169 tagged with #daily

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in the fifth grade, we had to fill out a page in a daily assignment book by copying down the notes from the morning chalkboard. part of our class check-in was a spot examination from the teacher that a parent had signed off each page the night before; my mother didn't understand the point of this exercise, and my father often ignored it, and i couldn't adequately explain it. we'd forget some nights, and if someone was home in the morning they'd scrawl a name on their way to work, while i was still asleep. some days, i'd just be docked points for failing to complete the assignment.

once, i didn't want to bother my parents anymore, so i folded a page from an earlier day and slipped some scratch paper under it, running the letters over and over again until the hand felt embedded in my own. i rubbed graphite over the backside of a sheet with their signature and make an impression by firmly tracing over the ink, leaving a light mark on a blank sheet, which i would ink over, then erase the graphite.

'just sign it for me,' my mother started telling me, too tired from her new job to lift a pen. so i did, and sweated the first time i passed inspection at school.

one day, my teacher noticed these strange graphite scribbles on the back of an assignment, and frowned. 'what's this?' she asked accusingly; i shook my head with my mouth shut. i knew enough from previous disciplinary run-ins with her that when she had that tone of voice, everything i did was bad and nothing i could say would redeem myself, 'okay, be that way,' she growled; in that day's signature block, she left a note for my parents: SEE PREVIOUS DAY.

the intention was for my parents to see her note while signing my page, flip to the previous day, see evidence of my forgery, and they would have the conversation with me that she wanted to avoid. i took my book home, forged my parents' signature next to her note, and wrote 'OKAY' under it.

the way i sign my surname now still looks like my father's hand.

13 February 2018 21:27


i didn't realize that we'd been blanketed by snow until the sun woke me by lancing brilliantly through the eaves towards my head, energized by the reflection off streets, trees, roofs. and even then, i blinked through the glare and didn't understand why the rectangle was bright, why i couldn't see the scraggly limbs across the way, why the colors were warm instead of dingy.

it was quiet. i couldn't hear tires struggling to produce traction, or plows scraping the ice, or the drips of slipping snowbanks. i couldn't hear the confused birdsong, the urgent gusts.

on days like this, i cannot bear to be the first to break the silence.

12 February 2018 23:09

heavy fog

at just past noon, not enough light slips through the fog to get to my windows; i mistake it for dusk. i can hear the past few days of snowpack sliding down the gutters, along the channels i cut towards the drains so we wouldn't be flooded out.

hours later, when i'm returning from errands, i pass through a slight dip in the road. the fog pools there, swept through the trees and rows of houses. it clogs my eyes and nose, smelling like confusion. crows pass overhead, the beating of their wings stirring the air; i hear and feel them more than anything else. i trip over mud i didn't see.

i don't understand this weather. this weather is real.

11 February 2018 19:55


it's a restless urge in me, this time of year, every year. i noticed once that a drive to clean, purge, excise, and generally tie off loose ends always hits me between january and february. it's a thing that is signaled by the coming of a new year, often; my mother doesn't understand why i seem to take some chinese traditions as strongly as i do.

i don't have any conscious memories of being taught these habits, but maybe they were impressed on me. maybe it's just a stirring that reaches me when we're partway through the winter, when the other end of year/end of semester/holiday crush settles down, and i realize i was putting off sorting my mail, organizing my finances, restocking the larder.

this year, i made a pass at several boxes i've been dragging around through three, four, five moves; a shoebox full of art supplies, a banker's box full of notebooks, a beer case full of clothes i'll never wear again. i asked an old friend if she wanted to help me use up something i hoarded from our adolescence. i pulled blank sheets from the ends of unfinished notebooks to rebind into fresh notebooks. i threw out dried markers.

and then, in what i thought was an unrelated effort, i started combing through my collected email across the past decade of account updates, freelance, friends lost and gained, travel notes, coursework, rejections, windfalls. how much do i really need to save? what do i lose by refusing to move any of it? i have always kept my inbox as close to empty as possible, but i know that there are phrases i can search for that will instantly give me years' worth of personal history in one glance. do i want that? do i need that?

last year, i realized there was no reason for me to keep a three-inch thick stack of utility bills from several houses prior. it costs physical space to store it, physical energy to move it; it was easy to justify feeding that to the shredder.

i crushed several dozen old CDs of backups onto one microSD card, tucked into an empty film canister that i can sink into my safety deposit box. my safety deposit box is a physical storage location in an institution that is unlikely to go away, but i am unhappy at its monolithic existence and often unsavory business practices. i pay them for the service of holding documents that are incredibly difficult to replace. sure, i want that.

i would feel a very small pang of sadness if everything i owned was destroyed in a sudden disaster. i would not mourn for too long.

the year of the dog is coming. i like dogs.

10 February 2018 21:11


sometimes, i'm flipping through old sketchbooks, and i'll encounter chunks of pretty nice-looking arabic script and practice, and i can't read any of it, and i remember that there once was a time when i could. i never lived long enough in an arabic environment for it to sink into my deep memory, but there are some letters that pop out at me because of how hard i worked to learn their shapes.

"م م م م" i once wrote on the whiteboard, over and over, while waiting for my class to finish their assignments so i could grade them. "professor, khallas!" one of my students shouted, when he noticed what i was doing. he ran up to the front of the room and put his hand in front of my whiteboard marker. "you'll go insane, it's good enough!" i'll never forget the mim; it was the letter on speed limit signs, which i picked out before i started learning to read the numbers.

i learned the numbers by staring at license plates while locked in traffic; my car, a cheap rental, had a six digit plate, as did most other cars. those gave me the largest opportunities to practice reading. i had some mnemonics; the thing that looked like a '3' was '4', and the thing that looked like a '7' was '6', and the thing that looked like an egg was hamsa, which i remembered because i had a student who dropped my class named hamsa, and i had a jewish friend back home who wanted a hamsa tattoo, and there are five fingers on a hand, which easily cups a single egg. i always had a hard time remembering if seven pointed down and eight pointed up, or the other way around.

i remember a moment when the letters suddenly crystalized in my head, and i started laughing as i drove past 'cafeteria nashwan', because the arabic was a literal transliteration of the sound of someone intoning 'cafeteria nashwan' in arabic, and i could finally read it and understand the joke.

#daily #q

09 February 2018 20:42

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