Austin on Ice and Leah

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

     Frozen. That’s what it is. Frozen. There’s ice all over the ground. The sidewalks and roads and bridges were iced over all morning ultimately leading to the closure of most businesses and schools. Classes were cancelled all day and so far have been cancelled until ten tomorrow morning.

[Texas shuts down because Winter finally arrives. Asked about its tardiness, Winter replied, “I never really liked Texas. Too many goofy bitches and cattle — and I mean ‘cattle’ in a descriptive sense regarding the people. I’ve always much preferred Northeastern women all bundled up in scarves and things.” It then went back to drinking whiskey at G&S.]

Texans are more dangerous with iced over roads than they are with firearms. I opted to stay off the roads today, even if they weren’t as bad as many people said, according to friends I talked to who went to work only to find their offices closed.

Instead, I walked from St. Ed’s to Ruta Maya. It’s a two minute drive that probably wouldn’t have been at all dangerous to make, but I really just wanted an excuse to get out in the weather. An excuse that didn’t include the use of cardboard boxes or trashcan lids as sleds, as most St. Ed’s kids were doing at 1 AM last night.

      “Out in the street today
The kids are playing, having fun
I pass them by I’m not a kid, no
I don’t love anyone”
–Belle and Sebastian, “I Don’t Love Anyone”
I love the extreme cold as opposed to just the mild shit we usually get down here. It gives a person reason to layer and wrap his or her scarf around one’s face, revealing only the eyes. I bundled up in an Air Force physical conditioning sweatshirt, a pair of jeans, my Sambas, my blue hoodie sweater, Granddad’s leather jacket, and my new green scarf. I felt decked out for winter travel. Out I headed.

While the other kids were out sledding and scraping ice from their car windshields to throw at one another, I revelled in what may be the less obvious beauties of the weather. The “crunch crunch crunch” of walking on ice. My slips and inner chuckles. The cracking sound the frozen branches make as the wind blows through. The emptiness of the streets.

For these brief frozen moments in time, I’m able to walk freely out in the world with little worry that others are watching me — even as watching me stumble down the street provides the best opportunity ever for observing me. I feel rather safe in the knowledge that the majority of Texas — those not at the park sledding or in the hospital because they can’t drive — are comfortably wrapped up in the daytime TV they usually miss while at work, oblivious to the outside world except when Channel 8 gives them the weather on the Eights.

I’m also happy because the concentration it takes to walk on these icy sidewalks and streets, like the mind-numbing physical toil of KP duty in basic training, distracts my mind from most other thoughts. For a short while, my mind is occupied only with getting me from SEU to Ruta Maya without leaving my feet. It’s a beautiful thing. A numbing of the mind that no drug has ever allowed me to achieve while remaining awake — a disregard for others’ thoughts of me while also not being acutely aware of my own judgmental thoughts about myself.

I love the inhospitableness of the weather. The way it supplies one with an easy excuse to stay indoors. To travel the treacherous avenues to a cafe or bar and stay within their confines for long periods of time. There’s no nagging feeling of time lost in outdoor activity — no lingering illusion that the time could have been better spent jogging or repairing one’s back deck. A perfect day for reading and writing and talking and making love, if one is so lucky as to have that option.

So I made the trip to Ruta Maya in the lovely white weather and came back to St. Ed’s when the poets started their rants at the Poetry Open Mic. and I got hungry. Then, around nine, I walked to Ruta again to find that they were about to close. I stuck around and did my math homework, talked to Joe, helped him put up chairs a bit, and then walked back to school. It was lovely.

Makes me want to move up north again.

I tend to make a point of mentioning interesting people I meet and befriend (even if only for short periods of time) in the journal just to give readers an idea of who I am talking about when I mention particular names. I feel that often times I don’t give a very full description of these people, so this small portion is devoted to a description of a person I met at the beginning of this semester. Her name hasn’t been mentioned here before (as far as I know), and, thus, this introduction is her first gracing of these pages, as it well should be.

Leah is a pretty girl. She has a peculiar nose and an odd way of affecting a high-pitched Midwestern accent in much of her speech — especially when playful or pleading — that is not unattractive. She’s of average build, I’d say, but well proportioned and pretty. (I can be honest and say that she caught my eye on the first day of our Honors class, Issues of Social Justice, together.)

She is in her final semester at St. Ed’s for a biochemistry degree. She plans to take a year off before heading to grad. school. My personal feelings regarding years off are negative — mainly because I’ve done it and found that one year easily turns into four — but that makes no difference. I’m sure that, had I gone straight to college from high school as she did, I’d definitely feel owed a year off from academia. And, as Brian articulated well for me once in conversation with Sandra, who left UT last semester to return to Houston, “Working for a while has a way of making you want to go back to school.” How true. From experience, I have to agree. Some of us are just slower than others.

Leah has also dated the same guy since she was fifteen. She’s 22, my age, now. (I add this in up front so that people don’t think I’m pursuing her as a romantic interest.) This gives her a perspective on relationships quite different from my own — experientially, at least. I think, in theory and principle, she and I agree far more than she knows and might even like to admit. But our experiences in romantic relationships differ enough to produce marked departures in the way we state what are probably desires and beliefs held in common. Her own views and expressions are tempered heartily by practicality while my own are probably more abstract in nature.

As when she took issue with my “cheapening sex” in the “On Sex With Friends” essay. Possibly the wording and somewhat irreverent nature of the essay leads to this conclusion, but I feel that I’m less “cheapening” sex than attempting to bring it down to a more realistic level of importance. I feel Americans are a bit Victorian still in their reverence of sex — it’s a replacing of repression with exaggerated respect. I’ve always found the puzzle of “How does a porn star cheat on her husband?” helpful in this. Does she sleep with another guy like in her job or does she have a heartfelt conversation over coffee? If we extrapolate from this, which, in our regular, non-bow-chica-bow-bow lives is the true greater threat to any living relationship?

Obviously, this extreme example has its faults. It may be argued that the illustration uses a segment of society that has already devalued (and commercialized) sex to such a point that they are in no way representative of society at large. That may be conceded, but I must question if the individual interpersonal relationships of that industry’s employees aren’t still much the same as our own. They still have feelings, no? There are still marriages and divorces and kids and dates and passion and love, right? So, is it impossible and improper to use them as an example?

All that said, I think it can be admitted that, rather than physical acts, it is the level of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual (if you will) connection that truly defines the status of a relationship. Alcohol and other drugs can influence one to partake in sexual intimacy with another, but rarely do they alter one so completely as to warp the perception of another as being a friend when in reality they are not.

To finish with my description and introduction of Leah, I will conclude with the knowledge that she will argue with many of these points, demand clarification, and accept my opinion while still disagreeing. These are the main reasons I like her. I don’t want my postulations to be swallowed whole. I want to be challenged, argued with, helped.

Thus, I try to discuss issues that are personally important to me with her.

So far I’ve gotten around to mentioning my desire to be consumed wholly by something (reference “Brandy,” by The Looking Glass), doubts of my own intelligence, relationships, of course, et cetera.

I think, judging from her thought-filled silences, that she has a few important things to share, too, though I don’t expect to be the one to which she’d disclose them. But still, I enjoy her questions. Questions that jar my frame of reference for my thoughts. So long have many of my innermost thoughts been swimming in the soup of my head without glimpsing light or breathing air that their true nature has been lost to me, replaced by my own interpretations and points-of-view.

Hearing that new question, that question easily developed by one with a fresh perspective, is nice. It’s lovely to be surprised, jarred, made to reevaluate these old thoughts.

For that, I thank Leah.

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