Sunday, October 4, 2009

October 4

I find, once again, that I am writing this entry two days late—on Sunday instead of Friday. Not that it really matters, I suppose.

Now that the fourth week of the semester is over, the office I am in has settled into something of a routine. Since it would be extremely useful, I am sure, for my future biographers to understand my milieu, I will describe it. As I mentioned before, the office contains six carrels. As you enter the door, there are three on the right and three on the left. Michael and Danielle each occupy the carrels furthest from the door, by the window. Michael is on the left (naturally) and Danielle is on the right. I am also on the left, in the carrel next to Michael’s. Doug is also on the left, on the other side of me and close to the door. Across from him on the right is where Lisa Dudwick sits. Between her and Danielle, and just across from me, is Craig Hatfield’s carrel—although he is hardly ever there.

Each of the carrels is equipped with a computer. There is, however, only one telephone for the entire office. This is located on a small table at the far end of the room between Michael’s and Danielle’s carrels. Both told us four newcomers that they have to be near the phone since they are TA’s. Both claim that their cell phones don’t work well in this building (though none of the rest of us had this problem), and that they needed to have priority access to the office phone for work-related calls anyway.

What is especially curious is that the telephone table does not stay in one place. Michael usually has it next to his carrel if Danielle is not around, but she always moves it to a point equidistant between them when she comes in. She does this even if Michael is there, and even if he is talking on the phone, without saying a word to him. I have noticed that Michael will not touch the table while Danielle is in the room, but as soon as she goes out, he moves it back closer to him.

Each of the carrels has a swivel chair. Michael and Danielle have the two newest ones; the rest of us have somewhat older models. In addition, there are two “guest” chairs in the office. Michael and Danielle each keep one next to their carrels, citing the need to accommodate undergrads who come to see them during their office hours.

Let me explain about “office hours:” as TA’s, Michael and Danielle are required, just like professors, to be available in their offices for a couple of hours each week for students to come visit or call. These office hours are posted just outside the door and on the syllabi of the classes for which they are the TA’s.

All the rest of us, including Michael, usually go to the library or somewhere else during Danielle’s office hours. There’s always a steady stream of undergrads coming by to visit her during them, and often for some time afterward, making it hard for the rest of us to concentrate. Sometimes when I have come back to my carrel, supposedly after the end of her office hours, she’ll still be patiently explaining various concepts to two or three undergrads. They are grouped around her carrel in her guest chair, Michael’s guest chair, and sometimes even Michael’s swivel chair. Michael always looks about to explode if he comes in and one of Danielle’s students is in his swivel chair, but before he can say anything she always asks the student to give Michael back his chair and grab another one that’s unoccupied.

By contrast, there’s no problem at all concentrating on work during Michael’s office hours, since almost nobody comes to see him during them. I wonder why this is. Maybe it’s because the professor whom he is TA for, Briggs, explains everything so very clearly that the undergrads don’t need to come see Michael.

Except during Danielle’s office hours, our office is a relatively quiet place. The six of us with carrels in it are almost never there together; our varying class schedules make this impossible most of the time. I almost never see Craig Hatfield there, except just before and just after his classes. Lisa Dudwick spends time at her carrel, often fiddling with a strand of her long brown hair. But she is so quiet that I hardly notice her.

Michael, Doug, and I are often there together, and when we are, we sometimes hold an impromptu seminar on international relations theory. If she is in, I sometimes try to draw Lisa into the conversation since she’s in the Briggs seminar with Doug and me, but she usually won’t say more than a few words, if that. I think Michael intimidates her. Danielle doesn’t join in either, but not because she’s intimidated. If we’re debating while she’s there, she usually tell us that she’s interested in the reality of international relations, not theories about it invented by a bunch of narcissistic males.

Lisa usually shouts, “Hooray!” if she hears Danielle say this. I think Lisa would like to be friends with Danielle, but Danielle doesn’t seem particularly interested in her. Although I would describe Danielle as a feminist, she’s not at all interested in feminist theory the way Lisa is.

Now that I’ve described my routine, I turn my attention to a non-routine event—which will explain why I am writing this two days late.

When I went to Trizenko’s class on Friday morning, I sat next to the same black-haired, blue-eyed babe I described before. I could not help but notice, though, that she was wearing a short navy blue dress, even though the weather has gotten somewhat cooler.

At the end of class, she actually spoke to me! She asked where I had been the previous Friday. I told her that I had been at the International Relations Association annual conference with some of the other grad students.

“Oh, you’re a grad student!” she responded. “Hey! Maybe you could give me a little help with this class!”

I said I’d be happy to. She asked if I was free for lunch. I said I was, and she said, “Let’s go!”

As we walked along, she told me that her name is Siobahn (pronounced Shi-vawn) O’Keefe, but that her friends call her Shivvy. She is from nearby Belmont, Mass., which even I knew to be an affluent suburb of Boston. And she is a junior majoring in political science, with an emphasis on international relations.

She seemed to think that it was really cool that I come from California. She apparently didn’t know that Barstow is regarded as California’s unwiped rear end—even by many of the people who live there.

We went and got sandwiches and sat outside eating them in the cool sunlight. I can’t remember much of what we said, but do remember how much I enjoyed our conversation. She seemed to like my sense of humor. I liked saying things that made her laugh.

She obviously didn’t know as much as I did about international relations. But she was able to understand what I told her about it and make good points herself. On the other hand, she has certainly seen much more of the world than I have. Except for driving down to Mexico, my only foreign travel was a student tour to France, England, and Ireland that my folks gave me as a reward for graduating from high school. Shivvy’s Mom, though, does a lot of traveling on her job (something to do with investment banking or something bourgeois like that), and she and her Dad have been able to meet up with her in a lot of places, including Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, and several others I can’t remember. Shivvy’s been to Europe not just once, but many times, and has friends over there whom she is in contact with. That is cool!

Shivvy soon discovered that I really didn’t know much about the Boston area beyond the confines of Charles and Harvard Universities. She asked if I wanted to go with her downtown in the evening to an Irish pub and listen to some music there. That was an offer I didn’t refuse!

We had a great time that evening talking, drinking, and laughing together. We both commented how even though we’d never spoken to each other before today, it felt like we had known each other forever.

On the way back, we decided to buy some wine and continue talking back at my place. Once there, however, our communication soon moved into a non-verbal realm. Privacy concerns prevent me from saying anything more, but let me just say this: Shivvy demonstrated that she can provide me with both types of stimulation that I seek.

We then spent yesterday and most of today together, with her showing me her favorite restaurants, shops, museums, and other places in the area. I hadn’t realized that all these things were even out there.

She stayed with me again last night. One thing I will say about Shivvy: while I clearly dominate her intellectually, I must confess that she dominates me sexually. She’s the one who tells me what I am going to do to her or what she is going to do to me, and that’s what happens! She’s incredible! [Check with Shivvy at the appropriate time on whether I should delete this paragraph. I wouldn’t be surprised if she told me to leave it in!]

We both decided that if we were going to have any chance of being ready for class on Monday, we’d better spend the evening apart, and so that’s why I am only writing this entry now.

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