Monday, 18 July 2011

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I Hear the Noise about Thy Keel* Apologies for the silence, but it's been a long, very long, year capped off by a tragedy, and I've had difficulty getting the motor going again. The words burn to write them, but about a month ago my friend Alan died. This is him, at a party, wearing a stupid shirt back in 1992: When a friend posted this photograph on Facebook, I joked that I remembered that party—and I do—but that I must've been fourteen when it was taken, and turns out I was a year off: Because there's Alan shooting me a dirty look for some wise-ass comment I must've just made and I didn't have a beard until I was fifteen. The thing of it is, I knew Alan primarily online: we met on a BBS, corresponded through early iterations of the Internet, and reconnected on Facebook a few years back. Much has been written about online culture and the nature of "friendships" that're maintained solely online, but none of them quite get what it was like in those first days. I've been trying for more than a month now to find some way to capture just that, and have failed miserably, miserably, and miserably again. Nor will I find success here. But that look on Alan's face and that shot from across the room as I cover my mouth to hide whatever words just escaped it, that's a bit of it. I'm not the best at being human—by all conventional standards, I'm an abject failure—but I always could find a place with words, and that place has been, for most of my life, online. I ended up teaching literature for much the same reason, obviously, but I wanted, and have wanted, to acknowledge this debt to our shared pioneer frivolity for some time now. And now, maybe, just maybe, I'll find my words again, because as anyone who knew him knows, the last thing Alan would've wanted was for his death to shut me up. *Alan would've smacked me for titling this post thus—or for even using the word "thus," or perhaps for not using "thusly"—but this time, I get the last words. (Even if they're not my own.)
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No one would attend them if I could. SEK is meeting with a FORMER STUDENT at his apartment complex to discuss a letter of recommendation. Because SEK's porch occupies his office while his complex paints his porch, the student and SEK decide to take advantage of the weather and discuss medical applications out by the pool. SEK: Med school won't be easy blah blah blah you need to demonstrate your work ethic blah blah bl— POLICE CAR: WHOOP WHOOP! SEK: I recognize that voice. Indeed he does. Three POLICE CARS pull up next to the pool, followed by a FIRE TRUCK and an AMBULANCE. He and his student watch as the POLICE rush into an upstairs apartment while the FIREFIGHTERS remain by the ground with a stretcher. FORMER STUDENT: That happen a lot here? SEK: First time since I've moved in. Wonder what happened? A group of CHILDREN approach the FIREFIGHTERS down by the stairs for autographs. SEK didn't know FIREFIGHTERS gave out autographs. SEK: I didn't know firefighters gave out autographs. The FIREFIGHTERS each take out a business card, autograph the back, and hand them to the CHILDREN. The CHILDREN exit. SEK: But they obviously do. The FIREFIGHTERS grab the strecher and carry it up the stairs. SEK and his former student sit transfixed. More POLICE begin to mull about the bottom of the stairs. Ten minutes pass. Suddenly, the door of the apartment slams open and the FIREFIGHTERS carry the stretcher back down. On it is a WOMAN HANDCUFFED TO THE STRETCHER. WOMAN HANDCUFFED TO THE STRETCHER: But! But! But! That is all SEK and FORMER STUDENT can hear from their position. The POLICE and FIREFIGHTERS escort her to an ambulance, and as quickly as they all arrived, they're gone. FORMER STUDENT: What just happened? SEK: I have no clue. FORMER STUDENT: But it did. We just saw that. SEK: That we did. FORMER STUDENT: You just can't hold "normal" office hours, can you?

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