Why, exactly, it is so full of odds and ends is not clear. There is no title on the front, only notes of things I needed to remember during that first semester of college: an extra violin lesson before my professor left the country for a week or two, notes on an upcoming piano quiz. On the back are the phone numbers of the guys who convinced me to play in the band they were forming, an address with no name attached.
Inside is random, bits of everything important about the start of freshman year:
The beginning notes for an abandoned composition for violin—a chord, a rhythmic motif, a melody based on the pitches of the wind chimes on my parents’ patio. “story about person w/ eyes the color of peace” is written in that tiny up-and-down handwriting that filled barely a third of the college-ruled lines, that always seemed to float just above the blue line rather than sit neatly on it.
A list of things to pack for the dorm room: clothes, music, books, bicycle, typewriter, decorations. The glass unicorn bought in honor of “The Glass Menagerie” that years later actually did fall and break, losing the horn that made it so special. The doll received as a gift while a toddler in Japan, the books of Swedish and Norwegian fairy tales from childhood, the thick new Webster’s College Dictionary and Thesaurus. Everything needed to continue as myself, everything needed to start this new life.
The rough draft of an essay written for admittance to the Honors Program, “The most important intellectual experience I have had to this point was learning how to communicate on paper.”
Unfinished letters, a list, plans for a never-sent care package—the skeleton of a breakup. So hard, and so necessary.
Notes from the first days of each class that first semester: Art and Literature in the Western World, a class that lingers in my heart and mind still; Class Piano; Music Theory; Intro to Philosophy (still I wonder about our section—if our inability as a group to correctly answer any of the TA’s questions was due to our lack of understanding of the nuances of philosophy or the nuances of language.)
A note written to a now-unknown friend during class: I’m really suspicious of a musician who isn’t impressed by any other musicians.
A poem—I had forgotten how many times I started writing and gave up, frustrated by my clumsiness, by the stiffness of the words. It is truly clunky. Still, it is full of images I have come back to repeatedly, and also a dream I had forgotten.
A music list—“Strength, Comfort, and Identity Tape.”
If there is a theme to this notebook besides Fall 1990: First Semester of College, it could be The Things I Have Forgotten, or possibly A Vast Amount of Your Adulthood Has Been Spent Running Away From and Rediscovering This Girl (Abridged version: In Some Ways You Have Not Changed at All. More abridged: Still.) There is a silence in it, but also something breathing. Which brings me again back to that poem, and the dream: I was alone, my friends were gone. I sat drawing a picture of a tree, and as I worked a voice guided me. She told me exactly how to make the picture come to life: how to make the snow in the picture begin to fall—fat silent flakes drifting past dark branches, how to draw a squirrel to life to weave through silent flakes and dark branches.
I had forgotten that dream, but the image is alive again now within me.