porcelainandporcupines

Archive for November 2015

The only other time I’ve ever noticed anyone’s eyelashes was in college. It was a guy in one of my European literature classes, I believe; the only class remaining in that room where, at the beginning of the semester all of my classes were scheduled to be held in that same room. A situation I found unacceptable; I didn’t think it would be very inspiring to spend what amounted to a whopping 12 hours a week in just one space, so I clearly had no choice but to switch all of the classes I could.

And such is inspiration that the only thing worth remembering from the only class that actually ended up being held in that room  are the eyelashes on a young man who always sat at the foot of the table in the center of the room. He may very well have been striking even with less exceptional eyelashes. He seemed tall, even though I only ever saw him seated; his torso was long andhis hairwas full in a way appropriate to the ‘90s and added to the impression of height. His hair also gave him a European air along with his features, vaguely pointy in an appealing and intellectual way, which he may well have been as well, but which I cannot confirm because I have no recollection of ever hearing him speak. Just the eyelashes.

Their length was amazing; they were easily the most glorious eyelashes I have ever seen.I didn’t wear glasses then, although I did need them, and still, even all the way across the room, I could see the length of those lashes, thick and full as they hovered above his indeterminate colored eyes.

Did he know? Did he, prepping for that 10am class that seemed so early, stand in front of his mirror thinking “By god, I really do have the most splendid pair of eyelashes. They’re impressive, and I’m impressive because of them,”? Probably not.

More than the lashes themselves, or Dada and Surrealism, what really consumed me during that class was that, the tremendous lack of justice implicit in those glorious lashes. I thought of women primping in front of mirrors, wielding curlers and mascara in the hopes of artificially extending their own perfectly reasonable eyelashes,a feat which,if anyone actually noticed, would be an easy and acceptable target for mockery. Thus, the whole goal of eyelash enhancement is to have it go unnoticed by the very people who would never have noticed them in their natural state. Worse, these insensitive bastards are endowed with the very lashes we aspire to, never noticing what is literally right in front of their own eyes; nothing seemed more unfair.

Until about three weeks ago, that is, when my own eyelashes went missing. Truly early in the morning this time, I stood in the bathroom gazing into the mirror, wondering why my eyes suddenly seemed so drab. The anwser, it turned out, is in the lashes; they’re thinner than they used to be, and shorter; potentially, there are less of them now too. Definitely, they’re different than they were before, and worse.

It’s an easy enough problem to fix, of course,  with a little mascara, on the upper lashes only to avoid the spidery effect. It’s part of my morning routine now, and not a particularly time-consuming part at that, and once done my eyes pop again and it’s impossible to tell the eyelashes weren’t there in the first place. Until the end of the day, when the mascara comes off and they vanish again. It’s such a slight change, unimportant, but at the same time, it’s impossible to ignore. Every day I see it, and for a moment I think of that guy in my literature class, of his eyelashes, forever perfect in my memory. I wonder what kind of shape they’re in now. And I wonder if, they too have started to fade under the relentless march of time, he’s even noticed.

 

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It’s amazing to me how many people want immediately to get in a car with you when, as a grown person, you get behind the wheel for the first time over two decades. Granted, it was actually only 2 people, one of whom was my niece who, as I surely did at 13, probably understands driving as an automatically successful undertaking for every adult, rather than a strangely unnatural thing that has to be learned and practiced. The other was a new coworker, whose enthusiasm for a potential carpool is unflagging even after the short test drive around campus that I insisted upon, and during which she remained vocally supportive even though, by the clench of her fists around the door handle, she seemed maybe a little bit terrified.

But the most immediately striking thing about driving after such a long time, apart from the shocking lack of care supportive people can have for their own safety, is how boring it is. This, apparently, is not a fully appropriate response to share with more experienced drivers who text you, on your second day of driving in 2 decades, to find out how it’s going; as each immediately replied that, sure, driving is rather dull, but there are enough benefits to make the boredom worthwhile.

With this, I can not argue. The immediate convenience of driving is irrefutable. In less than 24 hours of car ownership, I went from someone who would happily walk upwards of 30 minutes to get to the store, to a person who drove from one store to another within the same parking lot because it suddenly made sense to do so. Whereas I had always understood the thrill of finding a parking spot under challenging circumstances, getting the closest spot possible had always struck me as some petty concern, unless it was raining; but now, its utmost importance in all weather is perfectly clear.

I also, in those same 24 hours, went from someone who spent 2 hours getting home from work and had to order prescription cat food online to a person who could stop at the vet along the way and still get home in about 35 minutes. The apparently primal need to get the closest parking spot possible is indeed a small price to pay to be able to reliably and efficiently feed one’s kitten.

So of course, there are benefits to driving. But after so many years being chauffeured by the MBTA, it is a difficult adjustment to realize that, even though I’ll always get a seat, I cannot as a driver just sit back and read while I cruise effortlessly to work. I mean, I could technically do that, but I probably wouldn’t be able to finish as much as a chapter before my ride came to an abrupt and radically unscheduled stop. Similarly, as much as I might like to lean my head against the window and watch the scenery whiz by in this strange new place I live in, or close my eyes at the end of a long day, I instead have kept my eyes on the road itself, which is remarkable only in its similarity to the road in every other place I’ve ever been.

However, while I don’t get to enjoy the scenery as much as I had hoped, one unexpected pleasure of driving is the confident self-righteousness that comes from being the person everyone passes on the highway. The conviction that comes from traveling at the speed at which I am comfortable while you, all of you, are speeding is very satisfying. Not that I’m judging other drivers, mind you; unless they’re passing on a curve – that’s unsafe for me, too. Overall, though, I’d much prefer everyone hurry on toward their destination and leave me all the road to myself.

But what has stood out the most since beginning driving is not just how boring it is, nor how, and this is surely old news to everyone but me,  Taylor Swift is literally always playing somewhere on the radio; I’m  sure her ubiquity is well-earned, but, even at this very late date, I have to point out that t-shirts and short skirts are not mutually exclusive garments and thus are not drawing as clear a distinction as Ms. Swift imagines. Unless maybe it’s some issue with waxing she’s obliquely referring to? Probably not, though.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, right – the most startling lesson of driving is that driving, it turns out, is very lonely.

It’s not like, in the past 20 of not driving, I haven’t been in a car at all; I have, been in many cars in that time. Which sounds like the sort of thing an alien might say to convince you of his humanity, but that doesn’t make any less true. But the point is that for 2 decades, cars meant something social; getting into a car was the beginning of an adventurous undertaking to a greater or lesser degree; whereas now, the car is merely a means to perform errands – go to store, go to the work, go home.

I’m sure as I get more comfortable driving and more used to exploring all of the places that are out of walking distances, the car will feel less like a chore and will begin again to fill its old role as conduit for adventure. But, even as the stress of driving has withered a bit over the past two weeks, the car right now is primarily a reminder that, Ms. Swift’s crooning aside, that I’m going to be the only one in it for a while. And while that’s certainly safer and less stressful for everyone, it’s different than what I’m used to; different, and not really an improvement.


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