Ella, Tee Shirts, and Holden Caulfield

I am not the sort of person who normally wears boxy tee shirts or shirts with words on them–I don’t even own many shirts with patterns–but I do have an extreme weakness for shirts with literary references or clever jokes. The last time Pippa and I were at The Strand, she physically dragged me away from the shirt selection and this was done after I had already selected a The Great Gatsby sweatshirt to buy for her.

I am currently sleeping in a metal_floss tee shirt that says, “Hyperbole is the Best Thing Ever!”

Then, this afternoon I discovered that DFTBA Records is selling this shirt:

Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books by far, to the point where I once told my mom, while heavily doped up on medication, that I was going to name my children Holden and Gatsby, even if they were girls.

Of course, I don’t *need* this shirt, but I certainly predict that one will be in my possession within the next few months.

In Which Ella Wants to Kill a Groundhog and Has an Infant for a Cat

I was woken up in my least favorite way at four a.m. by screaming. It was not the most pleasant way to start the day.

Max, our self-appointed alpha cat, does this thing where he transforms from a very cuddly sweet kitty to a puffed-up, screaming fur ball of teeth and claws whenever he sees something that looks vaguely alive on the back deck. And I am nearly always the person sent in to diffuse the situation. My arms bear witness to Max’s momentary lapses in sanity.

But because it was four a.m. and I was feeling rather foggy, I put a sweatshirt (which ended up being backwards because I hadn’t bothered to turn on the light), stumbled down the stairs, wrapped Max in a towel, and started pacing around the hall, begging him to calm down so that I could go back to sleep. He ended up falling asleep on my stomach after around twenty minutes, and I dozed off shortly after, only to wake up two more times to repeat the whole cycle. It was like I have an infant for a cat.

This afternoon, I seriously debated buying a gun and shooting the groundhog that’s taken up residence in our backyard and has been the instigator for all of Max’s screaming fits. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that it’s illegal to shoot animals in your backyard, and I don’t know the first thing about firing guns. Instead, I made my dad promise to take me to a shooting range so that I could learn and found a website that sells humane traps for large vermin. Groundhog, your days are numbered, my friend.

Things I Know to Be True: The Phone Rule

I am, without a doubt, a talking on the phone master.

And I’m not talking about my ability to press buttons, something I learned how to do when I was four and my mother spent the afternoon training me how to place a call. (Once again, I am sorry, random people in D.C. who I accidentally called and promptly hung up on in a panic.)

I mean that I am very good at clamping a slowly warming phone between my shoulder and ear and talking for eons.

I’ve tried explaining this before to my mother, who looked at me as if I was touched in the head, but I’ve always felt like when you talk on the phone, you enter this other place. The only sense you get to share with the other person is hearing. So much could be going on that you’re not aware of, but it doesn’t matter because it isn’t part of the shared interaction.

You don’t have to worry about looking as professional as possible when doing work. In fact, I usually call people while I’m lying down in my bed. And if you’re telling or listening to something difficult from a friend, you don’t have to worry about body language or facial expressions–all that exists is the words. And then, there’s the tremendously fun aspect of trying to describe something so that the other person can imagine what it would be like to experience it.

Perhaps it’s because I love reading and writing so much, where you don’t get anything more than the author’s descriptions and explanations the same way you only hear the other person’a words on the other end of the line. I love the freedom of interpretation and the way you have to be both careful and creative with your word choice. It’s like improv writing, if you will.

And maybe it’s because that other place feels safer and people often let their guard down more, particularly if it’s nighttime and you’re both tired. I love the way that the phone strips away those barriers. No one can see you fidget, turn red, or tear up. It’s okay to be visibly emotional, because the other person can’t tell. Just say it.

I suppose that I’m only thinking of this now because I just spent over an hour on the phone with George and another hour before dinner with my aunt. But it’s true. The other place is close to the top of the list of The Things Eleanor Knows to be True About Her World, right under “vulnerability is the key to happiness” and above “you will always feel weirdly calm after sobbing.”

In Which Eliza And Ella Write Telegrams and Meet Authors

Authors acted STOP Got books STOP Downton STOP Rain STOP Books dry STOP telegrams are awesome STOP

– This evening as recorded in telegram format by Eliza

(It’s after midnight, and we’re a giggly mess in the train home. I’m still riding a high after having gotten to meet Barry Goldblatt (who knew who I was!!), David Levithan (who remembered my school) and Stephanie Perkins (who recognized me!!). It’s been a wonderful day for living, and Eliza and I may look vaguely drunk, despite only having imbibed mango nectar.)

Numb Ella

I find myself not caring when a few of the colleges I’ve applied to have said no. Perhaps this is just because I always file away the big things that hurt, jam them into boxes, and shove them into the attic crawl-space, never to be looked at again.

“Don’t think about it, Eleanor. It’s gone,” I tell myself, “Let it go.”

And so I make myself numb and move on. The rejection, the funeral, the sickness, the disaster passes while I look on with steely eyes and my jaw set.

The hospital nurse is surprised that I’m cracking jokes while she hooks me up to a machine for yet another test. It’s been twelve hours in the emergency room, and I’ve been strangely calm the entire time. I read about the North African Front in WWII and another tank blows up while she attaches a cord to a sticker on my ankle.

My mother is shocked that I can get through a magazine spread of children dying from a suicide bomber blowing up a café. I don’t bat an eye and comment on the framing of the shot and look up aid organizations in the region. I send Doctors Without Borders five dollars and continue reading about the attack.

Pippa is disturbed that I don’t do much crying when people die. “What’s wrong with you?” she asks, and I find myself asking the same question. It’s a free pass to be inconsolable, and I never take it. I restock the napkin holder and search for more ice, instead.

The elementary school nurse is surprised that I have been stung several times by a hornet and reacted by walking into her office, holding out my arm, and announcing, “I think it was a hornet this time. Can I have some ice?” without shedding a tear or hissing in pain. I go back outside immediately.

You just disconnect, float above it all, and never, ever think about it again with an ounce of vulnerability. I let myself fly into that second place that isn’t here and lose myself in the quiet.

But I’m not entirely deadened to emotion, that certainly is clear. I save it all for the trivial, selfish stuff. I get depressed about nothing, spend time staring at walls and lying in bed. I have panic attacks and freak out about imagined gas fumes. I cry about writing essays. I am often consumed by shame and self-loathing. Cecelia’s phone can tell you just how often I reach out to her when I’m upset. And I am also one of those saps who bursts into tears during Water.org’s videos about bring wells to impoverished people or during Matthew’s proposal in Downton Abbey.

Sometimes I ask for the balance to be switched. How much more social acceptable, easier, and moral it would be to react so extravagantly to life changing things. Let’s bring it back to zero, re-calibrate, and begin again. Please, God? If not for me, for the people I affect?

But of course that never changes. My brain came wired a certain way. I was a glum child, prone to tears and insecurities, more likely to play by myself in the corner than hang out with other children. There are infinite memories of wandering around classrooms and playgrounds at recess, lost in my own thoughts, creating narratives describing what I saw or creating stories about lives I imagined living. Why chase people across the asphalt when you can sit under the slide and pretend to live on the Prairie in 1870.

There’s my school picture from when I was four: sad faced and looking sightly away from the camera, arms folded on top of a book, the page open to a picture of an owl swooping down on a mouse. The memory of being told to smile, but instead staring past the photographer to the other children running about and playing, wondering what it would be like to join in, but knowing all the same that I wouldn’t. One more day of walking in circles, thinking and waiting for something extraordinary to happen.

I tell Cecelia that I’m feeling sad right now, and I suppose I am on some level—the allure of lying down and enjoying the silence of my bedroom is tantalizing, a sure sign of something being wrong—but I feel just fine. I’ll have heard from all of the schools within a week, and then I’ll begin to plan.

For now, I’ll think of ways to decorate a dorm room and pretend that I’m the main character in the novel I’m writing, a girl who is always like the animated, foot-in-mouth, passionate about everything Ella. I’m so very tired.

Tomorrow, we’ll go on a rollicking adventure where I’ll be the bouncy, extroverted Ella I’m half of the time. We’ll be goofy and happy together. I promise.

On another note, I learned today that lucid dreaming isn’t something that everybody does. I’ve been aware that I am dreaming and capable of waking myself up or changing the dream ever since I can remember. When I talk about waking up screaming and punching, it’s because I’m sort of physically fighting my way awake, not because I’m suddenly in a panic.

Ella and the Way too Windy Bike Ride

It was scarily windy today, the type of windy that sends trashcans flying across the street and makes large branches fall on top of roofs.

Naturally, I decided that this afternoon was the opportune time for a bike ride.

One of the ways that I motivate myself to exercise is to convince myself that I need to be as physically fit as possible so that I can survive disasters by outrunning tsunamis and bears and live by myself in the woods in case I become a character in a dystopian novel. (This same fixation is what leads me to believe that it is also imperative that I become proficient in hunting with a gun or bow and arrow (An idea that my father laughed at when I mentioned it at the dinner table).)

With this in mind, I set out. For the first three miles, I felt fabulous. Sure, it was chillier than I anticipated and I had to do some creative swerving around debris, but I was just whizzing along. I don’t think I’ve ever done this route this quickly before! I thought and continued pedaling with a very smug smile on my face,  I could keep going forever! I am never going to die from a natural disaster now!

So biked further than I usually do, enjoying the crisp air and planning out an imaginary trip to Europe. Maybe I could convince my grandmother to take me, and we could visit her childhood home in Versailles! Scotland might be nice. What about Berlin? I thought.

And then I realized that I should probably turn around. I still need to bring my weight up by at least ten pounds, so my body continues to be fairly weak. Having to constantly stop for breaks on the way home is not my idea of fun. So I did an about face and began to head back.

This is when things got weird.

Now, I bike the same route around three times a week. I know the topography and my average speeds very well. And something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but something was definitely wrong.

(Some background: When I sit at a table, I usually angle myself so that my legs are over the side of the chair rather than under the table. It’s a terrible habit, I know, and one that I try to correct, but I naturally gravitate towards sitting this way. So when I’m cruising on my bike, I end up sort of doing the same thing. I obviously can’t ride a bike side-saddle (though if they make a bike like this, I’d be very interested in giving it a go), but I will push my left leg into the body of the bike and shift my weight so that I’m more diagonal.)

After a few more seconds, it became clear that my problem was that I wasn’t sitting the way I normally do for that section of the bike ride. I was still pedaling on a portion of the road that goes downhill. And this wasn’t I-want-to-see-if-I-can-break-the-sound-barrier-on-my-bike-or-at-least-beat-that-car-to-the-mailbox pedaling, I was pedaling in order to remain upright and moving forward. When the road leveled out, it got worse. I had to change gears several times and was wobbling all over the place. The wind was blowing directly in my face and was much stronger than I had thought. All of that extra speed on my way out must have been from having the wind at my back.

The fifth time I had to put my foot down out of fear of toppling over, I just got off my bike and started that awkward and humiliating trudge back to my house, trying not to bruise my legs against the bike (an unsuccessful endeavor). Cold air was working its way up the sleeves of my jacket, and I considered sitting down on the curb and waiting to see if the wind would die down in the way that a rainstorm would. But I persevered and walked about two shin-bumping miles before finally wobbling my way back home where I discovered lawn and leaf bags sitting in the middle of the street and a very large branch in our flower bed.

Then, I got the mail, learned that I didn’t get into one of the colleges I applied to, and started researching the Silk Road just for the heck of it.

The end.

Eleanor the Laundry Fairy

Eleanor the Laundry Fairy is currently hiding under fresh sheets and trying not to drift off while she hastily types out this post. Earlier, Eleanor observed that sock matching is like playing a much more disorganized version of children’s flip-cards memory game. Sock Extravaganza 2012 was a success, leaving the household down to only five singleton socks. Pushkin has offered to claim them as his own and make a nest with them under the ottoman. In other news, falling down the stairs while carrying a laundry basket is just as exciting and painful as it sounds.

Ella and Leigh Grow Up

I went to Leigh’s this afternoon to hang out before she jetted off across the country to college. She’s lived far away for over a year and a half now, and I have to admit that it feels weird when we spend time together while we’re home. Not a bad weird, mind you, there’s just a stark difference in the people we were before she left and the people we are now.

Today, Leigh and I talked about Kony 2012, the World Bank, and diversity in STEM at her university. I don’t think that any of these subjects would have come up previously, even when we were finishing up high school. Then, conversation would be about the people we knew, performing arts, or school. And earlier while we were in middle school, we would have been running about with dolls or planning our “Knight School” (Perhaps I’ll write about Knight School in a coming post, as the whole idea and its execution was, in retrospect, equally hilarious and ridiculous.). We were so innocent and juvenile in middle school, fiercely holding on to childhood when everyone else was beginning to think about boys, clothes, and makeup. We vowed to wear black on our thirteenth birthdays to protest becoming a teenager and would loudly object if anyone used a swear word or was remotely crass within our earshot.

But over time and especially in the last two years, we’ve grown up. Our voices still sound the same, Leigh’s bedroom still has the same Gone with the Wind poster near the mirror, I still don’t swear, but we’ve lost the childish impulse to yell “llama” or blather on and on about American Girl (Leigh performed regularly in their musicals for close to three years, and I got to use her discount when purchasing stuff for my dolls—a friendship perk which I embraced wholeheartedly.). We’re calmer now, more mature, able to talk about meaningful things, and that makes me happy.

There was always that part of me that worried that as I grew up, I turn into someone younger me would have hated. Maybe I would be too rebellious (though to twelve-year-old me that meant swearing, staying up past midnight, and wearing too much black—and I’ve indulged in the second almost every night for years now) or too serious. Even worse, I might lose interest in all of the things I formerly loved. But none of that happened.

Younger me would admire older Ella and Leigh. They talk just like adults and really understand the implications of current events, but still burst out laughing if they catch each other’s eye when someone has unknowingly referenced some old inside joke or humors memory. We may no longer play with dolls, but we look back on those days fondly, and I don’t think a day will come when we won’t get over excited or obsessive about books. I really look forward to the coming years, as we continue to become real adults, with the security of knowing that the things that matter will never change.

The Hunger Games

On Wednesday at one a.m. Pippa announced that she wanted to see The Hunger Games when it came out at midnight and purchased two tickets.

Unfortunately, I was not the most enthusiastic participant in the excursion, but I went none the less, armed with a book, earplugs, and an expression of distain and superiority that would rival Lady Mary Crawley’s.

I wouldn’t say that I disliked the experience—I ended up running into Leigh and hung out before the movie started—but it wasn’t something I ever would have chosen for myself. I don’t like dystopia. Fantasy to a certain extent is fine. Have fun trying to pry my fingers away from my Harry Potter books or Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but once we get into the fascist-government-controls-everything-we-must-rebel-because-of-love-and-other-good-things type of book, you can almost always find me sneaking out through the back window.

Of course, this is not to insinuate that I look down on dystopian literature as some lesser genre. Dystopia just doesn’t suit my tastes. Some of it is spectacularly written and excellent, but I’m just not a fan of the set-up. It would take a pretty exceptional book to get me past the first few chapters (think Fahrenheit 451).

However, I will do anything to get Pippa reading, so I bit the bullet, and read The Hunger Games. And yes, it was very well paced and Suzanne Collins created interesting characters. Sadly, I couldn’t make myself fall in love with the story. Kids fighting each other to the death is never going to fascinate me. All it makes me want to do is take a class in outdoor survival and shoot guns (I figure both of these skills will also be necessary in case of a zombie invasion, so I should brush up on my campfire starting and marksmanship abilities regardless).

It’s also worth noting that I am not a big fan of movie theatres. They’re always loud, the people on the screen are huge and intimidating, and you’re stuck in your seat for over two hours. I always wear ear-plugs and spend a lot of the experience feeling anxious. Even weirder, I have trouble watching (or reading, for that matter) movies in chronological order. I prefer to get about a third in, then do the last eighth, and then the eighth before that, before returning to where I left off and watching (or reading) the whole thing through. I also have to read or be told a detailed plot description before beginning a tv show or movie. In short, I am not the ideal person to take to the cinema.

However, even though I didn’t care for the story, fell asleep for about half an hour in the middle, and felt rather anxious about not being able to pause or skip forward and backwards, I have to say that the movie was very well done and that I had an okay time. I was impressed with the CGI—the control room for the Games was superb—and Jennifer Lawrence combined the right amount of vulnerability with grit in the role of Katniss. Even better, it stayed very true to the book, and I was absolutely thrilled that Suzanne Collins was both a co-screenwriter and producer. For a adaptation, it was brilliant. I wasn’t bored the way I thought I might be.

Afterwards, Pippa and I walked home through the humidity, and Pippa worried about the safety of being outdoors at close to three a.m. I momentarily sat down in the middle of a normally busy avenue because there weren’t any cars, and I’ve always thought about doing it. And then I crawled in bed and slept for a few hours, dreaming of knife fights.

In other news, I burned my finger with acid yesterday. The skin is all white and rough, and I can’t feel it when I poke it with things. However, just like the time I lost a piece of my scalp, I will not be posting a picture. You’ll just have to believe me that it looks super cool. Well, cool for a chemical burn on an index finger.