Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Folder

1:25 in the morning I woke up to the burning bile in the back of my throat, the pungent taste of work undone. I have been gathering papers since then: transcripts, birth certificates, passports.

It amazes me how a single folder, worth no more than a couple of dollars at the stationary store, just a set of card paper folded and pocketed that one can carry without noticing, is large enough to contain a life.

Along with most people, I keep all my "important documents" (even though this sounds like an oxymoron) in one place, that I may easily dash out with in case of a fire. And like most people, I don't open that folder unless absolutely pushed to do it.

Like a lot of people, I call this The Folder.

Maybe the hour had something to do with it, but facing The Folder felt like one of those times when in the silence and solitude of an endless moment, a recognition, realization, an unveiling descends and no words could articulate it if it was to be recalled and explanation attempted.

The first thing that met me when I opened the folder was my will; then I worked backwards through the breaking of my marriage, birth of my child, various transcripts as I had tried to find a niche in a world I'd immigrated to, the numerous recommendation letters I'd moved with (concrete good will, as I used to call them), my marriage certificate, transcripts, dissertation copies, school records, and finally at the very end, tucked away in the pocket of that folder, a birth certificate.

I have been asked to provide copies of transcripts and I have an impending international journey, both of which force me to confront The Folder, a confrontation, which, I must confess feels like meeting a self in a mirror that one keeps carefully concealed behind a thick curtain.

My M. Phil. dissertation focused on the image of the woman in fiction and predictable soul that I am, I'd named it "Mirror, Mirror." Ever since then, I've found every reflection a bit unsettling, like acknowledging and owning an older, less recognizable being as self, like suddenly recognizing a doppelganger on a lonely walk. My neatly tied up resolution to the dissertation does not translate itself into more accepting, healthier reflections in my reality, especially those reflections that include a movie of my entire life as I look to my death.

Now here I am, reflecting, yet again, an hour later, my paper work addressed, The Folder put away.

I am trying to calm myself down enough to catch a couple of hours' rest before the mad rush of my day begins. I am trying to read The Ramayana, trying to get a cosmic perspective, trying to convince myself that of course I matter, that there is more richness, complexity, feeling, relevance to my existence than can be contained in a cheap folder shut away in a drawer.

The Folder awaits, in sure knowledge that what I feel for it is immaterial, that it may be a discomfort now, but that the awareness of its being is also the reason I've had many restful nights, and that it shall be the loudest proclamation of who I was when it is time for it to be opened by my survivors.

Unlike me, The Folder needs no other validations or acceptances.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Time Out

I have been contemplating the idea of time, lately. Constructing and respecting a time frame has been one of the many challenges I've had with my writing. I don't, of course, include my poems in this worrisome category, since they exist out of all time frames.

I try, very hard, as I am constructing a world, to stay as close as possible to the way reality works, in order for the fictional world to be easily recognizable. However, time is one concept that has been so difficult to frame. The last three weeks, for instance, have been packed with so much that needed to be taken care of, that even attempts at prioritizing seemed ridiculous, and ultimately, only whatever I had the time for, got taken care of. The rest awaits.

If I am unable to manage my work and time to handle my real expectations and responsibilities, how can I presume to manage a fictional time frame?

As if to reinforce my failures, now, almost all the clocks in my house have stopped telling the real time. It seems to defy logic, but suddenly, in tandem, the two clocks in the living room and kitchen stare belligerently and blankly, refusing to move their hands, even though they both continue to tick in some kind of a cosmic mockery.

The other two clocks take turns running 10 minutes ahead and 5 minutes behind, so I never get a clear view of my temporal compasses.

My friends just laugh it off, saying I need to make the time to change all their batteries, shaking their heads at my neurotic fear of a cosmic sign, full of foreboding. Of course, I can hear how uncomfortable and uneasy their laughter is, tinged with obvious relief, thank heavens this is not happening to them.

This is exactly how time has been treating my fictional world as well: I needed a story to be contained within a morning, but it seems to want to go farther back, years back, even, trace itself to its present moment, resisting all confinement the unity of time demands of me.

I have shelved that story for the time being, and have begun another one with less rigid time-constraints. Of course, that one is taking too long to reach where it needs to.

As a child, when I first began writing, I used to begin at the climax of the plot and weave people, events, feelings, objects around it, like a quilt. This practice, of course, is one of the greatest qualifiers of my efficiency as an instructor of thesis statements, and it has drawn me so close to quilting as a hobby (when I have the time).

Maybe that's the practice I need to go back to? But no; doing things the same way feels a little nauseous, as though no matter how much I walk, I don't get any farther, rather like using a treadmill than walking to a grocery store. That is one of the fears I have: to produce by rote so that I explore no new lands within myself.

Maybe the time is merely out of joint and I just need to wait to right itself back?

I could be feeling this temporal dislocation because I shall have made two international trips in three and half months. I shall have lost and gained so many days, hours, the very prospect defeats my every effort at controlling and managing the times I live in between those trips.

One of my students claims someone owes him a Saturday. He lost it somewhere between the two coasts of this huge continent and wonders if it means that he will live a day less. Fortunately, since we were in a Fairytale class, I could assure him he'd be awarded his lost Saturday in a chthonic package, either in a Dream, during a Journey, or a in similar archetypal time-frame.

However, once I left the class-room (and the space-time of Fairytales), I've wondered about my lost time too.

I sincerely hope that I, too, get these weeks back in some way, since they too, are what I'd log in as "lost."

Of course, that begs the question: What exactly is found time, then?