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), Im 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 youve done out loud makes it real
and harder to rationalize.
David is the professors 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 hadnt done
enough; that I havent captured Gina. That Ive been onto
my own neuroses, failing to understand what makes Gina act the way
Midway through the semester already
and its progress report time. Im 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
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.
Im 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 dont want to misquote you."
"Youre going to write about
this meeting, Ms. Yi?" he asked, leaning back in his chair, folding
his hands together behind his head.
"Im here to talk about
Gina, right? Its relevant, dont you think?"
David, The Professor
impolitely. "Thats up to you to decide," he said.
"Your voice, whatever its sound, will interpret what it will.
Now, lets get started, shall we? How goes the writing?"
I shifted in discomfort in the comfortable
Academia Maroon chair. "The writing goes good," I said.
"Its not the writing thats bothering me."
"What is it then?"
"I got mad at Gina the
last time I saw her. I dont 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
havent really seen her since. I feel like Im 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 shes
a real person I dont particularly like."
"You dont have to like
a subject to explore it and understand it," the Prof. David said.
"I know that," I said. "thats
the other thing. I find myself inserted in these things and thats
not supposed to be the point, right? Im not writing about me,
Im 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 didnt 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, dont you know
that in such an intimate setting, writing one-on-one this way, you
cant avoid being part of the narrative? Has the assignment not
"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. "Its 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 didnt know if this meant
I was doing it right all along, or if Id been following a blind
alley and halfway toward a brick wall.
"But I cant let her get
me right? Im supposed to be observing, not letting her make
me angry and stop writing. Right?" I asked, desperation creeping
annoyingly into my voice.
"Youre 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 wasnt completely off track
didnt make me feel all that much better. I still hadnt
seen Gina in over a week and I still didnt 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 dont 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. Hes 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 its
still in progress.
* * *
I slept on it,
wondering when I would call her. It turned out I didnt have
to. Gina woke me from a deep sleep, forcing me to shake slumber off
as I reached for the ringing receiver.
"Heather youve 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 cant play it over the
phone," Gina said. "You have to come over. It happened last
"What is it, a song or something?"
"Something," Gina answered.
"Remember when we talked about recording things when youre
not around so you can listen to them later?"
"I remember very little when
I wake up, Gina," I said. "Right now, Im 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,
" 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. "Ill be over in a little while."
"Its worth it. I promise,"
I hung up and began getting
dressed. I wasnt 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.