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I’ve been reading almost all day today.  This is the first time I’ve done that in over a year.  I remember the list time I was reading all day was last summer–reading through some of the more appealing Pulitzer Prize winners.  I haven’t kept up that habit this summer, opting for the easier task of watching movies and going to weddings. And then there was the beach house, at this point a holy ground of my life.  I think if I ever thought I was going crazy that place would cure me.

While I was reading, I took a chance to smell my left hand’s fingertips.  They smelled like the handsoap in my bathroom–lavender, I think.  Something flowery like that, at least.  And for a moment I wish they smelled like cigarette or cigar smoke.  I wouldn’t take hookah.  Too sweet.  I could do without sweet right now.  I could do with bitter and dingy.   There was always something about cigarette smoke on the tips of my fingers.  I’d always smell for it in a shower, scrubbing all over my body but using my fingers as the litmus test.

When I smelled the right hand, it smelled clean like baby powder, I slap it on the back of my neck on warm days, and pretend it does anything for the sweat.  I used an spray can air freshener this year in my classroom, something called Powder Fresh.  It smelled exactly like baby powder.  I used to spray it at the floor around the kid who had just farted, and that always eased my worries–but that smell always smells like tabula rasa, indelibly blank and unbelievably clean, simple, and pure.

I wanted to smell used, and thought for a moment I’d go buy a pack of cigarettes and smoke one or three on the porch to ease my worries.  Then I’d take a shower and make sure my finger only barely smelled like impending cancer.

This is a strange thought because I’ve only ever smoked about a pack of cigarettes in my lifetime, and only a few more cigars.  And lately, I haven’t smoked anything but hookah and even that hasn’t been for months. That was my bargain with myself–just hookah, and I’d feel healthy.  Unfortunately, I did feel healthier.

So I thought about drinking, but I only have a bottle of nice wine, and all my other liquor is either sealed in my old bedroom in Tallahassee, sitting in a closed store in Philadelphia, or corked up and staying that way here in my month-old apartment.

Drinking alone and smoking.  Those are my ritualized habits of self-destruction and vice–the activities that will rot my brain and blacken my soul and one day probably send me straight to Lucifer himself for a one-on-one.  If only life would be so cruel to make those a little more popular, I think I’d be a happy man.  But drinking alone sounds a little alcoholic, so I’ve only had one drink this summer, outside the aforementioned weddings.  And a smoker has become such a pariah that even the places that promote public drinking have banned it.

So I was reading in bed, and have been all day, but that felt far too normal and banal and abominable.  I twitch my hands instead and think about ways to help my brain buzz into unfocused splendor.

I’m waiting for the school year to start, to start teaching again, but all I can really think about is the inevitable vice that stress will bring.  I guess I’m preparing my to-be-tarnished soul.  I would watch Jeopardy, or Wheel of Fortune, but I’ve decided to forgo cable this year, and don’t really miss it.  But the ritualized gambling of game shows would, by proxy, take a load off the feeling I have to do something unhealthy.

In waiting for the school year to begin, I’ve been making worksheets and copying out pages of workbooks for the students, to be on top of my game for the upcoming onslaught of inevitable stresses on my time management, patience, and professionalism.  I don’t know, but something about a 16-year-old high school freshman shouting obscenities at me or another adult seems to stretch my civility before 8 AM.  Instead, I wrote six quizzes, a three day project, and a homework sheet this morning before noon.  I hardly didn’t know what to do with myself.

So it goes–the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from my reading.  Thanks Kurt Vonnegut.

I mean, sure.  There are those wonderful themes about racism in To Kill a Mockingbird–but “to kill a mockingbird” doesn’t really sound right in any situation and doesn’t roll off the tongue so neatly as “so it goes.”  It’s become a motto of me, not in the original literary sense of accepting death, but in the sense that teenagers are always going to be teenagers, and teenagers do stupid things and they won’t be happy about the punishments of it.

But I won’t be happy about having to always be around the suck of it, and I won’t always be happy about doling out consequences, and I won’t be happy hearing the troubles of children who think so infantilely for having had such adult experiences, but most days they aren’t mollifying so I find myself stuck in another year that promises to be just as interesting as all the rest.

With students coming, I seem to be smelling my fingertips and wondering why they don’t smell like smoke, and I check up on my stock of liquor, and I think about Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and the $100,000 Pyramid and even Match Game–for no good reason other than that seems to be the show I watched most when I was home in high school and had the time to flip the channel to the Game Show Network.

All the while I try to imagine nothing.

So it goes.

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