BETA

Stripped and furred

Vincent Mitchell

I would like to be able to turn a good phrase. My writing professor from last fall told me to read The Spanish Temper by V.S. Pritchett, and I’m in Spain now, so I did and finished yesterday. On the first airplane I read him say that the olive groves stripped the hills, then furred them. Later I was on the bus from Málaga to Granada. I was tired, but once I read a writer who said people who want to write at all should never sleep in cars or on buses, but look out the window, so I didn’t let myself sleep. And I was watching the hills, which are short and friendly, and I thought, the olive groves have stripped and furred you.

I started a diary on the second day of January 2012, the winter before I graduated high school. It bothers me that it was a day late, but it’s okay. I’ve had one a year since, each different but the same: a page per day, lined. It went small black softcover, small black hardcover, small red hardcover, big red hardcover, now. Moving to the big size was a change, but I also just let my handwriting grow. It’s looser now, and less impressive. It used to be that if I ran out of space on the small pages (usually double lines of text in each intended line) I’d go to the facing page, but upside down, and I haven’t had to do that yet this year.

I used to spend a lot of time comparing days to their sisters from the year before. There were patterns: once I kissed the same boy on the same day, both times at the start of something. Sometimes he, or another he or someone, would be on my mind a lot one day and then the same day the next year. Often I’d be concerned about the same thing, or excited. I thought this was amazing until I realized that maybe I just think about the same people a lot, and the same ideas, and then I thought it was more depressing than anything. Also once I told my mom on the phone that I was sad that day, and that I’d read my diary entry from the year before and I’d been so happy, and what had I done wrong in between? And she said maybe I should stop reading my old diaries.

In high school I read an essay in More magazine (for mature women) about a woman who kept diaries and journals for years, maybe 20 years, and then one day she decided she’d had enough and was just carrying around old baggage and it was clogging her mind, so she burned them. I told this to my English 120 class during freshman fall, and my professor said, Well, that’s sad. It was in the same class where she asked us if any of us kept journals, or diaries, and I said I did. She asked what I wrote in it, and I halflied and said just things about the day, things people said, what I did. It was half a lie because mainly what I wrote in it then was what I’d eaten that day. That was why I got the first one, actually: because it was my New Year’s Resolution to get healthier (skinnier) and that was what all the magazines said to do, to write things down. More probably said it. And then after a while logging things was just habit, and then I decided it helped me remember things, which may or may not be true. Mainly it helps me remember that I eat a lot of oatmeal. But I didn’t want to say this to my 120 class because I didn’t want them to think I was crazy. It’s funny because one of the boys in that class was the one who I kissed on the same day two years in a row. Looking back I don’t think that’s so amazing a coincidence, because there were other times, too.

My mom has told me a few times that when she was my age she used to have a running tracker in her mind, like the reel at the bottom of a news channel, of what she’d eaten that day. And then she heard a woman she admired say she’d had that, too, and at a certain point just thought, Don’t I have more interesting things to think about? So she stopped.

Most of my diary is boring and the same. I saw a green dress today that was really beautiful. I love Sophie. I am happy. I am sad. Sometimes my sweater makes me feel large, or sweaty. Truett’s wingspan is longer than his height. This morning I ran to the Alhambra and was walking around on the inside, and I heard what sounded like a young mom singing to her son, La lunes, se levanta, and it was kind of moving. I remembered that when I was half-fallen asleep, so I woke up for it.

I’m reading Isabel Allende now, because I’m here and I felt like it would be nice. At the beginning of Eva Luna she placed an excerpt from a story I knew, or think I’ve heard before, and to paraphrase from what I understood and remember (my Spanish: así-así), there’s a king who every day commands his vicar to bring him a virgin. Every morning, he commands the vicar to kill her. The vicar is worried, because he has a very beautiful young daughter. The daughter, though, is incredible with words—she can talk, and talk, and she’s so eloquent, and people love to listen. Allende leaves it with a happy ellipsis. This would maybe be more relevant if the daughter weren’t so beautiful.

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