1.11.01 – Thursday
1 November 2001, around 15.53.
Much of the day spent in reading – Agora excavations and Dreiser’s The ‘Genius’. Waited late into the night in the language center for befuddled first-year Latin students to seek help; apparently, on Thursday nights, beginning Latinists have no difficulties with the lingua. I was left, then, to amuse myself as best I could, which naturally involved much reading of a Wallace-Hadrill’s book on Suetonius, more Dreiser, and a heavy bout of eaves-dropping on the student EMT session taking place in one of the nearby Spanish rooms. Giggling girls, cheerful, light, mirth, teasing the Public Safety officer … again the contrast of darkness and light.
5.11.01 – Monday
5 November 2001, around 15.55.
I have come to the inevitable conclusion. Running into the eternal interrogative (thinking Forsterian here, can you tell?): the answer can, the answer must, for me at least, be yes. Not the ‘yes’ that means ‘no,’ not the affirmative that scorns, but that quiet ever so blank ‘yes’ which means everything & nothing, offers no promises, utters not prophecies, simply marks that, yes, things are, aren’t they. Make of it what you will.
They’ve added more shelves in Cutter – at the expense of all the secluded tables, the perfect murky silence of a world without windows, only books. I remember discussing ancient sources in the security of that bunker, chattering about Tacitus and the difficulty of inscriptions as the lights purred and the dust settled. One must keep a constant. I keep one. Change…
Please? Do you have any spare change? Ah—yes.
18.11.01 – Sunday
18 November 2001, around 15.56.
Lulled, gently, into the certitude of reading. Carefully writing out ideas and quotations on 3×5 cards, printing neatly, citing assiduously.
Met J. at the Haymarket, chattering away about the month of October (where did it go? what happened? what did you do?) and the inchoate, incomprehensible fear of application (both to one’s studies and to one’s chosen graduate schools). The floor of the cafe seemed suddenly brilliant to me, the bright wood vivid in the artificial light – tho’ perhaps I oughtn’t to have indulged in that espresso, not at 7.30-ish in the evening.
19.11.01 – Monday
19 November 2001, around 15.58.
Softly, softly. Malthakôs. The oak leaves are falling at last — air of unreality, setting a scene (tho’ not making one). Received two glorious letters – read them in the afternoon light while waiting for the bus. Invariably waiting for the inevitable bus.
There really is something about reading Plato. I can’t explain it. The Apology is just so beautifully ugly – colloquial (one would suppose) – thinking aloud – interrupting the sense of a sentence to follow the train of thought, before returning at last to the idea at hand. All the echoes of Gorgianic jangling, instead of distracting the listener from the content, draw attention to the sense of the argument.
Epiphany of sorts – sitting in the library, trying to think of a good excuse for my lack of preparation (re: Plato) – could conceivably spend hours constructing more or less plausible reasons. Why not, then, use the time to prepare the passage – it won’t be perfect (it never is), but it will be done. And I read the passage and felt much better about everything.
22.11.01 – Thursday
22 November 2001, around 16.00.
Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts – Palestrina, Missa Brevis – the smell of baking apples – seeds of a pomegranate.
Cold air – blue sky.
24.11.01 – Saturday
24 November 2001, around 16.02.
I have not spoken to anyone for three days. My voice feels harsh and tight in my throat, a sharp clenched fist holding back – oh, everything. A hungry, haunted look now taints me about the eyes, and I must look away from passing strangers lest from my stares they catch hold of my unease, make it their own, enter into unnecessary nervousness or discontent.
The proper level of restraint – one does not wish to impose; and all contact, each glance, is an imposition, is it not? Yet when does this politeness, this so-called consideration become mere insipidity? When does diffidence, edged round with respect and awe, become distance? When do ideas, preferences, desires, fears, become labels, rather than facts? When do people begin to prefer the labels (e.g. I am liberal, I am conservative, I like this, I hate that) to simply being whatever it is that they claim? When do these labels, these signifiers, become bonds tighter than knowledge, closer than friendship? When do words become more important than understanding?
When did this happen?
Has it happened?
Sometimes when I walk along the streets, ferocious, cutting, and I feel nothing, observe nothing; I draw no attention, desire none. Then I see the light hit upon a building, a tree, or hear the uneven laughter of a child, glimpse the watchful smile of a parent, see young people walk, arm in arm, or not quite so, or laugh into the night as they venture who knows where. I see these things, I hear these things, I feel this world swirling around me, and I stop, a pebble pausing in the flood, smiling for the briefest moment.
Everything around me is not beautiful, it is not grand, it is not great – but it is.
And that must be enough.
29.11.01 – Thursday
29 November 2001, around 16.03.
The library. Dusty concrete steps to metal stacks and weak green-blue light.
Reciprocity – sincerity – altruism.
Walking. Cafés. Leading. Following. Chasing. Darkness.
How the history crowds around one, pressing in on all sides, heading towards some incontrovertible truth.