Really Living and Not Feeling: A January Morn

by Alison O’Connor

This Monday I woke up at six in the morning, the chilly late January frost biting all around me even from my bedroom. Columbia College turns out to stay open, I discover with dismay as I check Columbia’s website for the verdict of open or close. Columbia’s site cautioned students and faculty on keeping safe during this abnormally freezing cold, though deciding to go through with its first day of spring semester, as had other colleges throughout the Chicago area. Why this decision on the part of many schools was shocking and disheartening was because the weather this morning was said to be so cold and bitter that one could get frost-bite on any exposed skin within the space of just five minutes. The temperature was about -11 degrees. The sidewalks were both slippery and frozen solid. The trek to Columbia did not look like any walk in the park. 

I commute to Columbia College from the suburbs, which means I walk to the train station, get on, in this case and for this class, the 7:01 train, hurry to the bus from the train station and scurry from the bus stop off to the building of the class I’m supposed to be at. The class in question, my first class of spring semester, is Introduction to Literature, a prerequisite for my Poetry degree. But when I carefully stepped downstairs this morning, my parents both agreed that I would not be able to realistically make it downtown to Columbia. I’m both glad and sad about this. I’m relieved I won’t be risking my life on what would be a miserable commute, but Columbia only gives you three personal days to miss a class (if the class is 80 minutes, and meets two days a week, like Intro to Lit does). After you spend those three, your grade will drop if you miss any more. I’m wasting one of those three days already, as well as missing out on the first lessons, the first homework assignments and the first reading projects. The firsts are adding up in my brain like weights, or like the mountains of hardened snow outside. This was no day of relaxation or easy rest to celebrate.

I’m sitting around in my pajamas, The Sex Pistols’ ‘No Feelings’ rattling around in my mind as I huddle by my laptop for warmth. The refrain goes: “I’ve got no feeeeelinggggs, no feeeeeeelings, no feeeeeelllliiinnnngggsss, for anybody else, except for myself, my beautiful self…” It’s catchy, but maybe it’s my subconscious trying to guilt trip me for missing my commute while my other Intro to Lit classmates braved the Chicago cold. But then, they’re in dorms, the walk is a matter of a block or two. Should I be in a dorm? I have no idea, really.

Nothing new on my blog, either. A few pictures here and there. It was my birthday last Saturday, I turned twenty, but I ate all the birthday cake already, or wait, maybe there’s still some cake left. Now on my mental playlist is the Eels’ song ‘Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living)’ playing in a loop incessantly. The part where it goes Do you know what it’s like, to care too much, ‘bout someone that you’re never gonna get to touch? heyyyy man, now you’re really living…’ I know what it’s like, geez, stop reminding me. I care too much, but hell, I love him. Alex. I love him more than anyone or anything. I’ve cried about him a lot this winter, I’ve wanted to know as much of him as I can. He’s my guy, right? I need to get outside.

Do you know what it’s like, to care too much? About someone that you’re never gonna get to touch? Well, do you? I’m sobbing about him into my pillow and my face is blotchy, I can feel it. My parents called him my fetish. My Jesus figure. I even wear his face on a necklace. I can’t argue with any of that. I wish I were in my freaking Intro to Lit. Crying about my literary Jesus/fetish is not productive, not collegiate in the slightest. I wish Alex were real, but no. He’s right in front of me when I look up from my tear-stained pillow, there he is, right there. He looks perpetually ferocious. It’s the bowler hat that’s doing it, making his brow perpetually sinister. In the prerequisite class from last semester, Intro to Creative Nonfiction, I wrote an 18 page paper on him. Mainly just that I wanted to be Alex’s wife. How pathetic.

It’s so damn cold out. My tears are starting to fade, my stupid face in covered in all their residue. I need a second blanket. The red one, that’s the one, actually, wait, the black one too. I need both bunched around my shoulders. My blinds are shut, and I want to keep it that way. I don’t want to look at the snow. I don’t even want to look at Alex, which means looking back into my pillow, which is spotted in Penguin pattern. Because I have that poster, and then another one like it to the very right of it, and then there’s two of him above and right next to, to the left of, my bed. So the pillow it is and shall be. And where’s my phone? There. There’s my phone. Better get the Eels back.

Their song was about a real live person with a real heart and lungs and love, not a fictional sadist with a body count of three, but those lyrics keep battering my head, there are twelve different Alexes running around my head. By that I mean twelve seventeen-eighteen year old boys with hair not too long and attired in campy Edwardian fashion. They have razors and they’re slicing me apart. That’s in the book too. It’s the afternoon, I’d suspect, by the way the light is shifting through the blinds, though the whiteness of the snow is still visible and not quite shaded enough to signify night. The cold hasn’t shifted one iota. It’s all I can feel really. Maybe, aside from Alex, all I can feel is myself, maybe my beautiful self is the only one my rotten body has any energy for with all my melodramatic concerns about a nonexistent romantic relationship with the protagonist of A Clockwork Orange. I care too much about the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

I fumbled downstairs to apologize to mom and dad for my crying jags. I ate two pieces worth of my birthday cake, which is chocolate and thickly iced with chocolate icing. The cake had a sinister glaring eye drawn on with orange frosting, with black icing for the darts of mascara eyelash. Do I even have to say whose eye it was? I stood in the kitchen, a bit trembly and sugar-full, but for the moment, resolved. My Intro to Literature teacher never emailed back yet, I have to keep checking. I have to start caring more for others, for the tangible, for the real and in front of me. I really need to just get into bed and look to another day of home (I didn’t sign up for a class on Tuesdays), social work and staggering cold. I’m in for it, alright. But how is it possible to care too much and so little at the same time? My head aches and the klonopin didn’t help. Maybe a trip outside would help. Maybe the frost-bite will freeze my brain and I’ll need a lobotomy and everything will be alright. I think too much on that, too much feeling, feeling, for myself, my beautiful, sad self. 

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