Sunday, October 28, 2012

FRIENDS by Pooja Khurana

Growing up with Cerebral Palsy wasn't easy for her. Many people, adults and kids alike, had difficulty accepting her disability and instead of learning more about it, the kids would make fun of her and the adults were no better with their ignorant comments.

In junior and high school, she often felt like "the ugly duckling" because she had a face full of pimples, she walked with a limp, had a left hand with crooked fingers, she wore a big bulky brace on her left leg and orthotic on her right foot, which could easily be seen if she didn't have them covered up enough. She was also called a walking duck and quacked at by her peers because, to them, it looked like she was waddling when she walked. However, as she grew older she realized that ht comments were being made because people were scared to get to know her because in "their" eyes, she was "different" and because of this, she often had a hard time looking int he mirror and seeing anything else but her discrepancies.

She thought it would get better in college, but unfortunately, it didn't, and like high school, she was having trouble dealing with her Cerebral Palsy. However, it was far worse dealing with it in college because in high school she was at least getting good grades. In college, she was failing all her major classes, passing on the electives, and being constantly ridiculed by her peers.

An example of this was when she was living in the college apartments.  She had just moved in, and the girls who she was living with were all friends with each other already and she was the “outsider.” If they were in the living room, she was not allowed to be in there with them.  She felt like she was in prison.  She had been living with these girls for about a month, and she thought everything was going smoothly, but she was wrong!  One night, she made the “fatal” mistake of taking her roommate’s pizza box out of the refrigerator and instead of returning it to the fridge, where it was originally, she moved it to the freezer.  At the time, she did not realize that the pizza was intended for a party in someone else’s apartment that very night.  Her roommates should have told her that they would be removing the pizza, soon and to wait until they took it out, if she had trouble taking it out and then putting it back herself.  After all, she wasn’t a mind reader.  After she put the pizza in the freezer, she went to bed thinking nothing of it.  

A little while later, her roommate came into their bedroom and started screaming at her.  Her roommate stated that she had no right to move her stuff and then she started cursing at her.  After her roommate left the room, she cried herself to sleep.  Her roommate was screaming so much that she couldn’t even defend herself, not that her roommate gave her any chance to speak at all.  

The next morning, she walked into the kitchen, and on the refrigerator was a note for her stating that she didn’t know what the hell she was doing, she had no right to touch anybody things, and that if she didn’t like things the way they were, then she could just move out.  The note also had a bunch of profanities and she was called every name in the book.  When she left the apartment that day, she was in tears.  She cried all the way to school.  On the way to school, she called her mother in tears and told her mom what had happened.  Her mom told her not to worry; her mom would take care of everything.  Once she got to school, she went to go see the vice president of the academic resource center.  She told her to go see the dean of students.  When she told the Dean of Students what she had gone through that morning, she was told that she had the option of moving out of that apartment, so she took it.  

The second apartment she was moved into, she had a whole new set of problems to deal with.  The second set of girls were very nice to her and she lived with them for about three days and she would’ve lived with them permanently, if it hadn’t been for the fact that there were a bunch of stairs that a person had to climb to get into and out of the apartment, which were not safe for her to climb up and down.  

After the two experiences that she went through in the 2 previous apartments, she was so desperate for nice roommates that when she was told that once she made her decision, it would final and that there would be no going back once the decision was finalized, she didn’t care.  She told the Dean of Students that she wanted to stay where she was, even if it was detrimental to her health and safety.  

Her mom was absolutely outraged when she told her what her final decision had been and screamed and cursed her out calling her, “a crazy fucking bitch”.  Her mom didn’t understand how important it was for her daughter to have friends and nice roommates.  The only thing the mom was thinking about was her daughter’s safety, which to her daughter, at that time, wasn’t important.  

After being cursed at by her mom, she then went to the Dean of Students again, and told her that although she was happy living with this group of girls, she had no choice but to move out, because of the issue with the stairs.  At first, the dean said that the decision had been finalized and couldn’t be undone.  When she told her mom this, she was screamed at again, but no cursing this time.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Running around -- that’s pretty much what I don’t do. And I’ve found lots of ways to not do that. Recently I’ve found a really good way. I watch elephants at a waterhole in Africa on a live camera.

Early in the morning if I’m lucky I can see one or several elephants, some storks sometimes, and some odd ruminants with black and white markings and long twisted horns, and almost always there are birds twittering away. One of the great pleasures is that there, at that waterhole, elephants do not run around. There they are, huge wrinkled lumbering things, happy pretty much to be just standing there -- maybe drinking. I have lived long enough to watch an elephant in Africa in real time -- drinking water!

They usually move very slowly. Once when an elephant lifted his huge foot, I thought the camera had frozen. But looking carefully I saw the elephant’s tail swishing, I like to think signifying heartfelt, deep, elephant peace.

So there we are -- consider the elephant, just like the one who went to Paris and lifted barbells with the little old lady, and rode up and down in an elevator, simple pleasures for elephants.

One day in front of the camera, a single old elephant stood there looking straight at me, flopping his ears that had very jagged edges, wrinkled as the oldest elephant in the waterhole universe. He was a gray old thing. He barely moved, lifted one foot -- no Lance Armstrong he. My heart went out to him. The tree, I know that waterhole tree now -- the tree was alive with unseen birds. It had rained a few days ago, the birds must have jam-filled the tree, twittering twittering twittering, the sounds all coming from my computer(can I say OMG)? The old, gray, wrinkled elephant curled his trunk and then tucked it on his tusk. I didn’t know they did that. Then he huffed, then swayed, then moved, swung his trunk again, blew some sand on his back, and after awhile he moved on.

Guess how much running around I did that day? I watched the elephant and then I left him, he was on camera still.

I was glad no camera followed me. Dishes -- I did some dishes;cooking -- I did some cooking, I had to steam some vegetables, carrots, squash; washing -- I needed to do some washing but without a camera watching -- I didn’t do the washing.

Slowly, slowly I moved toward the computer. The elephant was gone. Then slowly, slowly I moved toward an awfully interesting book and read it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

THE TYPEWRITER by Elizabeth Panzer

It was a magic place, that room across the hall. Filled with music, muffled telephone conversations, and typing, lots of typing late at night. And then, all of a sudden it went silent. The day that Missy, my older sister, flew down to Mexico to spend her last semester of high school with her friend Amy.

The records were still stacked 10-high on the turntable changer, and all of her winter clothes still hung in the closet. But the desk was invitingly clear. Papers had been filed or discarded, books were back on the shelves. All that remained was the electric Smith Corona, perched on the vast expanse of desktop.

The desk itself was an old typesetter’s desk. Much higher than a normal desk. I had to climb up onto the special chair to even see the entire desktop. And once up there, I was in another world. A world that revolved around the typewriter.

I remember venturing into Missy’s now vacant room, once a forbidden place unless I’d been invited. I flipped through the records, admiring the record covers. I opened all the little drawers in the back of the desk. But the ultimate temptation was the typewriter. The barely audible hum when I flicked it on. The magic CLACK when I pressed on a key.

I began to explore the typewriter, first typing random letters, just to get a feel for it. Then resurrecting what I remembered from the touch-typing unit our class had in third grade: A S D F G H J K L ;. Yea, I could do this.

And eventually I spent time every night just typing. I’d sit down with no direction, no specific idea. Just let my fingers find the worlds. It was fun. It felt rebellious. I soon let go of capitalization (too much trouble). And punctuation made sudden entrances and exits. But since I owed these pages to no one, I granted myself all the freedoms my classwork forbade. Sentence fragments. Unending paragraphs. I let myself type the way I spoke; I let myself type the way I listened. And soon the typewriter was again singing late into the night.

Friday, October 5, 2012


I already know before I turn my car ignition off that I will write about the book I've been societally coerced to read -- 50 Shades of Grey. I'd managed to avoid it for a full year, dipping and diving between the droves of friends, acquaintances and colleagues who at one time or the other came out to me about reading this ridiculous book. But finally I've succumbed mainly because I realized that I had to use the 3 audio book credits that have been hanging out in my audible account before they expired. 

The book is about S&M, control and submission and the classic "girl who doesn't know she's pretty is rescued by worldly white knight" but with a tried and true twist -- lots of forbidden sex. Poorly written, predictable and smutty, it truly is a ridiculous piece of literature -- that I can't stop listening to and/or thinking about! I'm obsessed with the book and vaguely amused by this as I watch myself devour it. I like the book because it’s about sex and fantasy -- and just like that, 37 years of intelligence, discernment and sophistication unravels into the steaming pile of bullshit that it is, and I am as neanderthal as the first cave man who discovered the magical combination of friction and genitalia. A million years from now there will be cockroaches and sex.

My consciousness has been split in three since I started listening to this book -- The IDIOT, drooling over each cheap scene; the intelligent, mortified, detached SNOB who is watching the IDIOT listening to the book; and the nonchalant SMARTY PANTS me who consistently reminds the other two that the only reason that this is happening is because I've been single for many years, and haven't had a date since I moved my crazy ass to the country over one year ago. Reading about sex and fantasy right now is like dropping a lit match on a huge, dry, tumbleweed in the middle of death valley. I'm an easy target. Still, I find it hard to reconcile my feminist identity with the person willingly listening -- enjoying even (gasp) -- this book. On occasion, I picture Harriett Tubman sitting on a cloud, head in hands, wondering if I got this tendency from the white side of my family...

Even as I write this I'm wondering if the mousy girl in the story will win the heart of the handsome rich asshole, and how much sex I can look forward to in between, and how I will recoup all of the brain cells I've sacrificed in pursuit of this cheap thrill. I'll probably finish the book tonight and tomorrow I'll do the walk of shame over to the classics section in the library and hopefully resuscitate my suicidal brain, before diving into 50 Shades of Grey book two...