Out of Focus Calendar
Updated: Feb 19
By Judy Xie
I began the day by trying to unvisit it or yesterday or the weeks that came before it. For so long I have wanted for us to freeze in a moment. To just pause and be.
Everything is so different now. In public, your head is always covered and you feel the creeping suspicion—even more so now—that someone is watching. You are probably right. But I wish this would not stop you from being. It does.
This morning I decided my face over Zoom does not matter much. So I spend five minutes of Lit Hum making strange ones. Yesterday a girl told me she noticed that I was always taking my hat on and off and on and touching my hair and braiding and on.on.on. I wonder if she noticed the funny faces. Zoom has made things unexciting almost enough for me to miss high school. Which makes me miss you again. Mostly I think it is just you. Instead of saying you are crazy dear: You used to say—these are just things you do. Like driving poorly or turning right on red in Boston. Where nowhere no one tells you not to except the blaring horns and slamming breaks around you. You never notice anything wrong. This is just how you are. Until you arrive in Cambridge or the town 10 minutes down from Cambridge (so basically Cambridge). And you feel that you are still that same person but you are not. Calling has become very hard. I have met someone. Today, I plastered baking soda on his nose. He sees me differently.
I began the day by asking Mom if I can stay home from school: She does not see the irony in this. Instead she checks my temperature, and I roll over. When I was a kid (still am), it was dangerous to be seen. Some days I was certain of my body’s slow decay- smells of the dried spit and fust crush of my hair. I was also certain that ghosts lay hermited in my shoulders: specifically because that was where I was always cold. I haven’t felt this way in days or months, and I think this must be a good thing or it must be summer or I have not forgotten to be a living thing. Sometimes I am convinced that the battery life on my phone is a reminder that I am a living thing—with living people and living and living.
I am two hours late to meet my friend. I apologize profusely for each hour that I hold off. When I see them I swear I have never seen anything more beautiful. The way he is framed in the field and the marsh and the light. There are blue and yellows and of course he is clothed in all black. One color. I remember the face of one person and then another and another. I tell myself it has to stop at two (otherwise it is no longer real or beautiful). Three if I can will it. When I stare at him, he looks almost in tears. We share this.
We sit on a park bench. The plan was to read but instead he takes out a pen and marks my arm haphazardly with dashes. He tells me about the parchment he keeps on his dorm wall where he marks down ideas and thoughts and everything that just won’t shut up. The other day he destroyed himself, slathered his lips in Hershey’s Kisses and then kissed the wall—and inscribed his lips. I ask if he is okay. He does not respond. We take turns drawing lines on his arm. We make a person. We take turns drawing letters. We make a name: Rambugey.
I begin the day with the sweep and blur of red-brake lights beyond our wipers as we pull up slowly to the speed bump. This is where I went to elementary school, and this high school, and this the hill I lost my kiss-virginity on. It’s all here: 50-mile radius to a bump. With this, you turn to me with your pointer finger raised and press it solidly against my forehead and I go backwards as you accelerate forwards. The back of my head bounces off the car-seat by your finger or physics—I do not know. But I’m sure you do. You deny this across the dinner table.
We are driving down a road or highway. I am convinced that every road is now I-89 with your hands on the wheel. You don’t do anything flashy like drive with your knees or spin the wheel super fast and wink there’s no–
I like to live dangerously or you scared darling?
You are just driving & I find… I like this. We make two stops.
An overlook. With the landscape stretched before us where the only walls are punched clear of my held breath. Here, I inhale the air like possibility. I did it in enthusiasm to forget my body was still there, still a solid thing. Because in front of us it felt like the world was opening up in vast caverns of green and green like a sea to fall into and I wanted this to keep.
It gets dark, and the airbnb we stay in has no A/C or Wifi and there is nobody, nothing out here except the stars and the cows. But it’s enough.
I lean back against the splintered—step and look up at the sky, an elbow to prop up my torso—I turn to you and say—
“Out there is a time-capsule version of us.”