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Adventures of an English Major
December 1, 2009 |
Some college students nowadays go out and party on their free nights. A fellow English major and I, however, find ourselves in the throes of a different kind of adventure. One time, we rode our bikes through the dark night and the rain to get to a cafe and play Scrabble, musing all the while at the poetry of the rain and the steam that drifted up from the lights.
What kind of adventures did you have as an English major in college?
The adventures I longed to have, Kelly, were those with attractive women, the sort of adventures that provide material for love sonnets or for the opening chapter of a memoiristic novel in which the protagonist, a sensitive young man (not an English major but a cowboy with excellent grammar and a gift for the poetic phrase), mourns the loss of his true love even as he turns his face toward the rising sun and the endless possibilities of tomorrow. I did not have those adventures because I had no idea how to set things in motion. I was clueless. So I sat in coffeehouses and listened to singer-songwriters and brooded. I hung around the periphery of parties. I thought long thoughts about life and death. I left the church. I played basketball and dislocated my arm. I wrote a lot and worked on the college literary magazine and imagined becoming a writer. I also imagined going to prison. And once I rode a bus to New York City and lived in a boarding house on West 19th Street and walked around, looking for things to write about. My biggest adventure was writing a long English-major letter to my draft board, refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army, and getting away with it. I'm still stunned by that one. If I'm ever in Tallahassee in the rain, I hope you and your friend will invite me to ride bikes with you. I will recite you "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now" by A.E. Housman and "A Blessing" by James Wright.