h.a.l.t., Autumn 1999

1999 halt 10001
Original illustration in ink and colored pencil, based on the Counting Crows’ “Perfect Blue Buildings,” 2001

Don’t let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.  I heard someone preach on that once.  But this fall semester I’m all four.

h. is for hungry

Tonight’s supper is cold French-style green beans straight from a can.  I could go upstairs and heat up leftover spaghetti, but I don’t want another argument, any more scrutiny, and certainly no more pity. When I came home from Covenant I had transformed into something new, but nothing here moved.  I’m no longer a compliant pet but an independent 21-year-old.  I don’t fit in this house, but I’m too broke to move out.

My loved ones exasperate me with arguments:  I can’t add a bag of onions to the shopping cart because I have no power over the list, and once I got the third degree for buying my own six-pack of beer.  I can’t join them for dinner without a side dish of a million questions.

I charge my own groceries now and eat the same thing daily:  peanut butter sandwiches, a can of chicken and rice soup, green beans, bananas.  At least I get a free scoop of ice cream at work.  My jeans are two sizes too big, and when I cinch them with my belt they ruffle at the top.

At night my stomach growls and I lie awake thinking about all the food I bought at Covenant:  cheesy artichoke and mushroom pizza, Krispy Kreme crullers, Wendy’s chicken wraps, creamy Panera soups, Thai tea with cream and savory moo goo gai pan.   I wish I had that cash now for first month’s rent.

1999 halt 20001
Original illustration in ink and colored pencil, based on the Counting Crows’ “Perfect Blue Buildings,” 2001

a. is for angry

Today a foreign college student ordered what I thought was a milkshake.  He used a kind of sign language to tell me to add more ice cream and mix it again.  Our machines aren’t powerful enough to make blizzards or concretes, and I realized too late that’s what he wanted.  I tried to explain, but he motioned furiously and cursed in his own language, insisting that I get it right.

Finally I handed him the messy shake and his money, and I sketched directions to Dairy Queen on our Baskin-Robbins napkin.  He shouted at me as he walked out, and I stepped in the back, wiping my hot tears away.  I left the other customers stand there as I collected myself.

I don’t understand why some people get away with angry outbursts, but I am never permitted to say what I really feel without retribution.

I don’t come unglued when my loved ones accuse me of inappropriate closeness with my former roommate, though I’m boiling inside with the truth, so far away from their version.

I don’t throw a fit even though my friend ignores my calls and emails when I miss her so much.

I don’t lose my cool when I’m lectured for not being cheerful enough at dinner.

I don’t spew curse words when I open my credit card statement to find a balance growing further out of control each month.

I don’t blaspheme God even though I’m depressed again after following the call he put on my heart.

I stuffed all these thoughts down inside while I fanned my face with my hands.  When I returned to the front to serve the bewildered customers, I apologized for the scene that wasn’t even my fault.

1999 halt 30001
Original illustration in ink and colored pencil, based on the Counting Crows’ “Rain King,” 2001

l. is for lonely

In my color comp class the guy across from me wears a shirt that screams “Zero to horny in three seconds.”  He has stared at me for weeks and licks his chops across the table, actually saying, “I don’t bite.”  Another obnoxious classmate stares at me during watercolor class, talks non-stop about his Bootheel hometown and asks me if I’d like to meet his mother.

When I set up hallway displays at the museum, a staff member winks at me and invites me over on the weekends his wife is out of town.  An older professor called me at home to strike up personal conversation and brushes past me in the hallway.  At work a Japanese man twice my age asked me out in broken English as I wiped down tables.

I refused them all, directly with words or indirectly with silence.

Oh, how I miss Covenant. I miss evening chats with my roommate.  I miss Wednesday night reading group discussions.  I miss professors who invite me over for family dinners.  I miss the safety within a community of faith.  But I’m trying to graduate as soon as possible. Then I can have a real job, real money, and a real life again.

My sister invited me to a frat party.  She pressed when I refused—“Don’t you want to meet new people?”  I didn’t want to go to a drunken festival where I am just another girl, nobody special.  She slammed the door in disgust.

Why did I come back home?  I told myself I still wanted an art degree.  Maybe I was simply afraid.  But it’s too late to turn back.  I must keep pressing forward.

Yesterday afternoon the neighbor’s cat wandered over, meowing for attention. Her winding around my legs, her purring when I stroked under her chin stirred something inside me.  That’s the first touch I’ve absorbed since I hugged my roommate goodbye.

After long days of study and work, after my homework is all finished, after the house is quiet, I light my candles and play the City of Angels soundtrack.  Is a guardian angel watching over me?  If I am still enough, aware enough, and hopeful enough, can I see him, touch him, feel him?  Will he wrap his arms around me, give me his peace, and soothe my heart?  I yearn to see his invisible face.

t. is for tired…to be continued.

You might also like

June 1995 Journal Entry from the Beach

July 28, 2016

After the darkness, 1994

July 26, 2016

Drops of Jupiter Part 4, Fall 2001

August 26, 2016