You dreamed too big for yourself; you didn’t dare to dream smaller.
You imagined your hand being held across the street, a warm hand on your lower back to guide you through a dim restaurant. You made him grandiose, the love of your life, the biggest dream man too big to fit into any man’s shoes, and so you touch somebody else’s spouse or look at a man you’ve been obsessing over, a man who doesn’t know you exist. You dreamed too big. You didn’t dream yourself small enough to fit hip-to-hip in a kitchen on Sunday, drinking coffee and reading the paper and messy and imperfect. You didn’t dream small enough.
You painted friends against the backdrop of your life, over drinks on Friday and brunch on Saturday and you didn’t dream small enough to know that they’d have babies and disappear for six months, you didn’t dream small enough to realize that a lot of people will get drunk with you but not everyone will watch you cry, very very sober, in your living room when even the traffic has stilled outside. You will make friendships bigger than stories that begin with being wasted into the biggest version of yourself. You didn’t dream small enough.
You dreamed success in broad strokes, promotions and publications and your name in everybody’s favorites list. You did not see yourself hunched over the small failures, the small hours of pettiness and meekness and not speaking up for yourself and working at it, and working at it, and working at it, and watching yourself change — you might have suspected that this would be your biggest success, the cultivation of your deepest self — but you didn’t dream small enough.
1. My twelfth birthday party was a sleepover. In the morning, my dad left for a little bit while we were still giggling in our sleeping bags and came back with a pink box full of doughnuts. When he opened the box, my friends all grabbed donuts, and one of them took the one that was meant for me — my favorite — a donut with chocolate filling and chocolate icing covered in chocolate chips. Nobody said anything as she bit into it, the filling oozing onto her fingers. Later, my parents said that it was sweet of me to let her have it.
2. In French class, the teacher asked me to read a passage aloud from Frankenstein. I stumbled through the sentences, ears growing pink. After I’d finished, the teacher looked at me for a moment and said, “You know, you’d have such a lovely reading voice if it weren’t for that awful American accent of yours.”
3. In my high school there was a huge staircase that went up to the second floor. In the mornings, it got really congested right as the bell rang and students moved from one classroom to another. One morning I tripped and fell right in front of my crush. He laughed, his friends laughed, and my friends laughed. I laughed all the way into a bathroom stall and then I wasn’t laughing anymore.
4. My other American friends and I rode bikes to school the first year we lived in France. The other kids in school made fun of us and a group of them used to follow each one of us home on their own bikes, yelling mean things in a spattering of broken English. One day, all of our bike seats had been stolen.
5. A girl I looked up to told me that I wasn’t friendly enough, that I should be more outgoing if I wanted to have friends.
6. I wrote a love letter to a boy once (ill-advised) and he wrote me back and told me that the fact I liked him made him sick.
7. My French philosophy teacher asked me if I had a religious background and then called me the Virgin Mary.
8. I was late to history class one day and my teacher wrote a note for my parents to sign. It was the only time I’d been late, but she wrote, “Your student does not show the proper discipline in class.” She wrote the same note in all of my friends’ books, but I was so ashamed I could barely pay attention in class.
9. My English teacher asked me, during almost every class, if I could correct any mistakes she had made. I couldn’t say no but it was so embarrassing to be singled out in front of my classmates. I got called “teacher’s pet”.
10. Another English teacher reveled in giving me less than perfect grades on simple tests because he didn’t want me to “forget I was the student”.
11. In my junior high one of the boys drew a picture of girls giving him blow jobs and showed them to me and said that he wanted me to be his girlfriend so he could say he’d been with an American girl.
12. One of my friends in junior high, a tiny perfect French girl, said I had fat arms because I probably ate too much McDonald’s when I lived in the States. I was too ashamed to wear short sleeves or tank tops for a few years after that, no matter how hot it got in the summer.
If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready.’
Anonymous asked: Do you and the other This Recording writers get together regularly for cake and to discuss business?
Yes. Only in my fantasies, but yes.
It’s a little bit like the famed question, “If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive” and that first act in Caryl Churchill’s play Top Girls where a group of (in)famous women in history gather to gab over drinks and dinner. I always imagine the people I admire and respect and love the most sitting around a table, gossiping and sharing ideas and splitting a cheese plate.
like carry-ons: surreptitious enough to hide under your
seat best prose, elegant enough to be worth a second glance, able to fit into the overhead compartment tone of your piece.
person paragraph, unless your trip it is going to be very long.
We had decided not to visit any museums when we were in New York, mostly because we didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time indoors. And—I am overwhelmed by art museums, especially large ones, because there is so much to see and generally, so very little time, especially if you want to see anything else. However, everyone we talked to recommended that we visit the Cloisters, so on our first day in the city we took the A train all the way up to Washington Heights and climbed the serpentine, tree-lined path to the museum.
I’m a bit of a mystic, for lack of a better word, so I find the Middle Ages enthralling. I loved the hour we spent perusing the quiet, meditative rooms. Even if you’re not a fan of religious art and architecture, you can’t help but be spellbound by the peace in this place, a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Not to mention that the Unicorn tapestries live here; they’re worth a subway trip on their own.
No book is dangerous in and of itself. A book is only a collection of words in a certain order, pages, screens, a sequence of ideas. Ideas alone can never hurt us. People only make ideas dangerous by fearing and hating them, and by vilifying and persecuting those who disagree with them. In this way, the association of a writer with his ideas can be very dangerous, even deadly. You stand a reasonably good chance of denying ever having read a book, but it’s a great deal harder to hide from having written one.
What a pretty little life I’ve stumbled upon while trying to escape my own.
Kara is a writer who lives in Chicago, drinks tea, and falls asleep at parties. She is the managing editor of This Recording and an arts & culture contributor at Gapers Block. She occasionally tweets.
She was honored to be included in Business Insider’s list of “The Best Young Writers on the Internet”.
She has also contributed to FLAUNT magazine, The Facets Magazine and she was a featured writer at The Juvenilia.