Earlier today, I was walking in a foreign part of campus, searching for my ID, because without it I do not exist. While I was walking to the building where they test DNA, thinking about how by a simple instance of carelessness I became a lesser sort of student who is denied access to the most basic aspects of student-try, I watched two boys, about 12 years of age, race towards me, “Do you know what time it is?” one of them asked, his running mate a few feet behind.
“Actually, I don’t.”
My ID was not in that building. I already knew my personal ID, the way I identify myself, was not in that building, I had proven that to myself months earlier. But my card that tells flashing slots near Harvard doors and in Harvard dining halls that I exist was not there either. I was so sure I had left it there, that it had fallen out just at that point where I was wondering who I am and why I was in this building to begin with and why no matter how hard I tried I did not care about these people’s work, I was sure it fell out just then, I thought I heard it! But I suppose I did not, as both offices that would know anything about my ID claimed they had seen no loose identities lying about.
Interesting, I thought, speaking to receptionists and janitors, such as I could find in any building that does any business in the world, here where I feel so out of place. They didn’t feel out of place, I bet it doesn’t even bother them much that they do not know what happens in every other room. And why should it bother them, and why does it bother me? So I left, after a quick stop to the bathroom, where I noticed that my eyes were still dark even though I had slept many hours, that this sudden loss of identity really bothered me, more than it should have, partially because it was accompanied with another sort of identity loss.
Yesterday, a close friend of mine, who is a boy, who I call my boyfriend because I care more about him than I do myself much of the time and I believe some “wise man” defined that as love, essentially told me that what I do is worthless. I later learned that he basically thinks what he does is worthless as well, in the big picture way of looking at things. Now where does this leave me, I who simultaneously live to understand people and yet feel as if I live constantly detached from them? What does a mathematical model do to explain that, I really cannot say, but I cannot easily tell someone what reading and analyzing says about that either. I bet much of the most telling parts of life were never written down, the people were too excited to even think about it. And yes, people edit their writing, and yes, publishers also edit people’s writing, and yes, things are translated. Many barriers. Is it worthwhile? Does it still have soul? Do I know what time it is?
I have had discussions like this before, only with a different boy. We also lived in two different worlds, he was a Christian and I was a whatever I am now minus knowledge of what it means to be a Christian. A hopeful skeptic. He saw life in relation to his truth, I saw life in relation to not even being able to define the word truth adequately for my own satisfaction. He tried to show me models too, I remember one very well:
“Christianity is like this house. Judaism is the foundation, and Catholicism is the ivy that grows on top.”
I did not know what to make of that, after speaking with him about what he believes and reading some of the gospels, I don’t know how I would prove that model wrong. Within the boundaries he set, the model stands.
If that was hard, this is even harder! If one person sees the world in terms of formulas and models and clarity, and I see the world as a fog and deal with ideas and opinions and events and levels of meaning, where do we meet? If me and that other boy lived in two different worlds, myself and this boy live in two different dimensions. There are boundaries, but I don’t know enough about what he does to even be able to define where they are or what they mean or where the limit of our function stands. That metaphor probably made no sense as I have not taken Calculus since high school. How can you debate against something you do not understand?
But it is still better than many other people I have attempted to meet, back in the days when I was released from my life of reading every fairy tale ever written, thinking that through that I would know what every culture thought, remembering how I would tell the stories I learned in school assuming that everyone else already knew them, especially my teachers, because after all they are the ones who are supposed to teach and I never assumed I knew anything except when asked. People who when you would say something you learned would say “good for you, keep on reading!” as if just my reading was the point, not treating me as an equal, not giving their opinion on what I thought, and the kids they would just look at me like I was a weirdo if I would attempt to muse on how the game of tag began in the first place. I don’t understand people, possibly because I have tried too hard my whole life to understand people.
So anyway, earlier today, leaving the biological sciences building, I decided to just admit defeat and buy a new ID. I wonder if once can buy a new identity, I think a lot of people try. So I went up the elevator, and wonder of wonders, the office closed at three. I knew because as soon as I walked out of the elvator I was facing a sign that read “ID billing and receivables closed at 3:00 today” (it probably did not read exactly like that as that does not make sense when I read it back, but I do not speak business language very well and it must have become jumbled in my mind somewhere with this whole what is life/what am I doing/who am I/what time is it monologue. I honestly did not know what time it was even according to a watch even by this point, and it was starting to bother me that I did not know) So I took the elevator back down, but I did not want to pass the guards that let people up the elevator without anything to show for myself, so I went down to level B. Which I learned today is a parking lot. I was looking for the way out when a man asked “do you need any help?”
I was thinking “If only! I need a new identification and an understanding of my identity!” but I could only say “no” in fact I said it in a kind of way that communicated to him “no, of course I don’t need help, I know exactly what I am doing and you are in my way”
“I work here, that’s why I asked” he said.
I did not know what to say to that, because I really did not know hoew to get out odf this building but my head was so swimming with thoughts at this point that I felt as though I could unburden all of this inner dialogue with this man and that would just be strange for the both of us. So I kept walking, and I found my way out of the building, still without an ID.
Back at Harvard Square, I passed people trying to sell people the consoling feeling that they are helping the environment, people who I knew were paid $12 an hour to make these people feel guilty. It was at about this point where/when I saw a man with walkers, the type that clasp on to your upper arm, walking without them, his arms raised to avoid using them. I had to wonder why! It reminded me of these two women who look similar who I used to see on 5th avenue in New York every afternoon, who would wear walkers like those and just stand, leaning on them with a cup for money in the middle of the sidewalk. They gave me the heebie jeebies, but it seemed too ridiculous a situation to be real. Was this man planning to do the same thing once he got to the right part of town, or was he trying to get by without them…but then why was he still wearing the walker clasps? Seeing a woman with one of those birkas walk by, I thought maybe it had something to do with reminding himself of his former struggles, but I realized quickly that could not be. I continued on, trying to think of a way to console my own worries that what I do is pointless and how to explain this to the person I most wish to understand, knowing that I cannot not expect him to understand while I remain unsure.
Blocks later, approaching my home on loan, a girl I knew caught up to me, asked “How are you doing?” and as I answered continued to walk past me. She was listening to music, maybe she did not realize how odd that seemed to me. The idea of asking someone how they are doing and replying good OR well or fine or lousy and not continuing the conversation makes no sense to me, in fact it was years before I realized people did not want me to actually outline every issue I was dealing with in my life when they asked that question. More proof that I obviously do not understand people.
So, will I ever know what time it is? I only know where the sun stands in the sky, or what the local clock-watch-cell phone-laptop tells me, and sometimes the two do not agree. We go with one for convenience’s sake, because time was invented as a way to make sense of the world. Nobody knows anything, and if they think they know something, they probably cannot tell you what it means, and if they think they know what it means, then they are likely taking a very simplistic course at trying to explain that because I tell you it is near impossible. I passed by a church today, a church I pass often, but as I normally think of what they talk about in that church and what the churchgoers think, today I looked at the structure, and noticed one hewn stone a lighter color than the others, approaching pink. Was that stone the wrong color, or was everything else the wrong color? Does it have to make sense? And OH, is that art, my interpretation of that? Because I had no intention for it to be, it was simply my own thought process, I didn’t think I would write that down when I thought it, I knew I would not get anywhere with it, so here it is. I wrote it down. I would not call this literature, I would not call this art, I do not plan to submit it anywhere or do anything with it besides post it here so that I can look at it with these nice trees on the top and think of it as something different than my assignments, what I usually write on the word processing program.
This amazes me, I cannot think of where to begin to make sense of the world, but it seems I am walking down one path and should keep going that way regardless, it is too late to turn back and I do not really see any reason why I should.
Time for dinner. According to my laptop it is 6:40, which means the food will only be available for another half hour, to those with IDs. Still, I should stop by as well.