I was complaining to my boyfriend on Skype only this afternoon that it is nearing the end of my second week here at York and I have yet had time to put pen to paper and write a single word about it. One solution would be to do as Charles Bernstein and leave a scrawled message: “Busy, blog you later”, but I fear that – as with my boyfriend – I may lose you altogether if I do not give at least a few moments and a few – if only of other people’s – words to you.
But I have been busy. I am busy. And even now, taking this time out to write to you is a guilty pleasure. A hurried indulgence slotted in somewhere between lectures, dinner and study. Skyping with my boyfriend has become an equally fiercely scheduled event: something desired and yet feared and resented. For, and I am sure – in fact, I know – that it is the case with him too, that when he really wants to talk to me, I am not there, and when I am free it is either too late or too early, one of us is tired, hungry or late for work. At least, I am one or all of these things. Beautifully preoccupied by the excitedly pregnant state of First Year PhDness, I am guiltily aware of neglecting him, while in my quiet moments longing that he was here. And he? Heroically, giving me space and licence to be busy and distant, and to waffle on endlessly when I do speak to him about how happy and excited I am to be here doing this. Then our hour’s window of direct, face to face contact is closed and I lose myself once again in work, social events and yet more work, blissfully ignorant of missing him. For a while.
This thorny problem – the expectations, demands and trials of a long-distance relationship – has been the background noise of my afternoon, unconsciously churning away until, sitting in Jonathan Culler’s lecture this evening on “Theory of the Lyric” (delivered in our very own Humanities Research Centre! Aren’t we the lucky ones?!), he came to a poem that put this question into some (albeit, academic) perspective, and more eloquently than I ever could. So instead of a blog – because, lord knows I do not have an epideixis of my own! – I will give you a poem.
‘This Room’ by John Ashbery
The room I entered was a dream of this room.
Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.
The oval portrait
of a dog was me at an early age.
Something shimmers, something is hushed up.
We had macaroni for lunch every day
except Sunday, when a small quail was induced
to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?
You are not even here