Greetings from Mr. Ella’s Father

Ella has invited me to confront the tyranny of the blank screen and blinking cursor while she attacks her latest English assignment, writing a sonnet. I remember a few writing assignments from my own senior year of high school. Once, after a series of assigned poems by Donne and Shakespeare, I tried my hand at the fourteen-lined beast. I recall an attempt to satirize the motives of 16th century scribbling swains, ending with a line something like : ‘or better try immortalizing girls.’ At least I could handle iambic pentameter. And wouldn’t “The Scribblin’ Swains” make a great nickname for an elite northeastern liberal arts college? But I digress.

Poetry can be troublesome stuff. I recall writing another sonnet in high school, an ’80s update of ‘come live with me and be my love…” The notion that “we could all the pleasures prove” (I’m paraphrasing from memory) was a pretty enticing image for a prep school boy, and I gave it a mod twist, part Mick Jagger, part Elvis Costello. My teacher found it clever – especially given that it was done for fun, not as an assignment. I tucked it away until Freshman year of college, when once again sonnets were on the menu. I was so proud of my sonneteering that I slipped a handwritten copy of that HS come-hither ode into one of the last essays I submitted to my first semester instructor. And thought nothing further of it.


Just a week or so into the next semester I received a surprising handwritten invitation to tea — from my first semester English instructor. Did I mention she was young? And, as luck would have it, female? I responded to the invitation and arrived at her campus apartment at the appointed hour. We sat down and chatted. I opted for the Early Grey, no sugar. We chatted a bit more. Then she pulled out the sonnet. I recall she seemed to suddenly adopt a coquettish demeanor, quite unlike her classroom presence. “You know,” she began, “this is quite lovely, but I suppose you realize I’m married.”

“Yes, of course,” I replied, still too slow to grasp the situation. “That was just something I wrote in high school. It has a second part I didn’t show you, after she turns him down and he’s all like ‘the hell with you, I never liked you anyway.'” She looked a bit crestfallen. Slowly the light dawns. “Oh, but you thought….”

“Lets just enjoy our tea, shall we?”

Sure thing, Ms. Professor, let’s do just that.

Ok, so that’s the substitute blog post from Dad. Sonnets are fun, but they can get you into trouble. So wear protective headgear.

On Homework, Coffee Shops, and Putting a Girdle Round About the Earth in Forty Minutes

So once again I find myself at Starbucks doing homework. And once again, this method is mostly working.

I was writing my journal entry on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I adore; I’ve got my pencil in my hand, and it’s the nice  mechanical type, with lead so thin it never wares down to a dull, flat edge; I’m writing; and it’s just easy. There’s the pencil, the wide-ruled notebook paper, the neatly organized binder, and me. Of course, Cecelia is on the other side of the table, typing away as she works on her French Lit assignment to design a Facebook profile for one of the characters in a Molière play. But I felt undeniably alone–not lonely, just happily alone–and calm in the crowded, loud, coffee-aroma-filled Starbucks. I had all the answers and they were just flowing down my arm into my hand and marching across the paper as my pencil moved, creating words in my neat handwriting, as the bottoms of the letters slurred together because I couldn’t be bothered to fully pick up the pencil in between letters.

Of course this perfection didn’t last forever, it never does, but I live for moments like those. Because there are only so many of them, and they are rare for me. Suddenly, I had the reigns for once, and the horses were walking at a nice, dignified pace. But the horses soon spooked, and I freaked out. Partially, this was the result at looking at the grades I got on the multiple-choice parts of my midterms and the stress of trying to write an essay with the added nerves of medication changes, vast loads of make-up work, and my post-graduate application sitting in an admissions office.

But I calmed down again after emailing Cecelia (who, yes, was just sitting across from me, but I didn’t want other people to hear us talking about it) and got back down to business. I didn’t feel the same way that I did when I was writing about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I did getting things done without tears or hyperventilating. So, you know, I think that, all in all, it was a job well done.

(Oh my goodness, commas. When will I figure them out?)

A Midwinter Night’s Nap

Lately, I’ve been having this problem where I fall asleep for an hour in the middle of doing my homework. I did it on Friday when I had an assignment that had to be submitted electronically before midnight; I did it on Sunday when I was trying to read my psych textbook; and I did it today when I was in the middle of Act I of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which I keep saying and writing like “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” for some insane reason). I think I must have been taking the dreaming part of the title too seriously.

When this happened on Sunday and Friday, I woke up, thought, oh geez, and got back to work. But that didn’t happen this evening. I must have drifted off a little after five forty, and when I woke up at six thirty-two, I thought that it was tomorrow morning and that I was running horribly, horribly late. However, one, it was quite clearly six thirty-two in the evening and two, if it was six thirty-two in the morning, I would only be two minutes behind schedule. I had just loaded up my backpack and was dashing upstairs to shower, when I decided to check my phone to see if it needed to charge a little. It didn’t, but it did tell me that it was six thirty-seven in the EVENING and not the morning. Needless to say, I felt like an idiot.

Clearly, I need to stop studying in bed and learn to actually look–not glance–at a clock before I start to panic about time.