It’s two-something (:08?) Monday
morning. I’m writing an English paper.
The roommate and the boyfriend are both smoking cigarettes.
I’m in the front room and “Family Guy” is on. My
roommate is studying and my boyfriend isn’t doing anything.
The smoke makes me feel even more tired, but it’s too cold
for them to sit out on the fire escape, so it’s OK. I keep
getting distracted. This is being written in the blue spiral
notebook I used for Philosophy 202 last semester. What a God-awful
waste of time that was.

Alexandra Jones

The assignment (for English 325, if you’re interested)
consists of presenting an old essay and placing it in the context
in which it was written, like a documentarian dealing with archival
footage.

When I first thought about the assignment, I froze up. My rough
draft was absolute trash.

I guess the difficulty lay in the backwards-looking process.
Because whenever that happens, you realize how you didn’t go
anywhere or progress or even change at all: you’re in the
same spot and the only difference is the stuff around you. Dorm
room becomes apartment, crazy bitch roommate becomes nice roommate
who wears too much makeup and works at Victoria’s Secret.
Enthusiasm wears thin, becoming disgust and dead-eyed exhaustion. I
still write papers the same way.

 

***

 

Lauren goes to bed. If I’m done by four, I’ll be
thrilled.

 

***

 

I’m buzzing around town Sunday afternoon. It’s too
cold for just a turtleneck but it’s sunny, and I’m
rushing around so I’m sweating. Pissed off and busy.
I’ve got a performance in an hour and a half and I
can’t miss the bus and I need to eat something and buy that
new Sam Cooke compilation — I start to think and can’t
stop. I already know that I’m screwed. Octubafest performance
at 3 p.m., work right after that until 11:30, home by 12:30, start
the paper after the second showing of “ The Daily Show”
at 1. I know I’m terrible, disorganized, unprepared —
so I rationalize. I don’t need anyone’s help to write
this paper. Approval, validation of my ideas from somewhere outside
— screw it.

 

***

 

Three-something Monday morning. Shaun’s gone to bed, but I
can hear him sniffling and the light is still on. The kitchen
faucet is dripping really loudly. I still haven’t figured out
where the thermostat is in this damn apartment.

 

***

 

On Saturday I ate brunch and went shopping — I’m not
exactly the type, so it’s sort of weird to see it in writing
like that — then cleaned and fully (finally) unpacked my
fucking ridiculous room and thought about the assignment. Since I
didn’t want to end up with senseless pseudo-intellectual
vomit like I did with my first draft, I decide to think up a
genuinely sweet angle from which to approach this bullshit.

It would have been perfect. While searching for an interesting
idea to the assignment, I hit on a great time-saving idea
that’d give me content without so much work: My old e-mails
from the original paper’s approximate time period could be
used, cut and pasted together to create the context. I’d have
real-life documentation of the behavior I still exhibit in
situations like this — procrastination, insecurity,
dependence. My sent-mail folder, though, held nothing from before
November of 2003. I had deleted everything before then. I called an
old writing-oriented friend with whom I had corresponded to ask for
help, but so had she. “That’s so meta,” she said
with a verbal sneer when I told her about it. She’s right,
too. Fucking pretentious-ass shit.

 

***

 

Sunday afternoon. Get to the bus stop and try to calm down. I
need to focus and chill out and quit wanting a goddamn cigarette,
you’re about to perform, for Chrissakes. That’s
what’s different: I smoke now. And at some point last year my
ass started looking pretty good.

 

***

 

Saturday night, 1-ish in the a.m. I’ve just arrived home
from the post-Octubafest gathering and am considerably gin-soaked.
I put on the green dress I bought that morning, the one with cap
sleeves and the buttons that snake down the front. For some reason
it’s imperative to Rachel and Alaina that they come over,
although I have no booze and no food and don’t really feel
like talking. Lauren left her cigarettes by the window — she
got the walk-in closet, I got the fire escape — and they both
take one. I do too. Popcorn is made and Rachel starts blathering
about Salinger. I shove my copy of Nine Stories into her hands and
go sit on my bed while she tries to fit it into the pocket of her
orange suede trench coat. She asks for a sweater, too, since her
jacket sucks for warmth.

Alaina grabs her guitar (Shaun borrowed it) and plays the one
chord she knows (D, I think). Rachel, a lapsed vocal major,
proclaims that we should start an avant-garde ensemble, so I grab
the koala bear tambourine a friend sent me from Scotland this
summer. Rachel picks up whatever she can find — a bottle of
KY Ultra Gel, an empty pack of cigarettes — and makes noise.
This is all happening on top of Madonna’s “Lucky
Star.” We sound really great.

At some point Rachel smears KY all over the tambourine and I
sort of quit thinking about what’s going on in the room. My
bag is near the end of the bed, so I lean over and grab my little
red notebook out of it. This would be fucking great for my paper, I
think, utterly deluded. I try to write a sentence, but even in my
condition I know it’ll be pretty much illegible.
“Rachel, in my sweater, hunches over in the chair near the
window.” That’s all I can make out.

 

Alex did her paper on time, and even finished adapting it for
her column 17 minutes before deadline. Recommend self-help books to
her by e-mailing
“mailto:almajo@umich.edu”>almajo@umich.edu.

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