Whisper 1.9

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“How was your date?” Shea asks.

“Awful,” I say. I tell him about the rainbow, the geese, and feeling the hills receiving the universe’s kiss, and then about how Cid yelled at me when I told him about that.

“It sounds like a beautiful experience,” Shea says, “like transcendence and inspiration wrapped up in a lettuce leaf, just waiting to be devoured!”

“Cannibal,” I whisper, and Shea laughs.

“Look,” he says, gesturing towards the squirrel who plays by our feet. “There’s eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh.”

“Is that his name?” I ask.

“His Plant name.”

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“Do you have a Plant name?” I ask, as we play hacky sack.

“Yes,” he says. “Do you want to hear it?  ooOoooshaaaaamayyyyiiiiiiiopapa.”

“That’s a beautiful name,” I say. “Do I have a Plant name?”

“Yes,” he says, “only it’s not audible.”

“Then what is it?” I ask.

“Chemical. Feel…” and he emits a phytohormone wash that makes me feel like I’ve just stepped into a home made of light.

“Is that my name?” I ask.

He nods.

“This is how I feel every time I walk in the forest or among the plants in my garden.”

“That’s because the trees and plants know your name,” Shea says. “They greet you when you walk among them.”

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Before bed, I play the guitar, making up a song. Plant talk is like music, vibrations through the air, available to all who might receive them. I wonder if maybe I’ve been listening to Plant all my life, and just didn’t realize it.

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In the morning, Shea tells me that he dreamed of eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh.

“He’s our friendship totem,” Shea says.

After breakfast, as I’m heading upstairs to my room, I see Shea and one of our dorm mates in the front room. He’s blowing her an alkaloid kiss.

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She seems to like it and they lean in to each other. I tell myself, “Don’t get upset. It’s not like Shea’s your boyfriend. He’s just your best friend.”

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“Do plants marry?” I ask Shea when he and I play frisbee in the parking lot.

“No,” he says. “You know how plants mate, right?”

I think about it.

“The males just broadcast their pollen out for any open flower to receive,” he says. “That’s not exactly the type of thing that a marriage can be built on.”

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Later, when he blows me a kiss and I feel my alkaloid high starting up, I remind myself that it’s different for plants–it’s not like it means anything.

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After supper, when we’re heading out to play more frisbee, Shea says, “So, yeah. Plants just like to broadcast their love widely and freely,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have special relationships.”

“So if spousal relationships aren’t the special ones for plants, then what are?” I ask.

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“Friendships,” he says.

I think of mesquite trees that offer shelter to young saguaros, beans that climb up cornstalks, mugworts that thrive beside nettles.

“Especially best friends,” he continues. “Do you know who my best friend is?”

I shake my head.

“You.”

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When we head inside, I get a text from Anoki. He’s having a party and he wants me to come.

Riding over there, I think about friendship. So, I’ve got two best friends now, Shea and Anoki, and they both seem to actually like me. Now that I’ve got best friends, I don’t feel like anything’s missing in my life. Maybe I don’t need romance. Maybe I’m like a plant, and friendships are the special relationships for me.

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Anoki’s party is a swimsuit party. As usual, Anoki is surrounded by women, this time, by women in swimsuits, and I can’t even get close enough to say hi.

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As I’m leaving, I get a phone call.

“Hey. It’s Ray. Ray Wise.”

I’m trying to think who Ray Wise is.

“You know. I met you at one of Anoki’s parties?”

OK. I figure it out real quick. Little guy, glasses, kind of a nerd. Nice guy.

“Anyway, I wanted to know if you wanted to go out.”

“When? Like now?” I ask.

It’s late on Sunday night.

“Yeah,” he says.

My first class doesn’t start until noon.

“OK,” I say. I’ll never know how I feel about romance if I don’t give it a try, after all.

I meet Ray outside the comic book store.

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“It’s so beautiful, with the snow falling,” I say. “I could paint a landscape from this.”

“Ugh. I hate art,” he says. “I’d rather read.”

We end up talking for a few hours. I don’t know that there’s much romantic potential there–I can’t imagine myself with somebody who hates art. I mean, I’m an artist! But Ray is a nice guy to have as a friend. I can always enjoy somebody that I can talk about books with for hours on end.

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Then, just as I get ready to ride back home, Ray leans in and says, “I’m thinking of something. Fireplace, thick volume of Dickens, and you.”

Was that a flirt?

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Whisper 1.5

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Drawing days are so much fun. We sit outside the building and sketch from life. It pours down rain, but aside from Ann (my knee-socked dorm mate), none of us care. We’re too into the drawing to mind the wet, even as our notepads get soaked and our pencils rip holes in the paper.

Derek sits as far away from me as possible, so I take that as a sign to pay attention to my work, and not to him.

You never know. Maybe he’s sitting behind you so he can draw you!

After class, I call Cid to see if he wants to catch a film with me. I hear there’s a neat independent film showing.

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We’re talking, then I notice a guy performing magic tricks for tips. He’s making pigeons disappear and flames turn into roses. I head over to watch, but then Cid comes storming towards me, looking very angry, like he’s going to yell at me. Is he mad because I left our conversation to watch the magician?

I want to break that pattern that’s happened with Chauncey and Derek, so I deflect.

“Let’s head in to get good seats!”

Half-way through the movie, Cid mutters something about “worst time ever” and he leaves the theater.

I stay to watch the rest of the film. I’m so engrossed in it that I hardly even register that Cid left.

When I step out of theater after the movie’s over, though, it hits me. I’ve been ditched.

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I feel like I lost a friend. This makes the third guy who became my friend quick, started to become something else, and then rejected me. Bummer. I think I’ll just forget about guys for a while.

It’s OK. Being alone is pretty neat.

While I ride home, I think about the film, “Corduroy Glasses.”

I’m not sure what the film signified. I think it has something to do with perceiving reality through a warped world view, so what one perceives isn’t really reality–whatever that is–but one’s culturally defined perceptions.

I think about taking off my corduroy glasses. Isn’t that what college is all about? To learn what is one’s culture, what others’ cultures are, how our cultures inform our world views, and then to begin to make conscious choices about what we might want to discard and what we might want to preserve of our own cultural heritage, precepts, and constructs?

God! I am so excited to be here! No wonder I always wanted to come to college! Who needs guys when we can take off our glasses and look at the world, as if for the first time?

Yay, independence!

There you go!

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When I get home, Derek calls and invites me to a party. What? I thought Derek hated me.

Cid lives in Derek’s dorm, so maybe I’ll see him there, and I’ll be able to talk with him, and we can re-establish our friendship. I bet he wouldn’t think “Corduroy Glasses” was such a dopey film if he knew what it meant.

What happened to “Yay, independence?”

Cid is streaking through the quad, yelling at the top of his lungs.

I realize that know may not be the best time to talk with him about culturally constructed world views.

Inside, I notice a cute guy with long dark hair. Oh. It’s Anoki Moon. I’ve heard of him. I feel an instant connection to him, like maybe I’ve known him in another life.

He’s surrounded by girls.

Are the corduroy glasses on or off right now?

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When the women head over to the keg, I approach.

“I feel sirens going off,” I tell him, “but I’m not heeding any warnings.”

“You’re Cathy!” he says. “I heard about you. Derek and Cid don’t stop talking about you.”

And I feel all kinds of awkward.

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Anoki and I begin bonding over our shared vegetarianism. He tells me he’ll get me a great recipe for veggie burgers that he has up in his room. Before he does, the two women come back from the keg. One of them looks really mad.

“Burgers!” She yells at Anoki. “Not bloody salad! You should be eating burgers, fool!”

“OK, so first of all,” Anoki says,”I would never eat bloody salad. And second of all, where do you get off deciding who can be vegetarian and who can’t? It’s my body.”

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It’s time for me to go, anyway.

Just once, I’d like to have a peaceful, friendly conversation with somebody, where nobody gets mad, nobody gets insulted, nobody gets offended, and we all find common ground and appreciate each other.

That’s a great goal. Don’t lose it!

So far, all I’ve encountered has been conflict. I’m kinda into peace. I’m hoping to create a peaceful world. And I thought that a lot of people my generation agreed with me. But how are we supposed to create peace when we fight with each other? We need new sets of corduroy glasses.

I get home and just as I’m getting ready for bed, I notice some strange lights outside.

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Holy uh-oh!

I feel my corduroy glasses being ripped off my head!

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Next thing I know, I’m standing out back of the dorm, with a weird feeling in my head and all these strange sensations in every orifice. Ugh. What happened?

Relax. Breathe. You’ll be OK. Once you truly succeed in escaping your culturally constructed world view, your memories of these events will return. Until then, just know that you are home now, and you are safe.

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In the distance, I see a figure riding away on a bicycle.

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I guess life still feels random to me.

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