Kurt Vonnegut, who survived the bombing of Dresden, still has the ability to make me laugh with his writing. John Dewey, who grieved the death of his two children, is read by many as a philosopher of social hope. Both Vonnegut and Dewey, in different ways, still rely on community relations, on jokes, to promote the idea of hope for humanity and this to me is an example of beauty overcoming death. Another reason why I read Vonnegut and John Dewey is because I now respect those who survived tragedy and can write about hope, about communities, and those who can still be funny, kind, despite their personal tragedies.
Tonight after class I had to walk back to my car, which I stupidly left parked in a far away church to avoid parking fees. I played this game with myself where I had to come up with one statement on which all of us: everybody I know and have ever known, could agree upon. Was about to come up with the first universal statement ever pronounced, but it was dark and I stepped on a piece of glass from a broken beer bottle, before I could utter my statement. I was wearing flip-flops and my foot began to bleed lightly. And the universal statement turned out to be a short utterance revealed in this declaration “FUCK!” So maybe that is what we might all agree upon: That besides hope, and community, there is a universal statement linked to tragedy. In the sense that in some way or another, in a greater or lesser degree, everybody, rich, poor, queer, straight, black, white, get’s fucked over.
A professor today asked me why is it that I want to go to graduate school in philosophy and I answered him with the sad, sad truth: “Because I’m not good at anything else!” He smiled with approval: “That was the answer I was looking for!” he said to me.
But the other response I had debated on was “Because I am getting old and fucked over too much, and I need to take a break from all of it by validating myself with the only philosophy graduate program that accepted me, which happens to be a good program too.”
Except that between those two statements, the one that is truer is “I am not good at anything else.”
My mother’s first husband was “disappeared” during the dictatorship years in Argentina, but whenever my sister and I used to ask her about him, she always changed the narrative to a motorcycle accident. This is another reason why I love my mother so much, because she can turn painful events into fictional narratives. When I was going through an emotional crack-up last summer, I asked her how did she ever survive the pain of loss, and she told me something that I will never forget: “All you do Carolina, to survive the pain of a loss, is survive the pain of a loss.”
Years after her first husband’s death, my uncle committed suicide by drinking rat poison, and was found dead in his bed the next morning. My mother, who has learned to write for survival, who never went through an emotional crack up, gracefully got up to go to work the next day, and did not cry one tear when she found out about this. And that's all you do folks. All I've learned about survival, I learned from mom.
When my older sister was twenty-two she did not miss a day of work either. But she was one hour late the morning after her abortion, because she figured that she would not make it to pay her rent if she missed a day of work. She also figured that the external bleeding would be less painful if she ignored it and kept herself busy with other matters related to survival. My beautiful older sister, who can now afford to have children of her own, always tells me that she would have loved to be a better painter. Interestingly, my sister was always way too mature for her age and yet paints like a child trapped inside the canvas. Beauty can only stand up like a child, against the ghosts of death.
My friend Hannah somehow finds me funny, mostly because of my moves on the dance floor. But also because we can both relate to stupid Indie experiences we’ve had with people of the opposite sex.
For example, I want to end this monologue with the image of a boy wearing either low cut jeans, or a hoodie, or he might have a skate with him. The girl is also wearing a hoodie. It is raining outside and they both wait for it to stop, probably at the Common Market. The girl has an ipod and she is listening to Patti Smith, and the boy asks her “what are you listening to?” The girl says “Patti Smith!” and the boy gets closer, takes one earphone from her ear, and puts it in his ear. They are now listening to Patti Smith together, one earphone each, and outside it is pouring rain. This is another “Indie Moment” in my imaginary domain of our lame Charlotte love life. The one we’ve all experienced once or twice in this town, the one we are all embarrassed to tell other people about. I don't know what this scene has to do with anything else I've just written, except to say that stupidity and late maturity, can also overcome the ghosts of deaths. But I'm not that sure about this one.