III

languornoun, [lang-ger]

  1. lack of energy or vitality; sluggishness.
  2. lack of spirit or interest; listlessness; stagnation.
  3. physical weakness or faintness.
  4. emotional softness or tenderness.

shooting the breeze

The end of summer break is near. My mind has been tuned to white noise, save for unruly worries tramping through the campestral fields of my mind. For a while, this may be my last chance to sit around and do nothing except stare at the golden eucalyptuses outside, wondering how they’ll look when I return. I’m on my final cup of herbal chamomile.

I’ve been hopping around town this past week, scrambling to finish a page-long list of tasks before next week’s flight. Writing emails, practicing, setting up computer software, reviewing the NSOP schedule, planning last-minute trips to Kohl’s. On Monday I had my final dentist appointment of the summer, wherein I emerged triumphantly through the front door, sample chapstick in hand, mouth numb and rubbery, lips cracked and desiccated like the surface of Mars. Being cavity-free has never felt this good.

Aside from clothing and toiletries, everything’s ready to be packed: neat rows of the books I’m bringing (half required, half personal), a tote-bag full of mailing supplies, a miniature watercolour palette (thanks Melissa!), a condensed selection of tea. I’ll have to find some way to get my hot water fix, since electric kettles are prohibited in dorms (I am absolutely peeved).

Most of the personal books are poetry collections. Life on Mars, alphabet, Hum, catalog of unabashed gratitude, haikus, Tomas Tranströmer’s poems, e.e. cummings. I had a hard time relinquishing my hefty Frank Stanford tome. It’s comforting, though, to gaze at those slim spines filled with inexhaustible wonder and rhythm; it’s also naive to think that poems can protect me from whatever harshness I fear the city will bring. (And yet).

People are so beautiful and brave. I’ll never understand that. One of my friends spent the summer studying in China, and another finished a summer internship in the city. I’ve been reading about a girl who did a study abroad semester in Berlin, how it’s different from the rhythm of New York, and then there’s another girl who is spending a gap year in Bolivia. Where do these people find courage? How are they tending the fires in their hearts?

It’s August heat and July heat and June heat wrapped up in whatever this weather is called, heat wave or heat stroke or just heat. Triple digits in the valley. Holy smokes and brushfires.

In the middle of a street, sunlight rests upon weathered asphalt, and a bird pecks at a bag of chips near the gutter. Strauss is blooming through the radio. Here I am, last weekend home, shooting the breeze and mumbling goodbyes. This must be what Ada Limón meant in “The Quiet Machine.” This California quiet.