Saturday, October 17, 2015

800 Words: How I Spent My Yom Kippur - Shul 4 - The Bolton Street Synagogue - Part 5 - Part 4

I spent the vast majority of my time at AU in love with some girl or another, never knowing what to do about it, and bumbling time and time again in failure. In retrospect, it's a wonder I ever graduated there considering how many eons I devoted to the failed pursuit of girls. Many of them were, of course, friends. I didn't begrudge them the friendship or the fact that they didn't view me as more than a friend, which was, by the standards of what every guy thought about women before roughly three or four years ago, gave me the status both among men and women as a kind of benevolent, naive, eunuch. Add to that that in spite of my good intentions and slight disgust with the prevalent idea until a few years ago that you have to berate women to make them like you, I was still during those years an irrational beast who could fly into rages at irrational provocation, and I had the worst imaginable qualities of nice guy and asshole thrown together in precisely the wrong combination. Whether or not I wanted to be nice to women, I could still be a beast. Still furthermore, I dealt with the knowledge that women would never like me by, frankly, mocking many of my female friends without mercy for all the stupid choices they made with men: self-fulfilling, self-destructive behavior at its finest. With only a few exceptions, I didn't do it to 'neg' them into liking me, I assumed it was, frankly, a given that they wouldn't. I had many male friends at AU, and by and large they were, and remain, my closest friends. But I had a lot of close female friends too, and would not have gotten through AU without them. Ironically, and perhaps sadly, many if not most of my female friendships at AU began as failed attempts to get their attention romantically.

AU was the first true success of my life. In recent months, as all my musical activity has gone up in smoke, I wonder if it still is. But success at AU was by no means guaranteed. There were times when I clearly was on the verge of a psychotic breakdown or of dropping out or giving up or failing or God knows what else. But the one way I've been truly blessed as an adult is through my friendships, which have brought me through darkness from which I could never emerge without them. Thanks in large part to the friendships I made, I made it with distinction, and no one can ever, ever, take that away from me. Graduation from college was the most thrilling thing that ever happened to me, something that during the Hyde years particularly, I'm pretty sure I thought I'd never be able to do. I wasn't particularly religious by the time I left AU, but I said the Shehecheyanu Prayer multiple times that day. When I'm up, the delusions of grandeur to which I can soar are limitless, when I'm down, the delusions of ignobility are bottomless. Reality is, as ever, in the middle, and perhaps my graduation was more of an obvious event than my depressed self ever figured it to be. But when I'm mid-project or mid waking nightmare, try ever telling me that I have such mundane, normal, happy, events to look forward to, and see what the reaction is...

I only got through it because of a series of close friendships that have only recently grown more distant as I grew closer to Baltimore friends. Suddenly, many of my Baltimore friendships seem to now be exacerbated by the same tribulations as they ever were in other places, and I worry that my best days in Baltimore are now behind me, and my life shall now return to its usual dejected state.
I don't doubt that talking about all these failures is a sure way to work up depression. On the other hand, I must say, looking back on this series, it makes for relatively decent writing...

As I've documented here before, I chose AU over Earlham College in Indiana. AU was my #5 choice after Oberlin, NYU, Muhlenberg, and Ithaca. I only got into AU in the Learning Disabled Excel Program, and I only got into Earlham because the very WASP-y Assistant Director of Admissions at Hyde liked me, and knew someone in the Admissions Department at Earlham. She asked if I would guarantee going to Earlham if I got in, because that was the price of her championing me. I said I'd have to think about it. "Hurry up." She said. In these days before common cellphones, I immediately rushed back to the dorms to call my parents to ask them what to do.

"What the hell are you saying Evan? Of course you're going to tell her you'll go!" Mom raised her voice, slightly irritated that I would take Hyde's 'Don't lie' ethos so very seriously.

"But that might be a lie!"

"Who the hell cares? If you might wanna go you should do it!"

Lying was a very, very serious thing at Hyde for which you could be punished to the ends of the Earth. I didn't know what to do, but I ultimately listened to the always sage council of my Mother, and told her I would go. The council from my mother was doubly sage, because I'm pretty sure my mother dreaded me going to a Hippie school so far away from home, known as having as large an Arab student population as Jewish. Suffice to say, had I gone to Earlham, I would have probably turned out very differently.

And yet, I still had no idea what to do because neither school filled me with any enthusiasm. I was up against the wall for six weeks, but I ultimately chose AU over Earlham because of... of course... a girl.

Let's call this one Miranda Brunelli - the love of my Hyde years, a half Italian, half-Chinese raver chick from Cleveland with a volatile father and a Tiger Mom. She was so thin she could walk through a harp. She ate nothing but broccoli, which she consumed by the bowl full, and her unduly smooth skin attained a spectacularly odd kind of orange hew and shoulder length hair dyed almost the precise same hew. In my memory, she is slightly beneath average height - taller than me, shorter than nearly anyone else. Whether jeans, khakis, or stretch pants, her pants inevitably seemed worn to emphasize her waistline, which was as thin as a small child's, and tight enough to show her legs as virtual twigs. She often wore terribly tacky blue eye-shadow or black eye-liner. Like many Hyde students (the at least the ones who weren't burned out or naturally idiots) she was explosively articulate and charismatic as only a truly original personality could ever be. We bonded from the instant of our first conversation, and our conversations were manic marathons of verbiage that went on for six hours at a sit. I don't doubt our conversations were the platonic ideal of intellectual adolescent bullshit, but never, not even during the AU years, have I ever known a conversation partner whom I felt more on the same wavelength with than my seventeen-year-old self did with this odd female beanpole of electricity. I wish, fifteen years later, that I could recall more of it, because when we weren't indulging in the scholarly vapidity so typical among teens, her witticisms could be truly hilarious. We both fancied ourselves poets in those days, and would spend days composing poems as only teenagers can (I wrote 300 poems at Hyde. I have not looked at them in ten years and the prospect terrifies me...) and read the results to each other with the lack of inhibition that only teenagers who knows only enough to think they could be the next Whitman and Dickinson could ever possess.

Perhaps I was in love with her from the beginning, but in that masochistically self-deceiving way that some adolescents have, I didn't think love was the word for what I felt. It was too holy, too pure, too important, to pollute with the idea of sex. We both said to each other that one day, when we could shake the morass of Hyde off ourselves, that perhaps we should get married.

It was my second of three years at Hyde, and she had the burden of being one of my two best friends during that year which contained what are still the darkest nights of my soul. Both of us were natural spontaneous combustors, and the preternatural volatility we both possessed in our souls was pre-destined to be taken out upon each other. It was assumed by all that I was in love with her before I actually was, occasionally by a few that we were secretly in a relationship, and by my naive, adolescent self that I had found a kind of platonic soulmate. In my mind, I wasn't in love with her, but I was clearly obsessed, and began clinging to her like a magnet that might explode upon touching the metal. It was the worst few months of my life, and the possessive extent to which I sought her company was of course too much for her, and for a small while, even she dropped me like a steaming hot napkin during the very worst month of my life. One day I hope to summon the fortitude to write about January 2000, but I'm nowhere near ready yet...

During winters, I was an ensconced member of the Hyde Wrestling team. I was one of the worst members of the team, and was an expert on the designs of gym ceilings at New England Prep Schools. Nevertheless, I could competently go through the motions of a wrestler, at least compared to the rest of youthful sports involvement...

She was one of two girls that year on the Wrestling Team that year (and I nearly dated the other...). One day during practice, during the period when we were not speaking to each other, we had to face off for a match during practice. I was much, much thinner as a teenager, but nevertheless, I was at least twenty pounds heavier than she was.

We were teenager in an impossible situations. I was only four years removed from my hopefully prozac-assisted violence, and I don't doubt that a bit of the old ultra-violence will always be in my soul. I had a chance to say physically what I could no longer say in the long flights of words we used to speak. I beat her in twenty seconds, and as I cradled her, I whispered into her ear what a trash-talking kid from my grade who beat me had once whispered to me: "How do you like 'dem Apples?!" When we got up, she ran out of the room in tears. It was only a matter of time after that... Nevertheless, it shocked me when it happened: it was already in March, after we'd made up, that she left Hyde for the Institute for Living, one of the world's most renowned eating disorder clinics.

My other best friend, Cyrus Wyndham, a burned out WASP rock guitarist with a famous organist as a father, and who played women like a piano, made me realize that what I was feeling was truly love. I was a fish out of water at Hyde on my best days, and if ever there were a chance of my developing true confidence with women, Hyde beat the shit out of it. I had to be honest with myself, I knew there was never any chance of it happening with me and Miranda, and when she returned that Spring, I did what so many stupid awkward kids have done since that Priest from Chaucer's Miller's Tale, and wrote her a poem. It was not a love poem per se, it basically told her that I knew it was impossible that she loved me back. Cyrus yelled at me for this incredibly awkward move. I remember, very clearly, seeing the horrified look on Miranda's face when she read the poem on the Girl's Dorm from the  I have never felt embarrassment that intense in my life.

There was always a chance she'd return to Hyde the next year, but her eating disorders ensured that she never return during Year 3. In April, having probably not spoken to her for a month or two, I dialed her house to see if I couldn't get some advice from her about whether to go to American or Earlham, and whether, or if, she was going to college in the fall. She was not home, she was back at the Institute. But her father answered, and told me that she would be heading to American University in the Fall.

....I had no idea that she had even applied to AU...

....She dropped out a year and a half later....

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