Tuesday, December 24, 2013
I am getting yet another conduct lecture from Amy Ting, a Taiwanese-American student of mine. She is at the end of her rope, exhausted from her self-appointed task of keeping me in check.
In this instance, she is frustrated with me for wearing a hat made of newspaper and shoving poorly drawn kittens down the front of my shirt.
Here is another picture:
It is a little puppy I found, made out of shells.
I look at his face, and all I can see is an unfortunate soul with hypertrichosis.
The googly eyes make it worse; they roll around panicked, independent of each other. You can see the animal fear beneath the slow suffocation of the shells.
Let me out, it pleads. All I can hear is the ocean.
Amy's diagnosis is an elusive one, stuffed with acronyms. There is OCD, ASD, CI, a bit of CP in the feet; sort of a disability melting pot.
I've been trying to write this post about Amy Ting for weeks now.
It's not unique or especially intricate or really anything at all.
She does not die at the end.
When I start writing, my Creative Brain blows me a razzberry and toodles away into the sunset. I really hate that guy sometimes.
So I start again: about how I have the bad habit of singing to myself all the time, I mean, really singing, like with emotion and longing.
I think it's the longing that eventually got to Amy Ting.
She first heard me singing and could not praise me enough. It was all about my talents, my gifts.
"Dats so great, Mi-ike, you're using your talents, your special abilities." Amy made me feel good, like a vocal powerhouse. But, just as quickly, she snatched it away.
"Enough singing now. Nope nope nope, that's enough." I gave it a minute and started up again, but she would not have it.
"What I tell you about that singing, Mike? What I tell you?EEEE-NUFF!" She sliced the air with the flat of her hand and hissed at me.
I tried redirecting her by asking questions about her life. My hope was that if I got her talking, I could resume singing in the background and she would not even notice. I really needed to finish that song.
"What does your dad do?"
"He play tennis."
"Who does he play against?"
"Opponents. Tennis opponents."
Here I had to be careful. Amy's silliness meter was finely tuned, and if she intuited, even slightly, that I was not being serious, she would shut the whole thing down.
"Do you play any instruments?"
"I play violin. I did. But everybody laughed at me-" Uuuuah! I just died in your arms tonight, musta been something you said-
"and then my Dad, he put away the printer and he say 'no more printing those ladies pictures, no more Amy' Hrmy hrmy lie all around me, who would of thought was a boy like this hermanaa-uuah! I just died-
"and I hid in the closet say no more fighting mom and dad, stop all that fighting-" dirty dirty, the cat's in the cradle
"-now she only talk to me at Christmas...MI-IKE! What I tell you????!?!"
Here is something they don't teach you at no four year college: when you get older, you will occasionally find yourself awash in unexpected tears.
Why does aging free the fluids from all the openings in your body? I need a vacuum sealed, full body diaper to keep my empire together these days.
I found this little music box piano at my least favorite thrift store, the always crowded, foul-smelling one.
Take a look:
It's got an American flag on it, and a badly mangled excerpt from the lyrics to "Piano Man" printed on its lid.
But when I wound it up and let it play, I started crying in the store, holding this ridiculous piano in one hand and a sound activated band of rock'n'roll frogs titled "The Green Machine" in the other.
Perhaps it was age, or the season.
Perhaps it was the sudden thought that I can never go anywhere again without a tin of Altoids tucked away in one of my pockets. My breath has just gotten to that point. People no longer wonder what I ate; they wonder how long I have to live.
"Hey Mike! It's snowing! Like that song!", Amy Ting announces, as we walk from the cafeteria back to class beneath a light flurry of snow.
It's one of those picturesque snowfalls that seem to hush the world for a moment, an hour before there is too much of the stuff, crashing cars all over the highway and inspiring people to shake their fists angrily up at God.
Amy starts to sing. Her voice trembles as it rises.
I can't quite pin down the tune; kind of a "Happy Birthday" that's been slapped around a little and then told gruffly to pick itself up off the floor.
"Oh my god it's snowing-it's snowing," she sings, "Oh Lord it's snowing down down oh god in the snow."
We stand outside the classroom building for a little while, watching the sky. Judging from the horrified tone of her lyrics, I guessed that Amy was not a big fan of snow.
"No, I don't like it," she tells me. "I don't like that snow. It's too snowy."
She spoke about a lot of things in that way, disliking or dismissing them for being too much themselves.
"I don't like macaroni and cheese. It's too cheesy."
"I don't like that Sleeping Beauty. It's too sleepy."
What is the tune that music box piano plays? I can't place it.
I asked Amy what she was doing for Christmas.
She cleared her throat for a good minute before answering.
"We're not having Chinese food, no we're not."
A handsome high school boy gets on the bus and sits next to her. Amy has this coy, theatrical flirt of a giggle she does when around good-looking men. It is a lot of "Well, hee hee, yes, sooooo.....tee hee...well now.."
He seems friendly enough, and he speaks warmly to her. I encourage Amy to ask him what his plans for Christmas are.
Before I am barely finished speaking, she is already scolding me with great contempt.
"I ALREADY TOLE YOU-WE'RE NOT HAVING DA CHINESE FOOD!"
The young man's eyes kind of bulge out, and he unsubtly places his trumpet case between himself and Amy.