September 1, 2010

Holiday Lights and Statute Books

Saturday night dates held hands under chandeliers.  The white lights bounced off the restaurant windows, competing with the holiday lights hung by the city.  We had missed the tree lighting ceremony in the haze of all the days after Thanksgiving.  Long days that passed too quickly but merged into one another, never ending.  We spent countless afternoons that turned into nights under the buzz of the florescent lights in the school's basement lounge.  We each had our place on the ratty couches next to the water fountain that reminded us of its existence with a loud roar every thirty-five minutes.  Or whenever somebody stepped over us to use it.  We tried not to glare, but the nights got long and we got punchy - our filters disintegrated.  We laughed when I ran upstairs to get us play-dough, but we pulled the colored mounds apart piece by piece when the statutes tangled themselves together and refused comprehension.  We ran on anxiety, adrenaline, and caffeine.

When we stopped counting the days after Thanksgiving and started counting the days before exams, we moved into her tiny apartment and brewed pots of coffee to calm our nerves.  Hours measured by days of class notes and pages in our outline.  Taking turns explaining what the others didn’t understand; shifting places - from the couch to the chair to the floor and back to the couch; cursing at google docs for reformatting, pinwheeling, rejecting edits.  We would negotiate end times, but two against one usually meant one a.m.  Sleep, shower, and a Mister Bagel pick-up before a 7:30 a.m. arrival.  Some nights, when the class included only two of us, we worked until 2:30 a.m.  I slept on her couch and woke to the alarm at 6:30 a.m.  A coaxing boyfriend helped pry us out of deep sleep.  On nights when I returned home, I would crash into bed without seeing the pillow.  The nights I didn’t, I watched the walls close in on me.

Winter came early that year, and the weather guaranteed us a snowy day.  So we hauled our text books and our code books and our laptops and our sweatpants to her tiny apartment intent on feeling cozy and enjoying the snowfall.  Days into reading “week” and days from its end, we could fill the day with comforts and ignore some of the anxiety.  We laughed that day.  Drunk on late nights and early mornings, coffee light and sweet, hours of tax statutes, days of sweatpants, and the sight of falling snowflakes, we belted out in hysterics.  When the sun set and she made coffee for the hour, we crowded into her kitchen, opened her backdoor, and took turns grabbing fists full of the snow piled on her porch railing.  When it became hard to reach, she held me by the waist, and I reached out farther than gravity allowed to grab handfuls for the three of us.  She would pull me in and we would collapse in hysterics.  I remember holding my sides on her kitchen floor.

I don’t remember the number of places we called hoping to print our outlines in color.  Open note exams meant extreme organization, labeling, and detailed notes.  Colored copies of our fifty some odd pages became an urgent requirement.  Dinner became a secondary priority as we tried to find places still open.  We settled on a place downtown and piled into the car of the only one willing to drive in the light snow.  It never occurred to us to change out of our sweatpants or brush our hair.  I’m not sure if we had even showered that day. 

We had a hard time finding parking.  The holiday lights strung above the streets reminded us of the festivities that we were missing again this year.  The snow smeared on the windshield made it hard to see.  We climbed out of the car with heavy feet.  December wind ripped through our sweatpants.  We trudged by a restaurant window filled with cheery faces and couples holding hands under pretty white-light chandeliers.  I realized it was Saturday night and begrudged them their free time and dinners and love.  My reflection in the window fell over their cheer.  My eyes vacant, my mouth taught, messy hair, sweatpants too big tucked into heavy snow boots.  I put my head down and kept walking.  I didn’t need to see any of that.

When we got to the store, it was closed.  Lights off, door locked.  Of course!  It was Saturday night!  We had lost our days weeks ago, forgotten that the world still ordered itself around times for work and times for rest.  We stood there and looked at one another in silence.  She checked her phone for the time - we could get to the next place if we hurried.  “Run!” someone shouted, it could have been any of us.  We ran.

A jog at first, but the we picked up the pace together until we reached a sprint.  I don’t know who let out the first screech, but I felt its release.  We turned our faces up to the snow and squealed and screeched and clamoured down the sidewalk.  Belly laughs erupted and the peaks and valleys of our squeals turned into sustained screaming with bursts of laughter.  We ran by the restaurant window and the diners turned to watch.  This time I saw our reflections in a flash: my smile and our eyes lit up in the street lights and the falling snowflakes.   Sheer joy.  For this moment, I knew the better deal was on our side of the window.


  1. oh how i love your writing. i finally appreciate your forgetting to eat and not having time to go to the doctor and counting goldfish as dinner and the half a sandwich you spread out throughout a 14 hour library trip as lunch. if it weren't for you and your paving the way, i might have thought this behavior to be strange. yet i applaud myself for figuring out what day of the week it is so my car doesn't get ticketed....too much ;)

    love you. write more please. feed my emmykateblog addiction.

  2. Bee, your comment made me cry. THANK YOU. I'll write forever if you'll read forever... i love you. XO