1. It’s so tempting to measure your life in decades once you feel like you’ve collected enough of them.
  2. As if there are clean lines between 9 and 10, between 19 and 20, between 29 and 30. And corresponding labels that say, “This is where you’re less of a child.” “This is where you’re more of an adult.” “This is where you realize 40 is next.”
  3. When I was in high school, in the throes of undiagnosed depression, I decided I probably wouldn’t make it to 30. (The only reason 20 was in the picture was because I knew I had to finish college.)
  4. But after that? What comes after college? When housing and meals and your friends aren’t assigned anymore, but you’re not ready to make your own way, what happens? What happens if all you want to do is revert to your high school self and all its desperate, relative ease?
  5. Still, when I thought about the third 10 years, it sounded pretty straightforward to me: Adulthood. Do that.
  6. “Adulthood: Do that” was the command for a period of time the length of which I’d just completed wherein I both started fifth grade and finished my sophomore year of college.
  7. If someone asked me if I wanted to redo that span, just to see if I could fare better — I always feel like I could have fared better — I would say no. Go through puberty and middle school and high school again? That’s a joke, right?
  8. On good days, I buy hard into the philosophy that I am where I am, and every decision I made along the way helped get me there, and as long as I’m not in prison or dead, relatively speaking, I’m probably doing okay.
  9. (I can’t help but think of the people I’ve lost in the last 10 years, the ones who were doing okay, too, until they weren’t.)
  10. I know that sounds very much unlike what the friends I met later in my life must think of me. It sounds optimistic. It is, isn’t it? Or is it resigned apathy?
  11. On bad days, I think back to 16-year-old me IMing my friend about how I go to bed at nine o’clock every night not because I’m tired or because I want to get enough sleep, but because I don’t see the point of being awake anymore.
  12. “sleep is as close as i’m going to get to death,” I write. “i probably won’t make it to 30.”
  13. Not because I wanted to die, but because I assumed by some point in my 20s, I wouldn’t see the point of being alive anymore, and could just slip away.
  14. When there is nothing to look forward to except what you make for yourself, and your depression masks any possibility of forward movement in search of happiness, how do you face that?
  15. I found myself clinging to my 20s instead of living them, each new year bringing dread and impossibility. I did not feel blessed. I did not feel happy. In the paint by numbers of my life, every space was pitch-black. Instead of trying to start with another color, I skipped to the end, when the paints ran together and the sum total of my year was, simply, “bad.”
  16. But I went through the milestones anyway. Graduated college, got engaged, got married, went back to school once I figured out what I really wanted to learn. Each time I hoped one of them would fix me, and each time it did, for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, a few years.
  17. Growth, though, isn’t just measured in the moment something becomes a milestone. I’ve been working the same job since I left school the second time, waiting for some opportunity, some prize for inching closer to the end of my third decade.
  18. Clinging to the idea of living, not living.
  19. The meaning we assign to taking another trip around the sun feels so arbitrary. Even when part of me is jealous that someone who would have been finishing eighth grade when I graduated college has now reached some career milestone (i.e. had something to call a “career”), I never really think, “What if I’d appeared to have had things figured out that early?”
  20. But maybe I did.
  21. I graduated college “on time” despite losing nearly a full semester to severe depression and anxiety. By 21, I was able to walk across the stage at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and pose outside with the Dan Gable statue knowing I’d finished the credit requirements for my degree. And then what?
  22. And then what?
  23. And then the years passed as I wondered “what’s next?” instead of living “what’s next.” I supplemented the milestones with haphazard new goals and failed to meet them and wondered why I still bothered.
  24. And then some big, scary, unprecedented things happened and I thought, This is what I was waiting for? This is what I’m still living to see?
  25. My dad was 30 when he met my mom, 31 when they got married, and 32 when I was born. Three years, bam, bam, bam. (And that’s only if you count by age; this all happened in about a 16-month span.)
  26. What will my next 16 months hold?
  27. My next 16 days?
  28. My next 16 hours?
  29. I had been counting down to this day with the same morose anticipation as any other August 8, as if awaiting my execution. Counting down to the end of my life as I knew it, because I hadn’t prepared for anything more. For half my life, I hadn’t prepared to see this day. And then the gap closed for good, and somehow, I was still here to see it.
  30. And then I had no choice but to look forward.

How (not) to talk about suicide

Last month, I saw a really terrible photo on Facebook of a sign on a bridge that said “Suicide doesn’t take the pain away, it just passes it to someone else.”

Initially, the most frustrating part of seeing this sign for me was that you can talk about any death at all in this way! Really! When someone dies, the still-alive people who loved them are hurt by it. But, because the stigma surrounding mental illness is so strong, we especially love blaming the dead person when they’ve died by suicide. (I mean, didn’t they read the sign?!)

I almost ended that last sentence with “…we only blame the dead person when they choose to die.” But that’s not true either! Terminally ill — physically ill — patients choose to stop treatment all the time, accepting death as an inevitability. And they’re seen as brave and selfless when they do it, writ large.

But when someone dies by suicide, it’s the exact opposite: selfish, intentionally inflicting pain on loved ones, “taking the easy way out.”

Let’s go back to the beginning of that sign for a second. “Suicide doesn’t take the pain away.” Think about this language we use to talk about other terminally ill patients who have died: “At least they’re not in pain anymore.”

So death “takes the pain away” for them, but not for mentally ill, suicidal people? At best, this demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how mental illness works. “Suicide doesn’t take the pain away” compounds guilt on guilt on guilt and not much else. And when so much of mental illness so heavily relies on feeling burdensome to others, to the point that removing oneself from everyone else’s lives is seen is preferable, why wouldn’t it take the pain away — from everyone?

In life, mentally ill people are told to smile more, that’ll fix us. Exercise more, that’ll fix us. Pay a ton of money we may or may not have for therapy and medication, that’ll definitely fix us. There are all things that seem to be in reach for someone not going through it.

So we tell ourselves: “Hey, yeah, I could feasibly go exercise right now!”

But then, inevitably: “Wait…I’m too depressed to do that.”

And then we feel guilty for letting something invisible like depression interfere with such a “simple fix” for our illness.

And then maybe someone does die by suicide after hearing all these “tips.”

And maybe among the mourning of their sudden passing, these questions emerge: What could they have done to better themselves so this didn’t happen? How could I, the still-alive person, have fixed them?

Because the guilt doesn’t just get tossed back to the person who died by suicide. Humanity at large is so goddamn terrible at understanding mental illness that the survivors’ guilt following a suicide actually includes the question “What could I, personally, have done to ensure this didn’t happen?”

When the answer, realistically, is…probably nothing.

If mental illness wants to take someone, it’ll take someone.

(If physical illness wants to take someone, it’ll take someone.)

We like to think we have more control over mental illness — and maybe, in some ways, we do — but for the above reasons, our logic is often skewed.

I’ll clarify now that what I’m not doing here is advocating for you to let your mentally ill or suicidal friends die because it’ll probably happen anyway. Intervention is important, and when executed correctly, can save lives. If you’re worried someone is headed that way, there are still things you can do to support them that aren’t invasive and gross (see: “Exercise more!”).

A few examples:

  • Talk to them yourself.
  • Go physically be with them, if they’re in crisis.
  • Offer to take them to the hospital, to call their psychiatrist or therapist, to set up an appointment somewhere, etc.
  • Call a local crisis response team who’s trained for this (NOT the police, who are very rarely properly trained for crisis intervention).
  • Also: If you’re going to send someone the number for a hotline, make sure you’re doing so in conjunction with the above, and not instead of the above. Sending someone a hotline number who is in no state to talk to anyone, much less a stranger, can come off as cold and uncaring. Take into account that the vast majority of hotlines can call the police without your consent if they deem it necessary. (For the record, Trans Lifeline does not.)

All this said, if someone does die by suicide, no matter how close to you they are, do you know whose “fault” it is? Because it’s not theirs. It’s not yours, either. Mental illness is fucking garbage. You know all those bracelets and shirts and stuff with “fuck cancer” on them? Fuck mental illness, too. It’s all mental illness’s fault.

Anyway! Support those who struggle with mental illness, help break down the stigma surrounding it, and try to make this world a better place for those people, because understanding and a willingness to learn and proper intervention is what’s going to prevent even more suicides, not a guilt-trip sign on a bridge.

Final Sentences II

Welcome to my own personal hell! Again!

This is a list of final sentences of papers I’ve written, from graduate school in 2013 to bachelor’s degree #2 in 2017. It picks up where my last edition of this post left off, and while I can’t say I’ve gotten any more interesting, maybe I’ve gotten better at writing? Maybe not. Maybe I’ve just gotten more wordy. You tell me.

(Also, here’s a fun game: See if you can guess which program/class each of these was written for. It gets especially entertaining near the end.)

While the current approach toward mental health appears to be geared toward merely diagnosing and treating the PTSD itself, addressing adverse health behaviors such as substance abuse and sexual risk-taking may lead to better outcomes for those suffering from the disorder.

But if the health educator maintains their foundation, that open-mindedness and basic awareness of cultural issues and norms are the keys to good communication, then they have a much better chance of seeing positive health outcomes.

It is not enough to wait for change to arrive organically – as long as it is needed right now, the overhaul of women’s and LGBT healthcare must come with the force it deserves.

Considering the glaring issue of suicide in this age group, not to mention among female veterans, it seems to be obvious that further outreach is a necessary step to take.

By maintaining an open mind in the face of large-scale legislation limiting women’s healthcare options, the Center truly saves lives by maintaining a comprehensive view of women’s health.

While practicing prevention and aiming for the enigmatic “healthy lifestyle” are theoretically sound principles, affordable health care is what people need most.

In order to truly have an effect on the rate of workplace harassment, changes must be made both at the public policy and organizational levels so that harassment that remains can be reported safely and without risk of the harassed losing their job, simply for wanting to work in a safe environment.

Since it is unlikely that diseases that can be caught with BSE will be cured in the next few decades, there will always be some semblance of need for this program, especially in areas where health care access is limited.

However, the comfort I found that year in writing provided an ample foundation for my enduring feats of communication.

As long as powerful humans keep creating monster stories and are able to convincingly assert that it is “them,” and not “us,” to which the stories refer, the unconscionable divide between humans and monsters will persist.

Indeed, the true “plague of meaning” is what befalls those who look for meaning in popular commodities, and are instead met with the harsh truth that meaning only exists when one is first willing to critically examine one’s heroes.

Likely, the aim of continued talks is not to come to a solution that every side supports, but to make the best of the current conditions by analyzing the arguments in play.

I hope that future meetings involve nuanced discussions of these issues, along with guest speakers who represent a more diverse audience and who take these issues into consideration.

It was a true pleasure to not only share space with these reporters, but to hear them relay their work directly to us in a one-of-a-kind setting.

On the other hand, Crest initially used the incorrect hashtag in their tweet, and chose to remedy it by hastily replying to themselves with the correct hashtag.

However, a critical examination of the piece in the context of mainstream media’s portrayal of white domestic terrorists and Muslims in general reveals much greater deficiencies in her chosen angle that were overlooked during the fallout of this piece’s publication.

And then, with sincere Texas geniality: “Now, bless y’all’s hearts.”

On another note, it is interesting that while the film is called The Hobbit and ultimately is about Bilbo’s journey of self-discovery, strength, and bravery under Thorin’s guidance, Thorin is the character that gives this adventure film its gritty, authoritative tone, making it all the more appealing to men watching it in the theater.

Overall, KCCI is probably not the only station in Iowa that features these demographics predominantly, and should likely work to increase diversity within their telling of the stories.

Therefore, I am unsurprised that an American correspondent would take the time to cover this story in particular; they wanted to maintain and uphold this small-town, almost fanciful view of Iceland.

The contrasts between racial dialects highlighted throughout “A Worn Path” thereby create separation rather than cohesive relationships between Welty’s narrator, Phoenix, and the characters with whom Phoenix interacts.

While dialect appears to predominantly reflect one’s class, it is clearly influenced by factors including race and social status, and “The Sheriff’s Children” edifies this idea in a manner that has aged all too well.

Trees may be inanimate objects, but to the pure and good, they represent an outlet for their veiled negative feelings.

As Jim vows to end his treasure-hunting days and Alice moves on with her life, likely only to “visit” Wonderland again as she tells stories of it to her own children, the tricksters’ purpose is complete: they have crossed boundaries of their own in order to affect these characters, and in the end, the characters are left within these boundaries, never to cross back to their past selves again.

In the end, it is worrisome that their story ends with such happiness when there is so much left in their seemingly new lives to examine and address.

In “Day Million” and “All You Zombies,” the gender binary is rightly and appropriately contested, giving life and providing acceptance to characters whose stories may not be entirely relatable, but whose lives are elucidated in a manner that normalizes their existence.

In the future, it is vital that this work be supported and allowed to continue.

As a result of this murkiness, the abstract idea of “free speech” seems to be prioritized over victims’ reasonable expectations of safety.

We hope the court takes our requests into consideration.

Righteous Anger 2k18: Pro-Choice Edition

I live in Iowa, where our governor is trying her damndest to make abortion as inaccessible as possible. I’m from California, where the governor could soon sign a bill that would let public university health centers offer the abortion pill. This post was born of bitterness and jealousy. Enjoy.

“No one wants an abortion.”

  • Yes, they do.
  • And even if they don’t, you can need something without wanting one.
  • No one wants a root canal or open heart surgery, but abortion is safer than both of those things.
  • No one wants a medical procedure at all in the same way they “want” a new car or an iPhone or whatever, but if they want to not be pregnant anymore, this choice should be available to them.

“We all want abortion gone.”

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if we never had to do any medical procedures ever again? If everyone stayed healthy and their bodies behaved?
  • Wait, is that not realistic?
  • If another abortion never had to be done again, that would be great! Not because abortion itself would be gone, but because we would have also figured out how to prevent all unintended, unwanted pregnancies. Amazing!
  • Outlawing abortion doesn’t make it go away. It just makes it unsafe.

“I’m pro-choice, but anti-abortion-as-birth-control.”

  • WHOMST are you talking about? Your friend Abortion Ashley who drops hundreds of dollars on her weekly abortion that she conveniently fits between her Zumba class and drinks with the girls?
  • But for real, who are you talking about? Who thinks, “Hell yeah, I’d rather inflict a potentially dangerous medical condition on myself for no reason than prevent it at all”?
  • Is your suggestion to give everyone birth control? Because as it stands, not everyone can get birth control.
  • In any case, can you name a birth control that’s 100% effective?
  • (Don’t say abstinence. We all know how “abstinent” people can get pregnant.)

“Only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion-related, which is why we should keep them in business.”

  • Reproductive rights include abortion.
  • Abortion access should not be used as a bargaining chip to ensure that clinics stay open.
  • The people who want to shut down Planned Parenthood do not care, because abortion isn’t their single issue. Their single issue is ensuring people cannot get the health care they need.
  • Case in point: Mike Pence caused an HIV outbreak in Indiana because he didn’t like abortion and didn’t care who else suffered as a result.
  • It just looks like abortion is their single issue because they don’t say it exactly like this.

“No one likes abortion.”

  • Yes, they do.
  • And if they don’t, that’s no big loss either. See “No one wants an abortion.”
  • Liking the procedure itself and liking that the safe option exists, or liking that you were able to get it done, are (or can be) different.
  • But if you feel nothing but relief throughout, or gratitude for your providers who are risking their own lives to give you care (whether abortion-related or not — see “Only 3%…”), or the overwhelming desire to jump for joy when it’s over, more power to you. There’s no one right reaction to having an abortion.
  • Anyway, I like abortion. That’s one!

Photo via Mary Crandall on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

“Something deep and meaningful yet shallow and exhibitionist.”

For me, moving away to college meant the opportunity to reinvent myself after growing up in a town of about 9,000 people where the opportunity to change was only granted as we started new schools in 6th and 9th grades. Because this was the late 2000s, the majority of my reinvention happened on social media. And because I was trying as hard as I could to be the biggest stereotype of a depressed English major possible, this was further pigeonholed to my Facebook quotes section, where I could prove I was worldly, had friends, and had great taste all at the same time.

TL;DR, peep this (vaguely edited) ancient relic, interspersed with a Photo Booth shoot I did between my freshman and sophomore years of college, as I figure out what my next real post should be. Italicized bits are comments I’m adding as I read through this before posting; usernames are all from AIM (RIP). Enjoy!

“I heard he dressed up like Josh Hamilton for the 1st and 2nd rounds of the home run derby and bombed a bunch of homers, then went to save 55 orphans from a burning building during the finals, letting the real Josh bat for himself. I’d be dehydrated too, after that.” —Scott Johnson [some guy in some comments section somewhere], on why Timmy [Tim Lincecum] was hospitalized [before the 2008 All-Star Game]

jjasperse: besides, most of what i write is crap and you know it
jjasperse: but even crap can be made into something like paper from Baksheesh [a local store with certain enlightened products]

“My love for you is like my quiver of arrows…endless.” —Legolas in a LOTR parody I watched once [one of the “One Ring to Rule Them All” flash films by LegendaryFrog]

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourself in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.” —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” —Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

“Ecclesiastes is really emo.” —Lee

“(holds up ballpoint pen) These things can KILL. I saw it on Oprah.” —Angeline

Me: “‘Español’ done got a ‘g’ in it in French, it’s ‘espagnol.'”
Gelly: “Whatchu done do to our language?”
Me: “Well how’s do ya say ‘French’ in yo’ language?”
Gelly: “Francé…s?”
Me: “WhatCHU done do to our language? You dun pronounce the ‘s’!”
Gelly: “Well, at least we din’t put a ‘g’ in it! ‘FRAGnes…'”
(we were speaking in Southern accents)

“I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2000 of something.” —Mitch Hedberg

“They are sweat shorts, they are not man capris!” —Random GU guy

“It’s hard to spell at 210 beats per minute.” —Wayne Brady

Me: “The high school’s musical this year will be ridiculous, I feel bad for the people who will spend money to see it.”
ADWS [a friend’s nickname]: “What is it?”
Me: “Fiddler on the Roof. With no male singers in the entire school and no fiddlers!”
ADWS: “ABSURD. Very absurd. Bad Mac [music director].”
Me: “I know! Way to choose a musical with no female leads when that’s all you have, Barb [also music director]!”
ADWS: “Yeah, that’s lame.”
Me: “Well, I suppose they could have fucked themselves more. I mean, they could have done RENT.”
ADWS: (laughs emphatically) “That would have been a good end to the department!”

“On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero.” —Fight Club (novel)

“Apparently Oprah is not a Geodude.” —ADWS

“McMansion, McMansion, McMansion, McDonalds? McDreamy, McSteamy, McMansion, Fleetwood Mac, and Macaulay Culkin!”
—Bart Simpson

“You have not lived until you’ve found something worth dying for.” —Whale Wars trailer

From the 10/19/2007 IRQ-a-thon [when our AP Lit teacher asked us each questions about the reading]:
Aldy [teacher]: (begins to ask me an IRQ question about King Lear)
Me: (confused look)
Aldy: “Well, is that a pass?”
Me: “No, finish what you were saying.”
Aldy: “Yes, dear. Guys, you should work on saying that, I have to say it to my wife a lot…1, 2, 3, yes dear! Yes, comic relief is nice at a time like this!”

“Synec…douche?” —[a friend] trying to pronounce “Synecdoche”

“Why not admit that my dissatisfaction reveals an excessive ambition, perhaps a megalomaniac delirium? For the writer who wants to annul himself in order to give voice to what is outside him, two paths open: either write a book that could be the unique book, that exhausts the whole in its pages; or write all books, to pursue the whole through its partial images. The unique book, which contains the whole, could only be the sacred text, the total world revealed. But I do not believe totality can be contained in language; my problem is what remains outside, the unwritten, the unwritable. The only way left me is that writing of all books, writing the books of all possible authors.

“If I think I must write one book, all the problems of how this book should be and how it should not be block me and keep me from going forward. If, on the contrary, I think that I am writing a whole library, I feel suddenly lightened: I know that whatever I write will be integrated, contradicted, balanced, amplified, buried by the hundreds of volumes that remain for me to write.” —If on a winter’s night a traveler

*** [ellipses because of the lengthy quote above, I suppose]

Why I am a complete and utter nerd:

Upon hearing Philip Glass’s “Metamorphosis One” during the Academy Awards (this is how the conversation began, I guess we can just read each other’s minds):
scalpelixis [me]: OMG
scalpelixis: OMG
jjasperse [not me]: OMG
scalpelixis: I JUST TEXTED YOU
scalpelixis: OMG
jjasperse: OMGOMGOMG
scalpelixis: OMG!!!!!!!!!
jjasperse: KRAZZZYY

Something horrible like puns being turned into something amazing like LOTR:
scalpelixis: god
scalpelixis: why didn’t you do anything for my birthday
scalpelixis: except that pun thing
scalpelixis: i hate puns
jjasperse: haha
jjasperse: AREN’T WE FRIENDS
scalpelixis: Barrow-wights or Barrow-downs?!!?!?!??!
scalpelixis: omglotr [help me]
jjasperse: haha

scalpelixis: I dreamt a dream tonight.
jjasperse: And so did I.
scalpelixis: Well, what was yours?
jjasperse: That dreamers often lie.
scalpelixis: In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.
jjasperse: Oh, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
scalpelixis: and then he rants for a really long time
jjasperse: no
jjasperse: “Queen Mab, what’s she”
jjasperse: then rant
scalpelixis: since when
jjasperse: since 43V3r
scalpelixis: lemme check it off angeline’s complete works of shakespeare
jjasperse: kay
scalpelixis: I’m right
jjasperse: no
jjasperse: http://nfs.sparknotes.com/romeojuliet/page_52.html
scalpelixis: http://i41.tinypic.com/1tjudi.jpg
[the two links showed different things]
scalpelixis: weird
jjasperse: weird

*** [what??]

“Everything is more complicated than you think. You only see a tenth of what is true. There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make. You can destroy your life every time you choose. But maybe you won’t know for twenty years! And you may never ever trace it to its source. And you only get one chance to play it out. Just try and figure out your own divorce…

“And they say there’s no fate, but there is, it’s what you create. And even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead, or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain wasting years for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right, but it never comes. Or it seems to, but it doesn’t really.

“So you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope that something good will come along, something to make you feel connected, something to make you feel cherished, something to make you feel loved. And the truth is is, I feel so angry! And the truth is, I feel so fucking sad! And the truth is, I’ve felt so fucking hurt for so fucking long and for just as long, I’ve been pretending I’m okay, just to get along!

“I don’t know why. Maybe because…no one wants to hear about my misery…because they have their own.

“Fuck everybody. Amen.” —Synecdoche, New York

“It feels like a moment I’ve lived a thousand times before, as if everything is familiar, right up to the moment of my death, that it will happen again an infinite number of times, that we will meet, marry, have our children, succeed in the ways we have, fail in the ways we have, all exactly the same, always unable to change a thing. I am again at the bottom of an unstoppable wheel, and when I feel my eyes close for death, as they have and will a thousand times, I awake.” —Everything Is Illuminated

Me: (drops a bag of chocolate on the floor, one falls out) Aww. Now I have to eat it. (does so; goes back to original position on bed, camera falls on the floor)
Angeline: Aww. Now you have to eat it.

Mrs. McElroy: “We’re meeting in the band room at 5 AM.”
ADWS: “There’s a 5 AM??”

“I felt like such an ADULT walking out of the bank, using the ATM and getting my own money, going to my CAR and driving to go buy food with my money!”—Andy

“Now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering—this is an all-weather beatitude for gloom in general and fairly salutary day-time advice for everyone. But at three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work—and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

“During his [U.N.] address, Gaddafi renewed his call for ‘Isratine,’ which would be one state made up of Israelis and Palestinians. Or as it’s known here: Queens.”—Seth Meyers

“What better cover than a business trip to Nebraska? Like that’s REALLY a place.” —Dr. House [I had a certain…personal hatred for Nebraska at the time, so this was very intentionally chosen]

*** [stop it, Christine]

All from Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close:

“The mistakes I’ve made are dead to me. But I can’t take back the things I never did.”

“What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder if everyone’s hearts would start to beat at the same time, like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time, which I know about, but don’t really want to know about. That would be so weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn’t have had time to match up their heartbeats yet. And at the finish line at the end of the New York City Marathon it would sound like war.”

“I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.”

“Why are you leaving me?
He wrote, I do not know how to live.
I do not know either but I am trying.
I do not know how to try.
There were some things I wanted to tell him. But I knew they would hurt him. So I buried them and let them hurt me.”

*** [ah]

All from Of Human Bondage:

“‘Partly for pleasure, because it’s a habit and I’m just as uncomfortable if I don’t read as if I don’t smoke, and partly to know myself.  When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me; I’ve got out of the book all that’s any use to me, and I can’t get anything more if I read it a dozen times.  You see, it seems to me, one’s like a closed bud, and most of what one reads and does has no effect at all; but there are certain things that have a peculiar significance for one, and they open a petal; and the petals open one by one; and at last the flower is there.'”

“‘I was examined yesterday,’ he remarked at last.  ‘It was worth while undergoing the gene of it to know that one was perfectly fit.’
Philip noticed that he still used a French word in an affected way when an English one would have served.”

“Philip himself asked desperately what was the use of living at all.  It all seemed inane.  It was the same with Cronshaw: it was quite unimportant that he had lived; he was dead and forgotten; his life seemed to have served nothing except to give a pushing journalist occasion to write an article in a review.  And Philip cried out in his soul:
‘What is the use of it?’
The effort was so incommensurate with the result.  The bright hopes of youth had to be paid for at such a bitter price of disillusionment.  Pain and disease and unhappiness weighed down the scale so heavily.  What did it all mean?  He thought of his own life, the high hopes with which he had entered upon it, the limitations which his body forced upon him, his friendlessness, and the lack of affection which had surrounded his youth.  He did not know that he had ever done anything but what seemed best to do, and what a cropper he had come!  Other men, with no more advantages than he, succeeded, and others again, with many more, failed.  It seemed pure chance.  The rain fell alike upon the just and upon the unjust, and for nothing was there a why and a wherefore.”

*** [I give up]

“Melinda Pratt rides city bus number twelve to her cello lesson, wearing her mother’s jean jacket and only one sock. Hallo, world, says Minna. Minna often addresses the world, sometimes silently, sometimes out loud. Bus number twelve is her favorite place for watching, inside and out. The bus passes cars and bicycles and people walking dogs. It passes store windows, and every so often Minna sees her face reflection, two dark eyes in a face as pale as a winter dawn. There are fourteen people on the bus today. Minna stands up to count them. She likes to count people, telephone poles, hats, umbrellas, and, lately, earrings. One girl, sitting directly in front of Minna, has seven earrings, five in one ear. She has wisps of dyed green hair that lie like forsythia buds against her neck.

“There are, Minna knows, a king, a past president of the United States, and a beauty queen on the bus. Minna can tell by looking. The king yawns and scratches his ear with his little finger. Scratches, not picks. The beauty queen sleeps, her mouth open, her hair the color of tomatoes not yet ripe. The past preside of the United States reads Teen Love and Body Builder’s Annual.

“Next to Minna, leaning against the seat, is her cello in its zippered canvas case. Next to her cello is her younger brother, McGrew, who is humming. McGrew always hums. Sometimes he hums sentences, though most often it comes out like singing. McGrew’s teachers do not enjoy McGrew answering questions in hums or song. Neither does the school principal, Mr. Ripley. McGrew spends lots of time sitting on the bench outside Mr. Ripley’s office, humming.

“Today McGrew is humming the newspaper. First the headlines, then the sports section, then the comics. McGrew only laughs at the headlines.

“Minna smiles at her brother. He is small and stocky and compact like a suitcase. Minna loves him. McGrew always tells the truth, even when he shouldn’t. He is kind. And he lends Minna money from the coffee jar he keeps beneath his mattress.

“Minna looks out the bus window and thinks about her life. Her one life. She likes artichokes and blue fingernail polish and Mozart played too fast. She loves baseball, and the month of March because no one else much likes March, and every shade of brown she has ever seen. But this is only one life. Someday, she knows, she will have another life. A better one. McGrew knows this, too. McGrew is ten years old. He knows nearly everything. He knows, for instance, that his older sister, Minna Pratt, age eleven, is sitting patiently next to her cello waiting to be a woman.” —The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt