...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Friday, January 27, 2006

One of us must know (sooner or later)

I've been back in the US for fifteen days, and to tell you the truth, I'm a little surprised at how easy the transition has been. There are moments when making that six-minute walk down from the apartment to Howard in the morning feels like the most natural thing in the world--passing by scores of other kids, the skinny boys in their tight hipster jeans, the IA students with the newspaper tucked under their arms, the hippie girls with their long skirts and carefully tangled hair, the athletes returning to their dorms after an early practice. Three weeks ago I was on my own in the mid-summer thunderstorms, ascensores, mercados, and milongas of the Southern Cone; now it's all dinner parties and late nights and early morning rain and the The New York Times. And yet, there are moments when the absurdity and wonder of it hits me like a bag of doorknobs, and I ache to be back in South America.

Mostly, though, I'm settling back into the rhythms of Lewis & Clark. The apartment is pretty nice, although living with the boys (Chris L., Clay, and Ryan) has turned out to be very different than how I expected. It's been especially nice getting to know Clay a little better, since often he and I are the only ones home, or the only ones hanging out in the common room--"el living," as a Chilean would say. Meeting people has been difficult, and I’ve pretty much accepted that people I don’t know by this weekend or the end of next week by the very latest, I probably will never get to know. I mean, not to be too fatalistic or deterministic about it, but you know how there’s like that two week period at the beginning of the year when everyone’s trying to figure out who their friends are going to be? Yeah. I missed that because I was going through the same thing in Chile, and I ended up with some wonderful, life-long (I sure hope) friends down there: Carla, Mariah, Kristin, Julia, Jon, Jake…(not to mention Daniela, Ronald, and Juan Carlos). And of course, friends who stayed at LC for the semester went through that period here.

To misapply Marx’s dialectic philosophy, it’s like I had my friends at Lewis & Clark before I left, and that was the thesis. And then while I was gone, those friends made their own new friends, to whom they bonded like so many tongues on frozen lamp posts, and that’s the antithesis. We haven’t reached Marx’s third and final synthesis stage, in which we all become friends and braid each others’ hair and skip through fields picking daisies and paint each other’s toe nails, and I’m not sure if we ever will. I know that I would like to (I mean, the braiding and flower-picking and toe-nail-painting is optional), but it’s…hard. I mean, I know we're adults, and it's not elementary school. Not everyone has to send a valentine to everyone else. But it’s something that I’m really struggling with, the feeling of being eclipsed and replaced by my old friends’ new friends.

I keep coming back to something Marcia (the CIEE director, and surely one of the most amazing, caring people I’ve ever met) told us during the taller de re-entry (re-entry workshop) we had the last week of November. She told us not to assume, returning from our life-changing semesters abroad, that our friends back home did not pass through similarly life-changing semesters back in the US. She told us not to assume that our friends were waiting for us, static and unchanged, back home. And I understood then, and understand now, or at least I think I do. But some friends change in congruent ways that facilitate an easy synthesis, and we end up as better friends than we were before I went away. I mean, I feel as though that’s the case with Amy, for instance. (Shout out!) But sometimes…I mean, growth isn’t always congruent. I don’t think that’s the case with any of my friends at Lewis & Clark. I desperately hope not. But it’s something that I’m trying to keep in mind.

That ended up going a different direction than I thought it would. I’ll try to post again over the weekend; until then, let me end on a lighter note:

Ryan: “I’m going to a linguistics study session…to learn about voiceless velar splosives.”
Me: “Wow, I don’t even know what two of those three words means.”
Ryan: “Well, voiceless means…”

I didn’t mean to treat you so bad
You shouldn’t take it so personal
I didn’t mean to make you so sad
You just happened to be there, that’s all.

When I saw you say goodbye to your friend and smile
I thought that it was well understood
That you’d be coming back in a little while
I didn’t know that you were saying goodbye for good.

Oh, sooner or later, one of us must know
That you just did what you were supposed to do.
Sooner or later, one of us must know
That I really did try to get close to you.

-Bob Dylan, "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)"