Friday, February 27, 2009

An Open Book

Before I’d left for Fairbanks, I had several email conversations with Dr. Derick wondering where I would live, where people like me lived in that town. He said that most graduate students lived outside of town in cabins with no running water. I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I didn’t want to try to rent one from Missouri, and I didn’t want to live in a hotel until I found a place to call home. Instead, I applied for a grad apartment on campus; it had a shower and was conveniently located. Also, I’d never lived in a dorm or on campus before, so I thought it would be fun, like the college life I never lived. I even bought a meal plan at the cafeteria.

The website said it was an efficiency apartment, (and I’d live in a basement “studio” apartment in Houston, so that didn’t bother me) approximately 325 sq. ft. Luckily, Mom and I only had to stay in a hotel the first night there. But we moved to my small apartment, and then I spent five nights with my mom in bed with me. I didn’t sleep for a lot of reasons: I was depressed, the sun was out all night, Mom was awake with anxiety, (because I’d just moved 4,500 hundred miles away and she would be leaving me there. Alone.) and I was excited to heal and learn things about myself.

During Mom’s five days there we drove out to see the pipeline We went on a riverboat tour of Fairbanks And that was about it, because in the summer, that’s really all there is to do. We ate a dinner of halibut Florentine and musk ox burger at The Pump House (where, in the future, Mindy will get a job and I will spend countless hours drinking Alaskan amber, grading papers, and spilling seafood chowder on said papers)

I left Mom at the airport, shaking and crying and telling me she loved me over and over. At that point, I nearly hated her. I was still holding a grudge that she tried to fix me when I came out 7 years earlier; she had never apologized for that whole year of trauma. I was mad, too, that she invited herself on my trip and talked the entire way about nothing. It was absolutely exhausting. I was mad at me because I let her manipulate me again, with money, or something, in a strange way. I had her stupid car.

I hugged her and never looked back. When I got to the car, I threw in my Blue October cd. It's their first album, in case you're interested ( For me, the album had been my soundtrack for every single thing that had happened to me since my first girlfriend let me borrow it in 1998. I listened to track number one as I drove away into a smoky, sunlit dusk, "If what you're seeing is an open book, well, that's great 'cause I'm an open book, but I'm real shy."

And I thought about all the reasons I was suddenly alone in an unfamiliar town, a climate I'd never imagined, "Now there's a part of me seeking and deperately needing to open up. Well, that's strange 'cause I'm an open book. A confused boy."

The drive from the Fairbanks airport to my apartment was about 5 minutes, about the length of the song. I was belting it with the windows down, looking longer than normal at each person I saw on the street, 'he lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. Alaska. She also lives in Alaska. I live in Fairbanks. Alaska. I live in Alaska. I drove to Alaska with my mom and a car full of cds, a tv, a few dvds. I brought everything I own with me to Alaska.'

When I got back to the apartment, I began to unpack it all.

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About Me

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Writer, teacher, and archaeologist. Contributing essayist in the anthology "Crooked Letter I: Coming Out In the South" from NewSouth Books.