All my time lately is with people. It begins to feel as though time in class is downtime. Classtime is when I don't have to be fully engaged, when I can think some of my own thoughts. Classtime is when I can explore someone else's ideas without any thought for their emotions or personhood, because that someone is not present and very likely not even alive anymore, and their ideas have taken on their own life and they stand before me, strong on their own two feet, and they talk to me whether or not I listen. I don't have to encourage them, to ask the right questions, to offer to pray for them. I can check in and out, and hear enough, and my professors will still think I am a great student and I will still learn.
Meanwhile, as the professor talks about the stages of compilation (lexical analysis, syntactic analysis, ...), I am writing a poem about Andromache weeping on the walls of Troy. As Herr Bloomer chatters on in Deutsch, I am writing about tears running down the armor of the Greek soldiers. As vocabulary about the types of deixis flies around me, I am planning: how many books do I have to read this week, how many poems do I have to edit? As I hear, for the thousandth time, detailed instructions on how to format an academic paper, I am writing about the shorn hair falling on the corpse of Patroklos, about Achilles dreaming of his lost friend, and the spirit vanishing into the earth, like vapor.
And as soon as the lecture ends, the ghost of solitude that has accompanied me vanishes like vapor. My classmates speak to me, I smile back. We walk together, I ask them how they are, where they are going. I meet someone for lunch, someone else for Bible study planning, someone else for a programming project. All the while, a list of things I have to get done is clattering around in my skull and the wind is trying to freeze my ears off and draw frost-patterns on my scalp. And then it's off to small group, and we. Pause. Pray. And then talk talk talk. And then it's a ride home in a crowded car and I hear myself chattering but I can't stop it.
When I get home I shut the door to my room and it's time to write. Count the words (249 of them), make every point (all the reasons I am "excellent"), collect all the supporting documents: I've been nominated for an award, apparently it's significant, I have to "hold up my end," as my professor said. As midnight creeps closer, I wrap up those cumbersome sentences, the boasts wrapped in gauze and tied with pretty ribbon. Finally I throw it out into the internet-void and hope it flies.
And now it's long past midnight and I haven't had a free thought since... How many days ago?
When will I slow down? My suitemate claims solace and solitude are related. I can't speak for the etymology but I have to agree about the semantics. Silence must be a close cousin, and slumber.