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2006-09-13 - 10:24 p.m.

Just got done teaching class number three. It only meets once a week, which is nice, but class days are hard days and long, too. The best part, though, about teaching where I went to undergrad is that most of the English people who taught me are still there. I haven't seen them--I teach from 7 to 10 and so they're always gone for the day--but I've been emailing them, saying not sure if you remember me, but I'm back and so forth. I like being able to tell certain ones that their classes or their assignments or their presence helped me along toward what I'm doing now, and almost all of the time I actually mean it.

It's bizarre, though. A lot of memories crashing on my head every Wednesday. I had an English survey course in the room I'm teaching in this semester. It's in the Fine Arts building, so there's a baby grand piano in the corner and the chalkboards are of the kind with the five lines running the length of the boards, meant for composing music. I remember sitting two rows from the back, every Monday night, talking about Kerouac and Conrad and Hemingway and Pound and Eliot. It was my second semester of my freshman year. I'd just met my first college girlfriend and we took the class together. We sat next to each other, and I would come to class stoned sometimes. She was a commuter and I lived on campus, and I'd always be about five minutes late (that hasn't changed) and she'd always know right away if I was stoned and never liked it much.

Just walking around campus, too. The places, for one thing, obviously. As in: I played ping pong in that room there, which is now something called the English Language Center, for ESL kids, I assume. And I smoked cigarettes there, on that bench, acting nonchalant, trying to get the Indian girl to notice me. And I studied on that floor of that library over there, always starting my papers too late but getting them done by force of sheer will and with the help of the bad coffee from the vending machine in the lobby. And Dave and I swam in the nasty pond one night, in jeans, and barely making it up the side because the tree roots were slimy with algae and whatever else lives in bad water.

I like being around the college scene, though, if for no other reason than it makes me, you know, feel more. The youth all around and the laughter and the flirting and the flip flops and the backpacks. I could do without everyone working buttons on their cellphones all the time, staring at the glowing keypads as if they were televisions, but the memories are, I don't know, kind of a guilty pleasure. Because I spent only four years there but they seem more pungent than any other four years. I think of all the people I knew well and all the people I wish I knew better, thinking: We had it nice, didn't we? And wondering: We could have had it better, right? And why didn't we? And: Is it wrong or somehow not right that I'm doing all this remembering all the time?

And then I remember that I'm not all that special and that we're all of us heavy creatures, and that what matters is the feeling, the act of it, the allowing it to seep and do things to you, like a paper towel purples from a puddle of grape juice, maybe. Because we've got beautiful memories, maybe, or if they're not beautiful memories, then it could be the fact that we can look at a particular green upholstered bench and remember a particular girl and that's the thing that makes us all irretrievably holy.

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