19 January 2009

Getting to Know People

I just noticed that the last few posts have been about people, mostly. I don't think I'll write much about others tonight, for I have spent the day with no other company but Charlie and Max. And, well, they're technically not people, though I think of them as my family.

Anyway, it snowed again today. So far, we haven't had a big storm: It seems that we have an inch or two of snow every couple of days. So the snow and ice haven't totally disappeared at any time, at least not since I returned from seeing Mom and Dad. I can't believe it's been almost three weeks already.

I also can't believe that the course I'm teaching ends the day after tomorrow. Three weeks, and it's over. In a way, it's like taking a long plane trip and getting into conversations with people you've never met before and will probably never see again. You and they are 30,000 feet in the sky; they can no more see what your life on the ground is like any more than you can see theirs. So all you and they have, for that time on the plane, is that little bit of space and each other.

What I just described was especially true on my flights to and from Istanbul: ten hours going, eleven coming back. In that space of time, it seems, personae are born and invented. Sometimes people reveal aspects of themselves they might not to people they see every day; likewise, it seems that the cockpits of transoceanic jetliners are hothouses for flirtation, sometimes with people one would not meet, notice or acknowledge on the ground. (I first noticed this on when I went to Paris four years ago: my first trip abroad as Justine.) Maybe this all happens because, in that hermetically sealed faux-community, flights seem longer than they actually are.

In June of 2006, I taught another three-week course. And I felt that same sense of instant intimacy, if you will. But I realized that there was more to that class, and my relationships with the students in it, than that. Some of us shed tears on the last day of class; one student made a beautiful (I should be so beautiful!) drawing of me that everyone in the class signed. Several of us stay in touch with each others; I see others on campus from time to time.

And so I'll be saying goodbye, again, to people I may well, and would want to, see again. Somehow it seems appropriate to experience that at a time when I'm meeting new people, both in person and on line, whom I never would've imagined meeting in my previous life. What's even more intriguing, to me, is how often I find people extending themselves to me. Have I suddenly developed wit, charm or charisma I never knew I had? Lately people have told me, unsolicited, that I possess all three qualities. It's odd: I don't feel like I'm doing anything special.

Anyway, one more thing to be said for today: It's Bush's last day in office. Tomorrow is Obama's first. I, like many other people, feel that almost anything has to be better than the outgoing administration. I really don't envy Obama: So much is expected from, or at least hoped for, him. And he's inheriting a mess.

Oh well. I'll watch the inaguration and see what Michelle is wearing. Maybe if I'm really lucky, I can find it in my size and on sale.

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