F is for Fragments

| February 10, 2014


During the previous semester, I wrote the following memoir entitled Fragments of Warmth in my “Teaching of Writing and Nonfiction” course with Kerry McKibbin. This memoir explores the last two weeks of my undergraduate career at Rutgers University—and the amalgamation of emotiveness therein. While I basically ignored the fact that I had to write about a particular passion of mine, my unceasing tenacity essentially rears its head into the work toward its conclusion. The frequently repeated “you” shifts throughout the work, sometimes indicating a person or object. There are multiple people to whom this word refers, but on each occasion, when my diction suggests that I am writing about someone, it specifies a particular person, no more, no less. Fundamentally, I endeavor to capture the anxiety, asceticism, chaos, heaviness, weightlessness, despair, release, serenity, and starkness of these rather strange two weeks.

Fragments of Warmth

I wanted to sink into sleep. My body continually implored me to do so. I didn’t.

Staring into the surrounding trees, I wrote.

I saw you surprisingly on a Saturday night, when I should have been completing my paper on Beloved, but decided on a night out at the Edison Diner. Anything for escapism. The fact that you were so close to my town—only ten minutes away, excited me, like I was nineteen again. We talked for a while. You too were under pressure, and going through a lot. You decided to take your friend’s offer that consisted of writing a paper on some book for a history class—in exchange for money, alcohol, and weightlessness. Anything for serenity.

Nothing happened that night. I dropped you off. I went home. Nothing changed.

I barely slept on Sunday night, April 29th—two hours at best. The following week read as followed: May 2nd: Late Romantic Literature paper (twelve pages), May 3rd: Literature and Psychology paper (eight pages), May 4th: Late Romantic Literature final (cumulative), May 7th: Arts and the Young Child Complete Portfolio (forty-four pages), and May 9th: Virginia Woolf Seminar paper/word-web diagrams (twelve pages). I finished some of my Beloved paper.

I barely started the other assignments.

I left my final Late Romantic Literature class with disquietude. The library offered no consolation since I knew that which led ahead. Nonetheless, this accumulation was my fault, no other’s.

Thanks for letting me stay at your dorm, Nick. I didn’t complete as much work as I wanted to, but a page on Keats’s “Ode to a Grecian Urn” surfaced by 5 A.M. at least. Your company helped a lot: seeing your enjoyment when playing Dark Souls mitigated my anxiety.

Sleeping until 8 A.M didn’t help my productivity, but I felt slightly more awake. I went home and slept a little more. I woke and started to write on Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind.” By 12 A.M. that night, I literally felt like I was back where I was during the previous semester, writing my sad excuse of a paper for Early Romantic Literature. You told yourself that you would not let this happen to you again, but your procrastinatory habits remained rigid—and fucking consumed you as they always have. I didn’t sleep that night.

I had about three hours remaining until I had to submit the paper.

At the train station, Shelley’s “Mont Blanc” and De Quincey’s “Confessions of an Opium Eater” commanded my attention, forcing me to analyze how the former’s issues paralleled the latter’s. (I wish I had the time to say hello to Professor F., the Shakespeare professor who changed my life, since he too inhabited the train station like I did, but, unfortunately, the pressing matters at hand forced me to stay silent.) The dreary cloudiness illustrated how I felt throughout the entire morning—just as Wordsworth would want it to. Upon reaching the Graduate School of Education’s computer lab, I sat down and began to analyze the remaining authors I had for this extremely taxing paper.

The remaining paragraphs on Hemans and Byron surprised me: I wrote them much more fluidly than expected, albeit I bullshitted to some extent. I was a page short. Eleven pages. Eleven pages would do.

I picked up my paper from my “Individual and Cultural Diversity” class. I received a perfect score on the paper, which I needed in order to have an “A” in the class. I felt a little better. I had to finish my paper on Beloved now.

For the next two days, I lived in the Alexander Library.

My temporary abode conveniently accommodated me: comfortable chairs, affordable coffee, and undimmed illuminations. I sat in the café—a brightly lit room with white floors, modern furniture, and asphyxiated students (at least I was on my way to be). The Beloved paper came a little more naturally to me, on account of starting it earlier than two days before its due date. In simultaneity, I worked diligently and inattentively. My restlessness always gets the best of me. I fell asleep when writing it; going to sit in the soft chair was going to help me, right? Clearly my id dictated this decision.

I woke up two hours later, with my laptop laying on me, to see that it was about 6 A.M. I still had enough time. I didn’t feel as worried about completing this paper. I enjoyed writing it, despite its graphic context. By approximately 1 P.M., I handed this paper in.

Immediately thereafter, Later Romantic Literature’s cumulative final enveloped me. I slept six hours since Sunday morning. It was Thursday.

Shelley. M. Shelley. Keats. De Quincy. Austen. Hemans. Byron. You all commanded my attention to the extent to which nothing else interfered—other than phone calls and text messages. I paid attention to all of you throughout the semester, and in consequence I didn’t feel as worried about the next twenty-four hours, despite having to cram everything into a single day.

The Rutgers Dining Hall Services expressed their kindness by providing the Alexander Library with free coffee. Caffeine aided me in all my endeavors—but this particular one necessitated more stimulation than possibly ever before. I had a strange feeling after the workers brought the coffee in and I had my first serving. The library’s loudspeaker announced that there was free coffee in the café. Fuck. I needed that coffee more than they did. They hadn’t been up as long as me.

I immediately drank all of my water bottles and filled them all up with black coffee. I didn’t care. I needed the caffeine. The coffee would be gone before I knew it. And it was.

3 A.M. I dreadfully stared at my bottles of lukewarm black coffee, thinking of them as the only form of sustenance currently available, in addition to water, which required a pilgrimage to the water fountain. The taste could have been worse, but I was glad it didn’t make me gag—for the most part. There weren’t many people left in the opaque café.

I drifted in and out sleep for the next few hours, as I stared at Byron’s poems, endeavoring to memorize all the significant moments in “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” and “Don Juan.” Twenty-five identifications in a cumulative exam with an additional essay on a poem that I have yet to read. Ok.

You get to point in exacerbated fatigue when your body begins to disintegrate. Your body temperature begins to plummet (evidencing why I wore my corduroy jacket and winter hat in the café), your vision starts to have random black spots appear and evanesce, and your ankle may even swell up to where you have to limp in lieu of walking properly.

Since Sunday, I slept eight hours. It was Friday.

Everyone in the café, or the morgue, from 8 A.M. and onward, probably looked at me as if I were out of my mind, which I certainly was, but I desired to do well on this exam. Equanimity fled a while ago. I talked to myself as I made my frequent excursions to the lavatory and fountain.

You were better than I though you would be. I knew most of your identifications, despite most of which were Byron’s. Professor G. snickered as he began a detective novel, and he told me my writing was much better on this paper than last semester’s. I told him that I had more time—about twelve more hours. He told me that his assertions in January intended to set fire under my ass. I knew that, and I thanked him.

I met a classmate on the train station. She was nice, and we predominantly discussed the usual: what was on the exam, what we’re studying, and where the fuck we are going with our lives. I haven’t talked to you since, but I hope you’re doing well.

I started talking to you more, since I haven’t really in months, throughout my stay at Alexander Library. I said we could go out next Friday, but I thought the immediacy of this evening would suit better. You were fine with tonight. My parents objected to my departure, but I needed to do something. I just spent over forty-eight hours in a fucking library.

Your wit and charm intrigued me, probably because you were a little older than me. I enjoyed our conversations, since you were an art teacher, and I really didn’t know much about art education. Your paintings reminded me of the artwork in The Cure’s Disintegration—despite the fact that you have neither listened to that album nor viewed the cover.

In the weightlessness of the evening, I felt serenity, which until now fled from me—one that I have not felt in some time. The tan and red walls enveloped us in the dimness of your light.

I left on that Saturday morning with the understanding that I most likely won’t see you again.

Apropos of the grayed morning, my ankle hurt more than ever as I left the driveway and drove back to my house. I completed no work and decided on sleep instead, physically and emotionally drained.

Sunday. I amalgamated all of my work from the last few weeks into one comprehensive document, writing for roughly twenty hours. This class rewarded me with an opportunity to work with young children in art classes; this portfolio illustrated my experiences.

I strangely had class on that Monday, albeit it was during finals. I had to present my experiences to my professor and classmates, all of whom enjoyed them. I knew this paper on Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse would not see the light of day tonight.

Strangely enough, I had to construct ‘word webs’ for this paper, in addition to analyzing the text. The webs essentially provided the evidence that I needed in order to construct my analysis, but they hindered me from writing. I really liked how the webs turned out, though; the work spoke for itself and constructing something that allowed me to look at the multiple occasions in which a word appears in a work truly gave me a new perspective on the significance of close reading.

My final paper of my college career. Professor G. (not the same professor as the previous Professor G.) gave me a twenty-four hour extension. This analysis, entitled “Maternal Light,” particularly focused upon the significance of light as a metaphor for Mrs. Ramsay’s omnipresence in her domestic sphere. As I sat at my desk, the blanket’s warmth provided consolation. In the middle of the night, I remembered having about half of a body paragraph and a whole conclusion left to write. The night had a glimmering of blue in the sky. My equanimity returned. This is it.

I guess tenacity pays off and trumps procrastination, since I did quite well that semester.

My dad drove me to school so I could drop my paper off. I felt a relief that I cannot put into words. Nobody was on campus. Empty, sunbathed, and green. It reminded me of my first morning on campus as a freshman, minus the desolateness, but perhaps it was there all along too.

Briefly seeing Professor T., the second reader of my thesis, was nice. My reactions to anything and everything were—

I saw you again, two days after I graduated. We disintegrated five-to-six weeks later.

* * *

Reflection (During the spring 2014 semester):

The fragmentation of these moments, or experiences, illustrates my intense emotional state during these two weeks: while I remember every day vividly (or presume I do), the brevity in each paragraph serves as a glimpse into each feeling before quickly shifting to the next. Brief moments of warmth—of some kind of release and comfort—emerge throughout the work to lighten its anxious mood. These fragmented moments of positivity might have been the only way for myself to mitigate any form of apprehension. All of these feelings fled, despite how long they felt during each moment, perhaps indicating that emotions have some kind of fragmented or ephemeral quality to them.

To some extent, this entire experience is a consequence of my extremely pernicious procastinatory habits that have been developing since high school. For me, high school and college directly correlated with my anxiety, inhibiting me from completing work ahead of time. While I understand that procrastination closely relates to one’s intrinsic engagement with something, I believe my procrastination stems from my anxiety to work through convoluted thoughts—particularly concerning academic work. Since college, I have relatively gotten over this anxiety, and to some degree welcome high-stakes writing. However, there are many students, I would safely assume, who have gone through these experiences like myself. As educators, we have to find ways to help these kinds of students in order to combat the near crippling anxiety of ‘academic work’. How do we efficaciously combat the interrelation between academia and anxiety?