near the edge

I woke up today and it was November. This disturbs me. Somewhere in my caffeine-deprived haze I've lost about two months of my life. Who knows where I've been, what I've been doing? (I hope it's not scarf dancing for international dignitaries again.)

But I'm not at this pity party alone. I've been hearing a lot of fearful voices lament the onset of November. Maybe it's the graying of the skies or the chill in the air that makes us a little more fatalistic than normal. I think the increased pressure to meet J. Crew winter dress codes in 80-degree heat makes November vertigo even more appalling.

My friend Shane is feeling it. He thinks he may have been abducted by aliens or have incited insurrection in Iraq during the last few months. He just can't remember.

Not being able to account for my days, I've settled into a strange numbness.

Note: Feel free to send any pictures you have of me during the last two months. I'll put them on a milk carton.

If my days continue to slip by unnoticed, I'll be forced to pin a note to my shirt that says, "Be nice to me. I am a disoriented college student with no drug history. If found, please return to Student Union Room 4. My editors will pay for postage."

I'm inclined to believe the college environment fosters this disorientation. After all, it is a fairly surreal landscape. Faceless caretakers trim perfect bushes and plant the same flowers every year to create the desired affect. Buildings sprout up like weeds.

It's no wonder the college years have passed like a semi passes a hitchhiker. My memories of the early years seem like pages in a book, hardly part of my conscious life.

It reminds me of a sci-fi world called "Phaze" that I once read about in a Piers Anthony book. The main character keeps waking up in a weird, centaur-fairy land. Now in between daydreams, I check to see if my history teacher has hooves. John Updike would be proud.

You can get very sheltered in our university city. The monotony of classes, home


work and parties can dull the senses to the march of time in the "real world." If you play safe, you'd never have to venture out into the very scary world of crazed Tucson motorists.

Then again, maybe that's a good idea.

College's sheltering effect was pointed out to me one night, I think a month ago, by a city janitor named Joseph. He may well have been my guardian angle disguised as a shrewd New Orleans native with a time-worn face and a mop.

That night, I had just missed covering a meeting in city hall for a class and he had been my guide up to the deserted mayor's chamber. Then he began to speak, saying profoundly sensible things that only a stranger can articulate.

He started slowly. "You're not from Arizona are you?" he asked. Startled but not weirded-out yet, I explained that I was indeed a Midwestern transplant.

Then he said, "Well, I suggest you stay in the upper to middle class. An independent woman like you who's not getting married is gonna need two jobs. Journalist, huh? Better be a secretary, they make more money."

At first, this advice from the janitor-man seemed intrusive and made me a little indignant. I hadn't told him anything beyond being a journalism student and he hit the rest right on the head.

Joseph's got a point. Very few of us bookworm intellectuals have any idea what's to come in the "real world," whether it's sneaking up on us in one semester, three or seven. It's certainly not MTV's version.

November is especially disturbing for me since I'm graduating this spring. I have two term papers, an honors thesis, a job to find and eight gazillion other things to do before the last days of Christmas shopping.

But I'm excited for my entry into the "real world" like, well, the first day of school 16 years ago. That's all I have to compare it to.

Hopefully this time I'll have more to fall back on than my Big Chief tablet and a box of Crayolas. Let's hope college packed something for my lunch.

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