see you in print.


there were notebooks piled up, probably four or five of them. i read through some of them. they were entertaining, but only to me. there were pages upon pages of things remembered, god-awful lyrics, random lists of things (things that are blue, things that smell good, places i'd like to visit), rants, short fiction that went nowhere, all that stuff that a writer - a real writer - is supposed to put down and keep and look back at when he needs inspiration, or else self-deprecation, or else just fodder to feed his already wounded ego. what am i holding onto this for?

i thought back to seventh grade, when mrs. green or ruffo (or whatever her name was before or after her marriages and divorces) made all of us keep a journal. we were supposed to write whatever we wanted. "poetry," she said, or "just everyday experiences." and then she instructed us to not write anything we wouldn't want her to read. so, obviously no detailed descriptions about all the nasty things i'd do to the girls in the class ahead of ours, if any of them had given me the go-ahead. in short, i'd be writing nothing real, nothing i actually wanted to express.

the journal was graded, though. not graded on content or grammar or spelling or anything scholastic-related at all. our grade was based on whether or not we had written everyday (dates included) and that we had filled up a full page of adolescent nonsense. this might've been the moment i realized that i could write about nothing, and that i could just fill up pages with random, incoherent thoughts, and this could earn me a grade (and later, a bachelor of arts degree). i was in.

i wrote about how i had just started playing the guitar. i had looked up "the star-spangled banner" tab on the internet, and i wrote about how i was learning how to play that. my teacher wrote in red (always in red) in the margins, "can you play it like jimi hendrix?" i didn't understand why she was writing questions in the margins. did she expect me to answer in person, or in the next journal entry? what did she want? i didn't answer anything. one day in class, she told everyone how the journals were helping her learn so much more about us. she told everyone i played the guitar, and i thought this would earn me some points with the girls in my class. it didn't.

one week, i fell behind on the journal entries. my cousin had just gotten sonic the hedgehog for the sega genesis, and i spent most of my after-school time mastering that. a day before the journal entries were due, i read through some previous entries, hoping that i could just change a few words or phrases, and i'd be in the clear. instead of "the star-spangled banner," on tuesday, i learned nirvana's "come as you are." instead of chicken adobo, on wednesday, my mom made lumpia. i ate five pieces with white rice. it was good. the rice burned my tongue. i drank a pepsi with ice.

reading through previous entries, though, i realized how dull and friendless my life was. i remember sitting on my uncle tim's chair thinking, jesus, i really have no friends at all. what is wrong with me? over the course of two months, joseph and dong might've made a weekend appearance, but that was about it. my seventh-grade life revolved around guitar tablature, sonic the hedgehog, and imagining what courtney, angela, katie, and whitney did at their slumber parties. since i didn't want my teacher to think i was a total loser, i made up a friend. my friend lived on my street, and i went to his house to play basketball. we played 21. i won. twice.

the journal assignment was over, but our teacher encouraged us to keep writing in them. i think i wrote for a few more weeks, and then i was done with it forever. i held onto it for some time, all the while thinking that i might want to revisit my junior high days when i was in my twenties, thirties, or fifties. the journal sat in my closet with a bunch of other things i hadn't touched in years. then, one day in high school i got very depressed and decided that if i got rid of shit, i wouldn't feel so depressed. i remember standing at the recycling bin, holding the journal over heaps of paper, wondering if i should do it. should i do it? i opened it up, and i read a little of the story about my imaginary friend who lived on my street, the one who sucked at basketball. fucking idiot. fucking lonely idiot. i dropped it in the bin.

in college, my writing professors forced me to keep a journal again. they encouraged me to write everyday, to write about whatever i wanted. the act of writing everyday was supposed to help me improve. it was supposed to help me become more confident. it was supposed to help me get published, to finally realize my dream: to see my name in print. "see you in print," father leigh once wrote me. "you have an odd world view," dr. cumberland said. "there's good potential here," peter bacho said. "just write, just write," larry told me. their comments led me to believe that i was special, that i was a creative force to be reckoned with. and then i graduated and did americorps.

i held onto those college journals for a long time, thinking that there was a reason to keep them. one day, i'd look back and see how i evolved as a writer, how i'd write about random, funny, or depressing things. i'd think about kafka or some other famous writers and how they always wanted to burn everything they had ever written. some of them did. i wanted to be one of those guys, one of those crazies who got his name recognized in the literary field, someone who'd be studied by academics and bored undergrads for generations. i'd write so good that girls like courtney, angela, katie, and whitney would do their dissertations on me. and then, right before i died, i'd burn it all, just to be a dick.

back in sacramento for the fourth of july, i went over some of my college journals for a few minutes. what was the point? i dumped them.

1 comment:

beastmomma said...

You are good at being a cleaner, but sometimes you are so quick to get rid of nostalgic things.