Anyone lived in a pretty how town

(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

eec

Let me tell you of my pretty how town. It’s got these hulking big gorges that tower under you on your way to class. Some days you peer down and see messages written by students in the pebbles and sticks. Proposals, congratulations, birthday wishes, fraternity letters. Even advertisements for the freshies to join various student groups. The gorges are titanic. One feels the same respect and affection toward them as kiddy-chan feels toward her contrabass.

Once in a blue moon on the Thurston bridge you see the EMS vans pulled up and the bridge cordoned off. That’s when you get that sinking feeling. After that math professors awkwardly try to tell you to approach them if you are feeling stressed or if you are unable to cope, their every body movement indicating they would prefer just the opposite. Preaching to the choir, I call it. More than any other discipline, Mathematics forces you to confront your own limitations and be completely self-aware. There is no fudging mathematical ability. You have to have a fair degree of arrogance, tenacity, and humility all at the same time to take on the subject. You have to have the strength of character to constantly face the sheer hardness of the subject, face failure in research and in proofs without detracting from your self-esteem. And if you didn’t ever come face to face with failure in all your mathematical tribulations, odds are you wouldn’t want to kill yourself anyway.

The beeches along Beebe lake are tall and shimmery, shielding a piece of nature from the rest of the ugly buildings around it. Of ugly buildings, Baker Hall or Helen Newman could easily take the cake. There are big rock benches around the lake, donated by various alumni with plaques attached. The island in the middle of the lake is overgrown and only visited by the family of geese that live there. That too has an inscription in memory of some alum. It is difficult to develop an attachment to a place so parcelled out to different alum for posterity’s sake. Thank goodness they left the trees alone, or I’m certain every single tree would have a name plaque unceremoniously hammered into them. Still, in the moonlight, all the mindless In Memoriams are scrubbed off into the shadows, leaving a perfect little safehaven for crying unnoticed. No one really breaches the forest at night. Once, the whole place belonged to me. On sunny days when the mist rises from water cascading down Beebe Dam, we lingered on the bridge, chasing rainbows in the spray.

Malott was the de facto location for Slope Day festivities. One year we did face painting in there. I was practicing for a church carnival, where I was appointed the face painter. I had two willing subjects cooped up with me in one of the classrooms having little animals painted all over their faces. This year we locked ourselves into 253 and did a three-blackboard tall drawing of Staré Město. That building probably contains the most puzzlement out of all the buildings on campus. Generations of befuddled faces and total mental bedlam. Also, a lot of testosterone.

On lazy sundays after church we went to Waffle Frolic to share fried chicken over waffles or a vegetarian panini and orange cream sodas. Sometimes we lunched with Sindy, sometimes we lunched alone. We watched the rise and fall of various startup restaurants in the Commons, trying to find their target demographic. Only the hippies remained. One particularly unfortunate case was Brotchen. (Do you even remember that name?) Sorry, no pretentiously European restaurants welcome here. We celebrate Americana and diversity, which means fake chinese food is in, boulangeries are out. Probably the only person who was sad was me.

Some weekends we went to the Farmer’s market. It was always such a novelty, local produce. To someone from Singapore, the concept is almost totally foreign. The novelty there always wore off quickly, to the increased awareness of jacked up prices. The food there was always lacklustre, even though we always headed straight for the chiles rellenos store that served deep fried mexican spring rolls filled with salsa and chorizo. The crepes were gastric-preventing at best, and the baked confections were always too sweet or too large. We’d sit at the jetty choking down our local food and watching children climb trees or buskers perform twangy country music. The kind of contentment that Kerouac felt, no doubt, with a situation that to any lucid mind had little real pleasure apart from the bonus that no trouble was on the horizon. Enough to be thankful for. Those dog days, with flies buzzing around the elephant’s ears, were one of a kind.

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