August 25, 2010

Washington D.C.

The view from where I'm sitting has changed significantly in the last two weeks. I find myself at a coffeehouse in Adams Morgan, drinking Guinness and surrounded by young people similarly engrossed by their laptops. I spend my nights in an apartment on the fifth floor of a brick building on California Street NW. In the morning I drink coffee and walk down to the Dupont Circle metro, where a train whisks me about the underside of this city. I emerge, blinking, fumbling for sunglasses, as of yet unsure of where I am. I find that the surreality of it hasn't yet lifted, and I sometimes feel like I am an actor in some kind of play, or that I am playing make-believe. My classes at American University started Monday, and I was nervous and skittish and shaky. The campus is small and there are no deer and I have yet to detect the wafting scent of marijuana. It started raining on Tuesday as I, chagrined, searched high and low for the campus bookstore. There were no naked freshman running pell-mell through the quad, and no drum circle, and I did miss Santa Cruz. It also made me glad of my own college experience, and envious of the freshman who as we speak are nervously preparing to descend on UCSC, where I expect they will be met in the Porter Circle by eccentric TAs wearing pink tutus, a sight that upon my arrival filled me with a sense of immense relief.

When I received my first syllabus (for National Cinema, which I can take for literature credit, wonderfully enough) and found it twenty dense pages long, I felt as if I'd been hit in the head with a brick. Yes! You have returned to college, on purpose! It wasn't that I regretted the decision; it was more the realization that I'd made it. After attending my first few classes, I find that I am a little bit excited and a little bit nervous. Carolyn, graduate student. Goodness gracious. It was unspeakably hard to leave Virginia, and I have yet to love DC the way I love Gwynn's Island, but sitting here, surrounded by people my own age and the sound of voices and music and cars and sirens, I am looking forward to the next few years, and what I will find. I left the island in a car full of the same things as had arrived with me from California a year before, but I knew I wasn't running from anything, and that was new.

August 8, 2010

Moon Jelly Nights

I see my departure date fast approaching, and am trying to enjoy everything, everything I can think of. I am doing everything I can. And I haven't been sleeping much.

A few nights ago I was up late, restless, and could see lightning flashing out over the bay. I climbed on my bike and headed out into the moonless dark, a sensation like flying, and ended up at the beach at Tin Can Alley. The clouds were lighting up, and I walked in the shallows, nervous of stinging nettles. I ran into some boys bait-fishing for croakers off some of the salt-beaten pylons lining the beach, and sat with them a bit, talking and drinking awful beer. Hot, we jumped overboard and swam a while. They spun their hands in the water to show me the phosphorescent moon jellies, lit by the movement like strange little lanterns beneath the waves. I got my first jellyfish sting, and barely noticed until the next day, when my arm was striped in red bands where the nettles had glanced across my skin. We swam and looked at Mars and watched shooting stars and the clouds flashed at the edge of our sight. And it was one of those strange happenstance nights where it seems like reality has been suspended, and all bets are off, and strangers impulsively swim in the jelly-lit Chesapeake.

Last night I went to a show at the Southwind Cafe; The Delvers played, a neat little string band with a viola for a fiddle. I sat at the bar and sang along with Bob Dylan songs and met a dreadlocked boy named Bradley who may as well have been beamed straight out of Santa Cruz. As he explained to me that he was trying to live sustainably, and grew his own organic food and filtered his own water, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief. They played my favorite song, "Wagon Wheel," and half the bar sang along, and a 93-year old watermen in white pants and a cowboy hat got up and danced, eliciting whoops from the crowd. I realized after leaving that I had known almost every person at the cafe, and by the end of the night I had met most of those I didn't know at the start. It is a small county, and seems to be getting smaller all the time, and I am sad to leave it just as I feel I've become a real part of it. My only regret is that it took me as long as it did. But summer isn't over, and there are more nights to be had, and I am so glad.