i’ve been riding my bike a lot lately, but i don’t have anything to say about that. i don’t have anything to say about how i’m still nervous in traffic, crossing major streets and stopping at stopsigns. i don’t have anything to say about the way my headphones fit underneath my helmet. i don’t have anything to say about the sweat on my upper lip or that my ears kind of burn on the inside after i’m done riding.school started, but i have nothing to say about how i don’t spend five hours a night studying. i don’t have anything to say about how i used to joke around with my professors and meet friends between classes for coffee or lunch. i don’t have anything to say about not speaking up in class like i used to. i don’t have anything to say about spending my days on campus in total silence, my eyes glazed over, my face blank. i don’t have anything to say about my good knee hurting or my toothache or my 185.5 milligrams of effexor. i don’t have anything to say about vitamins or muscle aches or darts or beer or crossword puzzles. i have nothing to say about breast cancer or movies. when my dad went down to the basement to get something to take to my grandmother at the nursing home, my aunt yelled down, “see that suit of hers hanging on the rack? the blue one?” “yes!” my dad called back. “that’s the one she wants to be buried in!” i have nothing to say about that, either.
today in art history class (20th century photography), the professor had us pass our drivers’ licenses up to the front of the room, where he shuffled them and handed them out to us. we were supposed to write a page about whatever drivers’ license photo we ended up with. “analyze it,” he said. “just write about the photo.” i got the professor’s license; here’s what i wrote:
i always found it hard to smile when my drivers’ license picture was being taken. some middle-aged, bored lady behind a counter is aiming a camera for the eight-thousandth time that day; how can i be expected to smile at her? at the wall behind her? at the camera she’s maneuvering with a three-foot pole?
this, perhaps, is why you are not smiling.
your hair looks different in the photo. it’s longer, browner. mine is different too; i’m starting to get strange looks from bouncers and bartenders when they look at me and then at my photo taken six years ago. its’ an odd sort of record, a drivers’ license photo–like a reminder in your wallet of that day you drove to the DPS and waited in line behind a mother and her two screaming children. whatever became of that haircut, that expression? what were you doing that day? did you stop there on your way home from work? on your lunch break? whatever happened to that t-shirt you were weraring? i bet you use it to wash the car, to dust furniture.
a drivers’ license photo is, i suppose, meant to capture the essence, the uniqueness, of a person’s physical being. that we try to do that in a one-inch square with a camera you aim with a pole is rather astounding.
i thought about writing “by the way, i’m an english major” at the bottom, but i think he could probably tell. after all, big-boobs mocha-frappuccino girl next to me was writing “it is a drivers’ license. he is a capricorn. in december. he probably gets a lot of ‘merry birthday’ presents.”
the sign in front of the university center has one of the i s missing, so it looks like un versity center. yep, this is definitely an un versity.
in the waiting room at the english office, waiting to bitch about my fiction class, i ran into my favorite professor. she breezed through the doorway in her smart tweed suit, covered in mountains of books and papers and canvas bags, much the way she used to walk into class every day. “hi!” she said. “what are you taking?”
“oh,” i groaned, sorry to have to tell her i wasn’t taking any english classes, “philosophy. pharmacy. political science. all the p’s.”
“which political science?” she asked.
“constitutional design, with lutz. he seems pretty cool.”
“well, i think so,” she said. “he’s my husband.”
my head nearly exploded. “really?” i said, thinking that while they don’t have the same last name, they do have the same sense of humor, and i can picture them together. “he’s funny.”
“yes,” she said.
“i’m kind of digging this fictional country thing he’s got,” i said. (we’re designing a constitution for a country he made up.)
“yes, and the roleplaying will be fun, too,” she said. (he’s having people in the class play the members of the council. i’m tara pingapong.)
“yes!” i said.
“i think that’s the best class he teaches,” she said, before going into one of the offices to check her mailbox.
wow! my favorite professor of all time is married to the most promising one i have this semseter! i can just imagine their dinner table conversation — discussion of faulkner novels turns into suggestions of clever names for the fictional country’s indigenous peoples. what i wanted to ask her but couldn’t, though, was: what in the world does he have under that eyepatch of his? a bloody socket? a purple striped iris? a blank white eyeball with no pupil or iris at all? what? what?