WEEKEND // FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2012
ON YOUR MARK
YALE DAILY NEWS · FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2012 · yaledailynews.com
‘A LITTLE BITTLE OF SUMMER’
Of earthquakes and shattered dreams // BY DEVIKA MITTAL
Finding Home // BY KALLI ANGEL
This summer I watched the fireworks standing in a gravel parking lot, a black check presenter shoved against the small of my back to keep track of my signed receipts. Scattered around the blocked-off street were the silhouettes of couples I’d waited on earlier in the evening. I was still on the clock, but my manager at the restaurant had shooed all of us out just after dusk so that we could be with our families when the national anthem started playing and the dark sky filled with kamuros, chrysanthemums and red-tipped crossettes. My “family” tonight was my boyfriend, Jake, who had arrived in the Lowcountry earlier in the week and had spent the evening hanging out at the restaurant bar while I worked. In between taking drink orders, clearing plates and running credit cards I would poke my head around the bar to check on him. Now he stood in the parking lot with his arm around my waist and my head resting on his shoulder. We’d been apart for almost six months and I’d almost forgotten how good it felt to have him next to me. The past spring semester hadn’t exactly been a semester for me. Instead of Bluebooking and procrastinating and midterming and commiserating, I left town. Requesting a leave of absence, I eschewed the studyabroad paradigm and boarded a plane for Berlin with vague plans to improve my knowledge of the German language, to read, to write and to travel. It was an exhilarating, exhausting four months. A life changing experience, blah blah blah. But really. Of course it wasn’t all Schmetterlinge and Blumen. Shortly after arriving in Germany, I discovered I had a complicated relationship with America and when talking with my peers from Switzerland or Spain or Bavaria, I would deride American attitudes and behaviors along with them. Every time a new friend would say, “You don’t seem very American,” I’d beam, but it felt like I’d received a gold star for betraying a friend I’d been fighting with. I was also homesick. At least
that was the word I used when I emailed my family or skyped with Jake, but the more I said it, the more it felt like a square peg that would never quite fit into the round empty throbbing above my stomach. At the age of twenty-one, with my parents long divorced and a boyfriend that lives in another state, I have at least four discrete beds in four different bedrooms that occasionally feel home-like. I have a thousand disparate memories of safety and love – memories of home – that cluster themselves around Chicago, Colorado, New Haven, New York and New Jersey but when I desperately wanted a cathartic place to go to in my mind and linger for a while, I couldn’t find one. When I returned from Europe in May, my dad and step-mom had finished relocating from Chicago to Charleston, where I would be spending the summer with them rent-free to work and save money. South Carolina was beautiful and new and exciting, but it wasn’t home any more than Berlin had been. Until that Fourth of July. Standing in that gravel parking lot as Jake held me close, with patriotic country music booming out from giant amplifiers and red, white and blue sparks exploding across the sky, I felt a new awareness growing and everything started to click. It was a minor revelation, blah blah blah. But really. For the first time since reentering the country, I was overcome with pride. Pride for the Americans sprawled across the parking lot in their lawn chairs with their Solo cups and their faces painted, belting out every word in “The Star Spangled Banner,” pride at the thought of millions of Americans in millions of towns and cities across the country sitting in their own lawn chairs watching their own fireworks. Pride for a country that still knows how to be proud of itself. In that moment, I knew that I was safe, I knew that I was loved. I knew that I was home.
I like to live in a fantasy world; a world where everything makes sense and the make believe is suddenly possible, a world where I really am everything and anything that I so desperately want to be. The writer, the wanderer, the reporter, the crusader for justice. The dark, exotic stranger with the long skirts and even longer eyelashes. My greatest fear is that the world won’t weep when I die. At night, I write in my diary frenzied, eloquent lines about the emotions and aspirations that tangle through my life and bleed into the pages. The world has so much to offer (endless possibilities! Nobel Prizes to be won!) that I want to grab it and lock it into submission. In my fantasy world, I’m told I can. I think, there’s no better time to start than the summer. In Florence, I assume I’ll lead the somewhat charmed, somewhat glamorous life of a dynamic future lawyer — reading Tolstoy, drinking Chianti, arguing about politics with worldly scholars. Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. It’s 4 a.m. when I blink my eyes open to see the walls of the bedroom shake and groan. I’ve woken to a 6.1 earthquake. But in my world, not even earthquakes can destroy me. I fall back to sleep.
My internship is everything I had imagined it to be — full of trade experts and international lawyers, professors and stimulating conversation. Climate change and the impact of tuna fishing! Border tax adjustments! The inefficiency of the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism! Complex terms spin and tumble in my head, mixing with the red wine and my inexperience. I hope to change the world yet I cower when asked my opinion. At night, Neruda strokes my skin and I wish things were different. The earthquake shudders around me but I fall back to sleep, to dreams where I’m an Amazonian supermodel, where I’m writing books about trade policy and economic theory, where I really am everything I want to be. I dream to protect myself — from reality, from boredom, from dissilusionment. But here’s the thing: that night, my chandelier swung and shattered, and I narrowly missed being impaled. I was silly; I should have woken up. Nine days later, when the second earthquake ripped across the city, I was ready. Contact DEVIKA MITTAL at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Contact KALLI ANGEL at email@example.com .
// MADELEINE WITT
YALE DAILY NEWS · FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2012 · yaledailynews.com
Reflection at Eaton’s Centre // BY YANAN WANG
The morning after James Holmes killed 12 in Aurora, I was riding on a subway in downtown Toronto. As I hung on to one of the metal poles in the train, there sat in a row of seats beside me a group of students who seemed to be visiting the city for the first time. They were all young, fashionably dressed women, and the group as a whole was ethnically diverse. I tried to glean from their conversations whether they were from an international school abroad or simply visiting from another Canadian city, but all they talked about was the shooting. “It is really terrible,” said a brown-haired girl in a short blue dress. “You know he just came
inside and people thought it was part of the show? Really scary.” The other girls nodded solemnly. “You never know when it can happen, you know,” she continued. Beside her, a taller girl who sat with her legs crossed snickered. Mortified, the brunette turned to her and asked sharply, “What’s so funny? It’s not funny!” She lowered her head to avoid her friend’s gaze, but a slight smile still remained. I got off at the King Street stop because I was meeting some friends in the food court at the Eaton’s Centre. In June, that food court had been the site of a shooting of its own, one that involved a
23-year-old man killing one and wounding six in a gang-related conflict. Later that week, I would learn that aspiring sports journalist Jessica Redfield had survived the Eaton’s Centre shooting only to be killed at the Dark Knight Rises screening less than two months later. It was a circumstance that most news reports described as “eerie,” and one that was as inexplicable as the smile on the girl in the subway. Once my friends arrived, my mind quickly drifted away from shootings to our plans for that day. I didn’t think about what had happened only a month ago in the area where I was sitting. Even if I had, I can’t say it would have changed my
mood. I was listening to my friends debate restaurant options, and the summer felt endless. But watching the news the next day, I couldn’t help wondering, how? How it could be that one group of young people was free to walk the city streets with all the fearlessness that good fortune affords, while another suffered from a kind of trauma that most people go their entire lives without having to endure. The thought that these two truths existed in the same world made me scared, and it made me grateful. Contact YANAN WANG at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Family Matters // BY CAROLINE MCCULLOUGH
The Dark Night // BY RAISA BRUNER
At midnight on Friday, July 20, I settled into my seat in a packed movie theater in Manhattan, ready to lose all sense of reality while watching the much-anticipated third installment of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. At 4:00 a.m., I fell asleep, nerves still on edge and ears still ringing from the movie At 6:00 a.m., I got a call on my cell from my boss. I needed to get to the office, now. I don’t know whether or not people know the name James Holmes. I don’t know if the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting loomed large, brooding, and heavy over others’ summers the way it did over mine. I don’t know if my friends found the incident as fascinating as it was tragic. I do know that for most people, James Holmes is another crazy gunman; the shooting was a sad blip on the radar of summer; and the tragedy served as a reminder that nothing is certain, or safe. But James Holmes and his story became my obsession. I interned at a national network news organization, and it was my job over the course of that fateful Friday to find out anything and everything I could about the shooter with the dyed-orange hair and the disconcerting smile. He had a near-invisible digital profile. Facebook, MySpace, school newspapers, political affiliations, charity donations –
all came up clean or proved to be dead ends, his too-common name hopelessly mired in search engine results. Later, TMZ would discover his online dating profile at a sex-targeted site. My amateur investigative skills were not that good. Who IS this guy? I wondered, frustrated. I kept making cold calls. And then — Why this movie? Why this theater? Why this crime? Flashbacks of chase scenes I’d seen the night before, of flying Batmobiles and machine-gun attacks, threatened to cut through my focus. I shivered a little every time a trailer for The Dark Knight Rises played on TV. It could have been our theater. It could have been my friends. It could have been me. At 3:00am on Saturday, July 21, we downed some celebratory beers in our newsroom for a job well done, and retired for the weekend. I was tired—but thrilled. It had been by far my best day at work. But in Colorado, I reminded myself, this wasn’t just a news story. It was their hometown, their theater, their friends. And James Holmes? He wasn’t just a name to investigate: he was a name to never forget. Contact RAISA BRUNER at email@example.com .
I had come to expect any conversation with my Parisian host family to concern either 1) the saga of the Canadian Psycho or 2) their cat. So I was surprised when one night in June, they asked me about a commencement address at an American high school. Mr. David McCullough, Jr. had delivered a speech entitled “You are not special” to Wellesley High’s graduating class of 2012. I wasn’t too shocked by the content of the speech, only that I was related to the speaker. My uncle, an English teacher at Wellesley High for 26 years, had made a speech reminding the graduates that despite their “u9 soccer trophy” and “every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur,” they were unexceptional. He said, “You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.” While I was on another continent, Uncle Davey had become a viral superstar. I felt pretty damn special. News sources from around the globe had picked up on his speech. The story in a British tabloid, The Daily Mail, was headlined, “You’re NOT special’: Teacher rants at ‘pampered, cosseted and doted upon’ students in bizarre graduation speech.” But of course, he was not bashing his students. Just the opposite. He expects his students to possess capabilities greater than those represented on their trophy shelves of shallow accolades. He advised them, “You too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.” In a time when our generation of millennials is constantly analyzed for all of our complexes, Davey got it right. When I posted a link to the Youtube video to my Facebook, I wrote, “we all need to hear this a little bit more. congratulations uncle davey!” I was happy that a global audience heard what my uncle had been saying for years. I was also happy when people liked or commented on my wall post. That is, until my little brother commented, “maybe some people more than others … cough cough cough cough … Caroline.” Ever since Handsome Dan popped up on my screen in that thrilling and confusing moment in April of 2010, Will has been fond of referring to me as “Eli Bulldog Princess.” He and my younger sister think that I get special treatment because I got into a good school. They think I adore having to politely talk about school endlessly with our relatives, while they sit by quietly. All they hear me saying to aunts and grandparents is “what great opportunities I have,” how “lucky I am.” Will is 17 years old, 6 foot 3 with a beard, and self-described as “omni-happy.” Beyond his snide remarks about my school and my unsolicited comments on his relationship with his girlfriend, we get along perfectly. What he fails to understand is that since coming to Yale, I’ve begun to feel pretty unaccomplished. Constant exposure to the best and the brightest only reinforces what I could be. But this summer, Will showed me something I hadn’t seen at school. When I came home from France, I went to live with him in a small cabin on an island where we both had jobs. I sat in an airconditioned office while he repaired wooden hulls at the boat yard next door. After nine hard hours working in the sun, he would come down the dirt road, covered in boat paint, singing some stupid country song. He would be tired, but he’d ask me to go fishing with him. He wanted to catch dinner. William will graduate this year. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do afterward. But who does, really? He is a wonderful human being, but he is not special. I hope there are plenty of others just like him. Contact CAROLINE MCCULLOUGH at firstname.lastname@example.org .
YALE DAILY NEWS · FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2012 · yaledailynews.com
Then vs. Now // BY LEENA RAMADAN AND TEO SOARES
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