I had another journal, a black hard cover book with white unlined pages whose very blankness intimidated me.
What would I have to say? Who would read it and what would they think? I was 17 and had just moved to Madison, Wisconsin from Atlanta to attend college. I was feeling out of place in the very white, bland sameness of that Midwestern town, and wanted to record my thoughts and feelings. I think the first entry started, "Finally! I have met someone who knows who Igmar Bergman is." Reading the entry years later, I was mortified at my pretention, but then again, these are the things one does at 17 when feeling a little lost.
I had plastered my side of the dorm room, shared with April Avril of Bethany Beach, Maryland (and whom I delighted in informing that her name was April April) with pictures from a magazine that featured photos of the very funky and alternative neighborhood of Little Five Points, alongside a cutout of the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to own these places and use them to differentiate myself from what I perceived to be the very uncultured, naive and mainstream masses at the large university. I had cut out faces of models and actresses from magazines, people I hoped I looked like or strove to emulate, separated into black and white and color sections.
Faces have always fascinated me. I made a good friend that year, who remains one still, and the night we spent talking and soul searching until dawn in her apartment, I remember seeing her face in the way I had always seen it, but when she shared something that was a window into her mind and her person, her one-ness, her face slowly changed in front of my eyes. It was as if it broke into separate pieces and then melded back together, but in a slightly different way, an almost imperceptible shift. Her face altered itself in the very instant I began to know her, as if a mask, a public face, had been peeled away and the true one revealed.
I observed my roommate at a safe distance of disdain, noting how she lined the built-in bookshelves on her side of the room not with books but with the most impressive array of hair care products I had ever seen outside of a drug store. I joked to others how she must have been afraid there would be a world-wide styling mousse shortage, and wanted to be prepared. I toured my friends through her side of the room, smirkingly demonstrating for them her three-way Illumina make-up mirror set up on her desk, which was bizarrely exactly like the one my grandmother had that I used to play with as a child, with its different light settings for "office" "daylight" "evening" and "home." It didn't have what I thought would have been a more useful setting of "department store dressing room fluorescent" which would really help a girl get her foundation just right.
I regaled in observing the ways in which she was different than me, most especially in her speech. She had been a lifeguard all through high school, and in my total ignorance of the rest of the country, I had thought Maryland so far to the North that I pictured her atop a lifeguard stand on a New England-like rocky cliff, like a tiny blonde lighthouse beaming her tan from ashore. She used expressions my growing up in majority black inner city schools left me completely unfamiliar with, like "Can I tell you..." to start a sentence (whose rhetorical nature I did not recognize and to which I always mistakenly said "Yes") and how her verbs almost always ended in "ing", as in, "This weather is totally sucking," or "I am sooooo not liking this." In a fit of linguistic superiority, I asked her once, "Why do you use the progressive tense so much?", to which I received an icy tanned glare and a flip of moussed blonde hair.