In Which Ella Gets Caught in the Rain, Tells Stories from Middle School, and Visits Cecelia at Yale

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being caught in the middle of a torrential downpour without an umbrella.

Add to that carrying a backpack, a purse, a jacket (no hood), and a bag of books, and you’d have me standing outside of a very large train station this evening, trying to figure out the next leg of my trip home.

The books, thank God, were in a plastic bag from the Yale bookstore that completely protected them from the rain, but I had nothing to cover my body or bags. I watched the leather of my purse turn dark, the padded straps and back of my backpack began to retain water, and I could only imagine what was happening to the things inside of my backpack as the wet seeped through. My shirt was sopping and sticking to my skin like an extra layer of white and blue striped epidermis, and the front of my jeans were drenched. I had decided that I wasn’t even going to think about what my hair looked like, which meant, of course, that I was entirely focussed on it.

And then once I was finally indoors again, the really misery set in. I was sopping wet, and where I wasn’t, I was damp. And all I could do was sit still and wait to dry out. Let me tell you, it takes a very, very long time for jeans to dry and even longer for backpack padding. So when I had to pick my bag back up again to walk, my dry shirt was dry no longer.

But despite the fact that traveling home was not the world’s most fun experience, the trip was entirely worth it, and I have had worse experiences in the rain.

Keeping with the tradition of saving the good news for last, I’ll first share with you one of my rain horror stories.

When I was in middle school, I took the school bus to and from school every morning and afternoon. One day, it was raining. I didn’t think much of it when it started coming down at around nine, but by ninth period I began to get a little worried. The rain had not stopped, I was not dressed for the weather (I was wearing brand new suede Puma sneakers and did not have a jacket or umbrella.), and I could see giant pools of water forming wherever there was an indentation in the ground. An uneven sidewalk seam would create a lake. But then dismissal bell rang, and I ran out of the building, racing towards the buses, along with the other seven hundred students.

At that point, my biggest concern was how wet my shoes were going to get while I ran a block and a half home. (At this point of my life, I had decided that the optimal way of traveling to and from the bus stop was to sprint, completely hunched over with a very determined scowl on my face. My backpack was neon green, and I had strapped my lunch box to it at an odd angle, and it would thump loudly as I ran. It also occasionally would smack me on top of my head. In my defense, I was doing all of this when I was twelve, and now at eighteen, I walk upright with very few signs of complete insanity.) But then the bus started driving, and I noticed that we were taking a very different route. I first panicked, thinking that I had gotten on the wrong bus, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t and the route was just wonky because there was flooding.

I live on a hill at the base of a mountain, and there was no way for the bus to get to my or anyone else’s houses. We got let out over a half mile from home and had to wade across the train track through upper-shin-deep water. I took off my shoes, put them in my lunch box, and did it in my socks. For the next ten plus minutes, I walked in the rain through water of varying depths back to my house. Did I mention that it was early March and the temperature had significantly dropped since the morning?

But in the words of my first choir master, we’ve had our onions, and now it’s time for the orchids. (He said this when giving us reviews of our weekly performances in church. When I first heard it at the age of nine, I couldn’t understand what was wrong with onions. They’re in practically everything you cook! How were they somehow evil? And then my mother had me chop one myself, and my view entirely changed.)

But back to the present.

I got to see Cecelia! Albeit, it wasn’t even for twenty-four hours, but I’ll take whatever I can get. We walked all over campus yesterday afternoon as she gave me the grand tour of Yale.

Now, I have been to Yale a lot. It’s my parents’ alma mater, but seeing it from Cecelia’s eyes is entirely different, and to be perfectly frank, quite a bit more fun. We checked out the farm to visit the salad greens she had planted and explored her residential college. I met her incredibly nice and funny roommate. We ate dinner at my mother’s favorite New Haven restaurant and split a piece of carrot cake, only to eat double scoop ice cream cones five minutes later.

Later, we spent well over an hour in the Yale bookstore where I had the most awful time narrowing down my I-CANNOT-LEAVE-HERE-WITHOUT-IT list down to two: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. And then we watched a movie, which in typical fashion, meant that Cecelia fell asleep about fifteen minutes in.

The next morning, we had breakfast in a bookstore and went to the Yale Art Gallery. I have been having a torrid love affair with their third floor modern art exhibit for many years now, and this Ellsworth Kelly painting and I had a very happy reunion.

(If you ever have the chance, visit the Yale Art Gallery’s modern art collection. It is phenomenal.)

Sadly, after that I had to leave. But the Yale-Harvard game isn’t too far away, so I’ll be back soon.

In other news, I get to see Tal and hopefully Lily tomorrow! There might even be some visiting with Audrey! Long live trains and colleges’ fall weekends!

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Falls in Love with Happiness

I have blisters on my feet, my eyes are seeing double, and I’m so tired I could fall asleep without a pillow on the kitchen’s tiled floor.

But none of that matters.

I had the most terribly perfect, horribly wonderful, and awfully amazing day today. There were books and there were parks and there was shopping and there was walking and there was modern art and there was meeting some of my literary idols. Libba Bray and I had a conversation so awesome that it nearly made me cry later on when I was walking back to the subway. On the train home, I figured out part of my novel that I had been struggling with and was suddenly struck by an idea for another book. And now, I’m in bed with my beloved laptop ready to relish the night and darkness before I go to sleep.

Every year, I have a few days like this, where nothing in the world goes wrong and everything just feels good. It doesn’t last, but, in a way, I don’t want it to. It wouldn’t be as lovely if everyday were perfect. It’d just be a monotony of joy. I want my happiness to be shocking, like ice water on a hot day or an unexpected present. And that’s what today was: a genuine surprise of wonderful.

But I am tired and babbling. My eyes keep drifting shut, and I feel the urge to hum a long, contented “mmhm” until I run out of breath. So I will. I’ll be just like a purring cat or a dog thumping his tail or a rabbit doing whatever weird happy thing rabbits do.

Mmhm. Happy.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I Have Found a New Wonderful Thing to Love

I have found a new wonderful thing to love.

Blue Over Orange (Ellsworth Kelly)

Isn’t it lovely?

I just want to sit down on the floor in front of it and stare and stare and stare until it’s closing time in the museum, and I have to leave. Maybe I’ll stay there, seated Indian-style on the floor and they’ll have to grab me by my arms and drag me across the floor, my clothes and hair becoming a dust mop, as I strain my neck to keep eye contact with the blue and the orange and the white.

But it isn’t in a museum. Someone bought it for nine thousand five hundred dollars in an auction in 2007. Someone else gets to keep this beautiful, wonderful, perfect thing just for themselves. And I can only download the lithograph from Google Images.

I wonder if they love it as much as I do, if they’d let themselves become a dust mop, just so that they could have a few more moments of staring.

Probably not.

They’re most likely modern art collectors, but I don’t even know if it’s because they love it or if they want to impress their friends, relatives, neighbors, business associates at their cocktail party where they position the picture so that everyone will see it and know that they had nine thousand dollars to spend on art, which of course, means that they are quality, important people.

But for now I’ll just continue staring at my computer screen until my eyes become even more uncomfortably bloodshot. If I turn down the brightness, I can have another ten minutes of quiet meditation before it’s time to read poetry and turn in for the night. Maybe tonight when I dream, I’ll have this painting all to myself if only for a little while.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.