What is Drastic + Dramatic

Monday, April 01, 2013

April's Fool: The Hundred-Dollar Penny

Somehow I've been 24 years old my entire college career. Guys always guess 24/25 to be my age. And I still feel 24. I'm afraid as soon as I graduate, 28 will catch up to me all too swiftly.

Because I started college at 24, already the average age for dateable boys on campus was a bit on the low side. But the real problem was how as time went by, the boys kept getting younger, and I aged without really getting any older. They would always think I was 23–25, but those numbers didn't always stay. So because it happened so often that guys sort of reeled away and grimaced once they heard the number of years I'd been on Earth, I just made a habit of separating school and dating. Like church and state, dating and schooling just didn't seem able to co-govern in my mind. I expected the church setting to be my reliable dating source (ha), and the school to be my skills and education source.

This final semester, as a last-ditch effort, I decided I'd make an attempt at repentance and take the Dating and Courtship class. Might as well get some good prophetic advice before I leave the university environment and its ripe breeding ground for dates and marriages, which environment I neglect as often as I trudge straight through it. I've been learning a lot of good things in this class, and putting them into practice in life. Such learn+apply behavior has been making my dating life less pathetic, though my date quota hasn't increased one bit. So that's a nice side effect already.

Today, though, the dating class offered a lesson I never would have expected and still may not fully understand. We were talking about tips for selecting a good mate. At one point the teacher settled down in a chair and said he would need a female volunteer. No immediate hand rose. He said, a girl who likes money. I kicked my hand to the sky, joking about enthusiasm for the money part, but ready to climb on stage for the magic trick.

As I approached, he briefly told me that if I wanted more than I was given, I would need to give up what I had to get it. Those were the rules, that was the system. I sat down in the sideways-facing chair he pulled out for me. I faced him, the class faced us. When he reached into his pocket, we heard chattering coins. He lifted out a quarter and placed it on the table between us.

"Do you like that?"
"A nice quarter."
"What could you get with that?"
"I could use it at one of those bubble gum machines."
"Would you like something better?"
"What's the system?"
He holds out his hand.
"Have to give it up if I want something better," I say, placing quarter-George face-up in his palm.
He whips out a dollar.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Is Life

I read this poem for the first time the other day and just love it. It's not particularly religious or Easter-themed . . . but life itself is something of a pure religion. It expects a lot from you . . . all of you, really; it gives you whatever knowledge you seek from it; and you'll die for it—martyrs, all of us, for the faith of breathing.

Poem After Carlos Drummond de Andrade
"It's life, Carlos."

It's life that is hard: waking, sleeping, eating, loving, working and
        dying are easy.
It's life that suddenly fills both ears with the sound of that
        symphony that forces your pulse to race and swells your
        heart near to bursting.
It's life, not listening, that stretches your neck and opens your eyes
        and brings you into the worst weather of the winter to arrive
        once more at the house where love seemed to be in the air.

And it's life, just life, that makes you breathe deeply, in the air that
        is filled with wood smoke and the dust of the factory, because
        you hurried, and now your lungs heave and fall with the
        nervous excitement of a leaf in spring breezes, though it is
        winter and you are swallowing the dirt of the town.
It isn't death when you suffer, it isn't death when you miss each
        other and hurt for it, when you complain that isn't death,
        when you fight with those you love, when you
        misunderstand, when one line in a letter or one remark in
        person ties one of you in knots, when the end seems near,
        when you think you will die, when you wish you were
        already dead—none of that is death.
It's life, after all, that brings you a pain in the foot and a pain in the
        hand, a sore throat, a broken heart, a cracked back, a torn
        gut, a hole in your abdomen, an irritated stomach, a
        swollen gland, a growth, a fever, a cough, a hiccup, a
        sneeze, a bursting blood vessel in the temple.
It's life, not nerve ends, that puts the heartache on a pedestal and
        worships it.
It's life, and you can't escape it. It's life, and you asked for it. It's life,
        and you won't be consumed by passion, you won't be
        destroyed by self-destruction, you won't avoid it by
        abstinence, you won't manage it by moderation, because
        it's life—life everywhere, life at all times—and so you
        won't be consumed by passion: you will be consumed
        by life.

It's life that will consume you in the end, but in the meantime...
It's life that will eat you alive, but for now...
It's life that calls you to the street where the wood smoke hangs,
        and the bare hint of a whisper of your name, but before
        you go...

Too late: Life got its tentacles around you, its hooks into your heart,
        and suddenly you come awake as if for the first time, and
        you are standing in a part of the town where the air is
        sweet -- your face flushed, your chest thumping, your
        stomach a planet, your heart a planet, your every organ a
        separate planet, all of it of a piece though the pieces turn
        separately, O silent indications of the inevitable, as among
        the natural restraints of winter and good sense, life blows
        you apart in her arms.

Marvin Bell
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