it’s november and hot and humid and i’m in a t-shirt and flip-flops as i walk through the parking-lot bake to school, still crusted over and weary from the night before. i haven’t read the book we’re talking about in class, so i sit quietly, recrossing my legs and picking at my fingernails. the professor looks at me occasionally when she asks questions. they’re questions i can’t answer, and i feel small and embarrassed under her eyes.
after class we walk to the university center for lunch, where they’re giving out free sample cans of diet coke with lemon. i take a can from the guy astride the yellow diet coke vespa, and sit at the usual bench to wait for tony and shaun who are getting lunch and coffee. as i wait, i open the can and take a drink. lemon diet coke is, as i expected, disgusting–it smells like pledge and tastes like nothing. i call rob–he is really sick, so sick he can’t go to work or class–and ask if he needs anything. shaun is sick too, and tony, with his head immersed in his current writing, is distracted, despondent, belligerent. though our usual lunch conversations are lively and fun, today we sit awkwardly, talking intermittently. we are swarmed by yellow-shirted lemon diet coke representatives, one of whom drops a can on the ground near us. it breaks open and sprays us and our shoes and bags with vile sticky. we attract bees. there is tension.
it is sweltering in my car as i drive home irritable, punching at the radio buttons in a futile attempt to find something listenable. i don’t have tapes or the car adapter for my cd player, so i’m desperate. but buried in the presets i find a station that’s playing rufus wainwright’s “cigarettes and chocolate milk” follwed by “man on the moon. i sing along, weaving in and out of traffic. at home i brush my teeth, remove all my jewelry, and take a long shower and a nap. it’s comforting–even if everything else is a mess, i can still find good songs on the radio and watch long red hairs snake through rivulets of water down the drain.