighting or Gina trying to impress me or me feeling weird about Gina kissing some guy at a club?"
     The professor didn’t say anything for a few moments. He was still leaning back and for a horrible moment, I thought he might recline even further and fall into a sympathetic angst coma. Instead, he turned to me, smiling.
     "Ms. Yi, don’t you know that in such an intimate setting, writing one-on-one this way, you can’t avoid being part of the narrative? Has the assignment not been clear?"
     "I thought my assignment was to write about Gina. Understand her and see how she works."
     "But it will never stop being written from your hand and observed through your eyes," David said. "It’s as much about your perceptions of her as it is about Gina."
     I sat absorbing, feeling the dust motes in the room as if they were tiny meteorites. The world seemed too big to hold onto right now – I didn’t know if this meant I was doing it right all along, or if I’d been following a blind alley and halfway toward a brick wall.
     "But I can’t let her get me right? I’m supposed to be observing, not letting her make me angry and stop writing. Right?" I asked, desperation creeping annoyingly into my voice.
     "You’re supposed to be writing about lives in progress," David said slowly. "One of those lives is yours, Ms. Yi."
     It was too smart and too obvious to argue further. Still, knowing that I wasn’t completely off track didn’t make me feel all that much better. I still hadn’t seen Gina in over a week and I still didn’t feel like I understood the mind behind the perfect curls.
     I thought about leaving a copy of the journals for Professor David, but I felt that would be a little bit of a betrayal. I don’t owe her anything, not even friendship, but giving him an incomplete picture of her in the form of a half-written chronicle seemed like failure. He’s not reading it day-to-day, discovering her like I am or any other reader is. When he sees me next, I want to be armed with a little more knowledge of her and a little more to report about her life as it happens. Even if it’s still in progress.

* * *

     I slept on it, wondering when I would call her. It turned out I didn’t have to. Gina woke me from a deep sleep, forcing me to shake slumber off as I reached for the ringing receiver.
     "Heather you’ve got to listen to something," Gina said excitedly as soon as I burbled a hello into the phone.
     I looked at the alarm clock. 10 a.m.
     "What is it, Gina?"
     "I can’t play it over the phone," Gina said. "You have to come over. It happened last night."
     "What is it, a song or something?"
     "Something," Gina answered. "Remember when we talked about recording things when you’re not around so you can listen to them later?"
     "I remember very little when I wake up, Gina," I said. "Right now, I’m only remembering the names of Muppets."
     "I recorded something last night when I had a visitor. You have to hear it."
     "Miss Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, Gonzo, Kermit…" I said, enjoying that I could keep her excitement from infecting me for once.
     "Heather. Heather?" Gina said. "Are you coming over or not?"
     "Let me get dressed," I said. "I’ll be over in a little while."
     "It’s worth it. I promise," Gina said.
     I hung up and began getting dressed. I wasn’t sure what this was all about, but if Gina was this thrilled, it was probably worth writing about. Bodies in motion, stories in progress. Secret excitement began to fill my insides.