Monday, October 22, 2012


Little about the library had changed, but now that it was no longer mine, everything looked different. I walked in to find, of course, the new acquisitions shelf in the same place as before, though all the titles had changed between May and October. The shelf used to be replete with seemingly fascinating books that, between my Spanish Lit readings and shifts at an art museum, I had little time to read. Now, I had plenty of time, but had long since chucked my faded student ID, the card that served as a key to worlds upon worlds and minds more fertile than mine.

I flipped through a few paperbacks, toying with the idea of snuggling into one of my favorite spots on the third floor and trying to finish a whole book in one afternoon. I decided against it, fearing what would happen if I got caught with a book that had mysteriously disappeared from circulation for a day. Besides, I had come to write.

I walked past packs of students, rushing to class or scrambling to finish term papers, and somehow felt guilty about bringing my lack of stress into a place so conducive to the feeling. I found a top floor nook where the suspiciously warm October sun precisely hit a deep blue chair. It was time to do some brainstorming, while splayed out like a basking cat. I could write about my time at sea, working on a cruise ship, I thought, but now that I had two weeks to live my old life, it almost felt like my experiences on the ship had never even happened. I opened up a recently completed screenplay to make edits, but was too busy wishing that I'd had time to take a second semester of screenwriting while at college. I considered working on my next novel, but couldn't seem to chart any personal growth for my protagonist. I started to if I was capable of moving a fictional character forward, if I couldn't seem to even forward myself.

The sun filtered through a big window, warming my face and temporarily bleaching the tips of my hair. I closed my eyes and

Eventually I decided that if I was going to nap, I wanted to be on my own uncomfortable air mattress, with a borrowed comforter and the stuffed animal I still couldn't fall asleep without. I packed up my things, walked down the steps that for four years were the location of in-library phone conversations, gameplans for streaking across campus, running into old friends and vapidly telling them that we'd hang out soon.

As I passed the new acquisitions shelf, I noticed a wisp of blue on the floor and immediately recognized it as a feather from my rainbow boa. I couldn't remember the boa ever making it to my backpack, but it was entirely plausible that some feathers had made their way into the front pocket, ready to spill over whenever I retrieved my phone. Since buying the boa at a pride parade in June, during a too-short trip home to Philadelphia, it had become quite a well-traveled piece of neckware, just in case an appropriately ostentatious occasion arose. The night before I boarded the cruise ship, after removing all of my piercings made me fear that I'd lose my last vestiges of iconoclasm to my job, I wrapped myself in the synthetic feathers and wished that I was back in Philly, or back at my university, or back to anywhere that wouldn't fragment my life as much as the job I'd signed on for. Until the '80s-themed party for my department that I helped to plan in August, it sat on the edge of my bookshelf, merely serving to brighten up the off-white walls of my tiny ship cabin. It acted as a source of stress every time they checked our cabin for cleanliness; by merely brushing the boa while reaching for my copy of Just Kids, it would shed a slew of multicolored feathers that, in the face of an overused vacuum cleaner, clung resiliently to the striped carpet and sprinkling of sand.

That night in August, I cheerfully sported the flamboyant plumage around my neck as I placed neon wall hangings, greeted guests, and tried to teach my colleagues the electric slide. The boa found its way into everything, from my plate of jalapeƱo poppers to the neck of my Strongbow to the cracks in my cheap metal bangles. When the festivities were over, we party planners wheeled the aftermath to the ship's galley and trash room. I'd like to think the feathers dropped there brightened up the 10-hour night shifts of the workers in those places, but they probably served merely as another thing to dispose of. I left a trail of feathers to the crew bar for a small afterparty, to a friend's cabin where I was complimented on my attire multiple times, and finally to my room, where I molted my feathers and got four or five hours of blissful sleep. In the morning, a co-worker commented that every time he walked down the ship's main corridor, he'd discovered new feathers along the way. He added that the ship's officers were probably not too pleased, and suggested that I hide the boa during cabin inspections from that point on. I complied for a while, but missed coming home to something so resplendent after a long day.

With my onboard contract coming to a close, I, as usual, waited until the final night to round up my belongings. I've been a pro at procrastinating from a young age, but when it comes to packing, my last-minute tendencies are tied to my reluctance to leave any place I've stayed at for a while, my inability to accept any change, be the change positive or negative. My boa was one of the last things I packed, and after I shoved it into any cranny of my suitcase that it would fit in, things begin to change for it, too. When I arrived in Pennsylvania and unpacked it, parts of its synthetic string vertebrae were exposed where feathers had fallen off during the trip. The plumage that remained was considerably flattened. I fluffed the feathers out and its appearance improved greatly, but since, I've been more discriminating with where I take my boa. Now that pieces of the boa lay dormant in every piece of luggage I own, however, I never truly leave home without it, and it's rare that a floor in any of the places I've hastily bounced to and from is left without part of my boa and me, either.

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