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The director of the great books program I am in has this clock in his office that makes an electric chiming noise on the hour. I don’t think it was here during our last session with him. My grandparents had a clock that made the same chiming sound in their old house in Santa Barbara. I remember sitting in my grandparents’ living room, watching television, and hearing the time pass. I haven’t been in that room in years. My grandfather died, my grandmother moved to Wisconsin, and then she passed away. I didn’t even remember most of the details of their house when I was trying to remember her after her funeral. But, at seven o’clock last night, my brain rushed back to that house. I was half my current age, spending the night in the back room. I walked out of the room and down the hallway, looking into each of the rooms in the house. Small details that I had forgotten to remember over the last several years suddenly flooded into my mind, and I remembered how it felt to be a child. All because of the chime of a clock in Dr. Reynolds’ office.

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I spent 9:30 PM to at least 1:30 AM Monday through Thursday in an auditorium, watching actors rehearse. They would say their lines and I would laugh. Sometimes my director or other crew members would laugh. It was usually just me, though. Me and my loud, ever-changing laugh that sounded so much louder as it resounded in a near-empty auditorium. I’d stifle my laugh as time passed, ever conscious of the sounds I made.

Tonight, the show opened. The room filled and the audience formed. The play began, I took my seat in the back, and my laughter found itself mingling with the laughter of others. I still noticed the way I was laughing, but I noticed the way others were laughing, too. I noticed the different sounds they made as we all expressed ourselves without words. The sounds of the audience expressed a shared experience, common joy. I smiled as I found myself part of a whole.

Since childhood, I’ve been captivated by the way paper towels absorb water. There’s this little puddle, a round spot sitting on a flat surface. I pick up the paper towel and touch the corner to the top of the puddle – that’s it. I don’t move at all after that, but the water does. It slowly works its way into the paper towel, a quarter-circle centered at the corner. It makes me wonder. How does the water move by itself? Does the towel pull the water, or does the water run to the towel? I picture these water molecules running away from the puddle, making room for their buddy molecules in the towel. Apparently, water prefers towels to puddles.

I imagine the science behind it all, wondering in a different way, but never actually looking it up. I’m sure I’d still wonder if I knew the science, because I always wonder what makes the science work the way it does. The way water behaves has always intrigued me. But I never look it up. I’m content with little water molecules screaming and running as they try to cram into the towel.

Click, click, click. Clomp, clomp, clomp. Clap, clap, clap.

Two days, three pairs of shoes, three different people.

My heels click as I walk back from a lecture, shoulders back, head up, smile on my face. I am an adult, I am a professional, and I have my act together.

My rain boots clomp as I stomp around in the rain, staring at the ground, looking for puddles. I am a child, I am joyful, and I don’t care about anything other than the next puddle.

My flip-flops clap against my heels as I walk to class, shoulders weighed down by my backpack, thinking about what’s next. I’m somewhere between child and adult, somewhere between confident and overwhelmed, somewhere between where I was and where I will be.

Two types:

Flat. Textured.

A perfect, blank slate. As smooth as it could be. With the right type of ink, printed words can be felt as the particles sit on the flat page. Stark contrast between word and paper, medium and creation.

Blank, but holding history. You can’t deny that the page is made up of particles from a tree. The ink sinks into the paper, and the entire page is the creation.

 

There’s something joyful about printing something in the library and feeling the words on the page as I run my hands across it. My words: concise, clean, making a statement.

I read outside and the sun casts tiny shadows over the page, emphasizing the texture of the page. The words are a part of the page, embedded in them just as they are embedded in time. I run my fingertips across the words and I don’t feel them. But those words run deeper than mine.

The song begins, and it’s as familiar as the back of your hand. Somehow, it’s also new. The song isn’t different – you can still sing every word and predict every note – but it’s deep in your bones. Those little, invisible vibrations that could only be distinguished by those little, tiny bones in your ear have become strong enough to shake the ground beneath you. You feel it in your chest and your feet. It’s not just louder, though. It really is new. It’s not a recording of the sounds that came from his mouth or their instruments months or years ago. They are being produced, here and now, just amplified for your listening pleasure. He processes the words as you do and you feel them together. Those little things you felt when you listened in your room or in the car on the way to the show are being felt by the crowd surrounding you, and you can feel the beauty. It may be the same song they recorded months or years ago and you listened to on the way to the show, but, in that moment, it’s more than that.

The way it fills a room. The way you can feel someone’s emotions in the way they combined notes, or even the way they play that single note. The way they sang that word so that you feel exactly what they felt. Simple, tiny, invisible vibrations, working together, forming something beautiful.

Live or recorded, through headphones or over speakers, soft or loud, slow or fast, it reaches my soul in a way nothing else can.

Click click. Click click.

I listen and picture our blinker, flashing ahead of us.

I look up and see two cars, one after the other, blinking as well.

The distance between their blinks shortens until, for one flash, they are synchronized.

The lights continue to keep their own rhythms, slowly growing apart. We turn to our left, they turn to our right, and the blinkers stop. I wait for another turn.

Shaken off of my blanket, wiped off of my feet, and picked off of my sweater.

Lingering blades of grass, reminding me of the time spent reading on a hill as the sun set and I ripped out grass with my toes.

I watch a musician I love talk about the process of writing his new album. He makes references to old things and old bands that I understand. I don’t listen to much of what he used to do anymore, and, in that sense, I feel like I’ve grown up with him. He grew out of writing that music, and I grew out of listening to it. Like friends, we’ve changed together.

It feels like we have a commitment to each other. He will continue to love writing his music and I will continue to love listening to it. It’s comfortable.

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