I hate Tuesdays. (Yes, I realize that today is Monday. I’m going somewhere with this, I swear.) As I prefer to hate the things that I hate rather loudly, I have made my displeasure with all things Tuesday known to the masses and I have found that many people feel the exact same grrrrrr emotion on a Tuesday morning. Seems that those I’ve spoken to about it – and I’ll do random things like fix my hair in front of the mirror of the rest room in my school while yelling to someone in the stall about whether or not she also hates Tuesdays and then I make her explain why she feels that way even though I often never know who it is that I’m talking to until the door to the stall opens and even then I don’t often know who the person is once she steps out and sure, maybe it would be good for me to learn her name, but since I’ve already found out why she hates Tuesdays, I think we’re already close enough and I’m kind of done at that point. Anyway, there appears to be a collective and very real feeling that Tuesday feels very far away from the weekend and that’s where the common dissatisfaction with the day rolls in, but for me, my problem is that Tuesday just doesn’t really feel like anything. It strikes me as an empty kind of day. There’s no umph to Tuesday, and even when it comes to something like the days of the week, I just don’t do all that well with anything that that doesn’t radiate.
I thought of how I badly want to fight with Tuesdays (it would totally win the fight, but I should warn it that I will do those horrible little pinches and pull its hair before I go down losing) when I woke up this morning and had the realization that today is the very first day of June. I do not hate June – I’m a teacher; there would be grounds to fire me if I hated June – and one of the key reasons for the fact that I actually quite like the month is because it’s a month that conjures up emotions even before it starts. The emotions are in no way all positive, but June always feels kind of interesting – even before it starts.
The thing about June is that it’s about endings and beginnings and they’re all crammed tightly against one another, colliding almost, and sometimes when I squint my eyes I can see the symbolic debris flying across a sky now filled with the kinds of puffy clouds that remind me of the opening credits of The Simpsons and mosquitoes that seem rather drawn to me this season. (They really are. I’m going to have to switch from wearing Bobbi Brown Beach or Happy – my summer scents – to spritzing my entire body with bug spray because yesterday a mosquito bit me on the tippy top of my heiny and this had to be a King or at least a Duke in the mosquito kingdom because it left something that looks like a welt and it feels all kinds of itchy and I’m a girl who was raised right and that means not spending my days in public scratching my right ass cheek and so I find myself squirming in my seat like I’m excited instead of being in almost-pain. By the way, I do not know how that mosquito zeroed in on that particular part of me. I’m guessing he was lying in wait in my shower in much the same way I kind of always expect a serial killer with a machete to be standing there, but my official story – should I have to explain it to someone who sees it before it fades – is that I am training to be the next American Ninja Warrior and I felt I’d be more warrior-like if I scaled a rope pantsless. I actually really like that little tale, but is there a more feminine word for “warrior”? Should I just say fuck it and call myself The Queen?
So yes, June brings forth the kingdoms of mosquitoes and I recently saw my very first slimy slug of the season and the other day my classroom was so hot and humid that I almost wrote “Help Me” with my finger in the steam of my windows, but June also brings the last day of classes and graduation and that moment where all the teachers walk into the parking lot on the end of the last day and the sun is beating down onto the blacktop and usually the air feels kind of dry and I can see myself now as I will be in just a few weeks: pushing a lock of my hair behind my ear and rolling down all the windows because that kind of action just shrieks of freedom more than processed air conditioning ever can and the music blaring from my radio as my head slowly fills with the knowledge that I am about to have two months off.
But before the rolling down of the windows, there are the other factors inherent to June and June is complicated in ways no other month is for me. I will have stacks of papers to grade and Taxi Driver posters to pull off of the wall in my classroom and carpets to roll up (I like to make my classroom feel homey) and Latin exams to proctor because my administration believes that you should proctor tests you cannot possibly understand so you can’t help a kid to cheat. I get the thought process of it all, but there is something utterly confounding about passing out test materials when you cannot even read the directions. I mean, normally I could care less. On those days I’m just a glorified babysitter with better pay and my job is to stand there and stare at students I’ve never met and be fully prepared to lunge across a room and thrown myself on top of a desk should I see any evidence of academic fraud occur. Well, I’m really just supposed to remove the test and the student, but when you’re required to stare at people for three straight hours, sometimes the mind drifts and the possible scenario becomes way more elaborate the more bored you grow and you find yourself thinking about how you can build a weapon out of a pencil and some rubber bands and which kid you’d most want to be stranded with on a desert island before deciding to just go ahead and embrace a fantasy of solitude. I find ways to get through it all, though. If the rows face one direction and there’s some room in the back, I do some squats. The kids can’t see me; they’re too busy conjugating verbs or considering how to best ruin the life of the teacher who gave them this exam to worry about the random proctor squatting in heels behind them. But if squats can’t happen, I’ve spent the time doing some Kegel exercises because why not keep everything tight and I’ve made lists in my mind of what I need to get rid of this summer and the lists usually involve things like my old vacuum cleaner and at least one guy.
So yes, proctoring is mindless and the school could hire a rabid chimpanzee to do the job, as long as the chimp could be trained to look for under-the-desk texting. But it’s not passing out tests to strangers that makes June complicated for me and it’s not even that soon my classroom will be so hot that I’ll be tempted to go to the English Office where it’s air conditioned before remembering that I’d sooner sweat to death than listen to a bunch of other teachers sit around and talk and talk and then talk some more in a room that somehow always smells like a Lean Cuisine was just popped into the microwave.
Can’t everyone just bring in a Greek yogurt or a few turkey slices and call it a day?
The truth is that I like pretty much everyone I work with. I might not be best friends with all of them, but I enjoy them as colleagues. I just don’t enjoy them in June. I don’t enjoy listening to them talk because my mind is already filling up with my own chatter and it’s right around the first week of this month where I start to feel like my mind and my life are cluttered and that it’s time to remove anything that could lead to some dust or cobwebs.
And the seasons, they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captured on a carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came
and go round and round and round in the circle game.
I spent many late Junes at camps where I learned how to perfectly roast a marshmallow (you’ve gotta keep twirling that stick) and how to make a God’s Eye out of two sticks and some yarn and how to weave lanyard bracelets – but only with the box stitch because I could never master the cobra – and how to lick just a guy’s fingers so he felt like your tongue was everywhere on his body and I did it all while listening to Joni Mitchell because that’s what my counselors played from their portable radios that were the size of my dining room table. And that memory right there? That’s June.
But if you take my hand and stroll with me back in time, June is also a friend of mine since second grade appearing at my house to let me know that she and the guy I love are now together and she is sorry and all but that’s just the way it is going to be and June is also that guy calling me four times that night and me finally unplugging the telephone from the wall and curling up into a tight ball on top of my covers and figuring out how to get my heart and my head out of this mess and not coming up for air or even a drink of water until I figured out a way to get out of town for the entire summer.
I’m often at my best when I’m under pressure. That’s a lesson I learned about myself once during June.
Put on your sunglasses to protect yourself from the glare and come back with me a few more years. I’m the one leaning against the willow tree, the one with a journal on my lap, the one whose father would be dead in less than two months except none of us knew that yet. I’m on a teen tour, one of fifty kids piled into a luxury bus and going across the country to see things like Mount Rushmore and Lake Tahoe and the absolute majesty of Bryce Canyon where we rode horseback along the edge and I have spent the last year living in Manhattan with my father and my stepmother and I am fourteen years old and I have changed a lot and I am surrounded by girls I find both unbelievably Jappy and superficial, and I myself am really a Jewish girl from Long Island who is on a super-expensive summer trek, but I can’t seem to want to connect with the people I’m around on a daily basis and so I use some of my downtime writing and trying to figure out who I really am and who I want to be and I feel weird about being that way until one of the girls and I have a discussion that literally involves her saying, “So you never want a mink coat?” and we are both only fourteen and we are and will always be very different from one another and I realize that sometimes solitude is a very good thing.
June is me sitting on my best friend’s bed as she kneels in front of the mirror on the back of her door and puts on eye shadow and we talk and we laugh so hard that she cries all of her makeup off and she has to reapply it so we arrive at dinner late. June is me always asking to sit outside while we eat, preferably at a table with really high stools. June is popping over to my parents’ house and they are nowhere to be found until I walk into the backyard and Jack is swimming in the pool and my mother is on one of those floats that has a cup holder and they are smiling and laughing together even after almost twenty years and then my mother asks me if I want to stay for dinner even though it’s only eleven in the morning and I haven’t even had breakfast yet. June is me at an arts festival selling my book and trying to figure out what to write when I sign it to a stranger and what to write when I sign one for someone I know very well. (Dear Matt: I swear that this is fiction. Love, Nell) June is me at night after the arts festival and I’m peeling off my camisole and hating myself for not reapplying sunscreen every fucking hour on the fucking hour. June is my forehead peeling and my toes always perfectly painted and the chimes of the ice cream man in the distance at around nine at night and the constant refrain in my mind telling myself that I should not book outside barefoot with my wallet and lasso myself a Chipwich from a truck driven by a stranger.
June is wishing I had a Chipwich every single day.
June is trying on the smallest clothing I own and this June is about feeling proud that everything fits and having to get rid of stuff that’s too big. It’s about garbage bags filling with clothing to give to a veteran’s organization and I hoping they like lots of black dresses that still have the tags on them. June is remembering how every item of my clothing once had my name written in it so I wouldn’t lose it at camp, but unfortunately August was always my mother opening up my camp trunk and only seeing a third of what she’d sent me to camp with returning home with me.
June is about making plans. I’ve got dates for drinks and plans for hikes and a box at a Yankee game. But June is also about the anticipation of July and August, when I don’t really know what will happen because I can rarely think beyond June.
Every single day now, I see kids who will go away from home soon for the first time and they are wearing tees with the names of colleges on them and they keep stopping me in the hallway to show me pictures of their prom dresses on their phones. There’s a lot of sparkle and a lot of sequins and a lot of dresses in a color I can only call “electric blue,” and it’s not that the shade isn’t kind of pretty and it’s certainly not that I fault anyone for being bold, but now June has become thinking about Debbie Gibson – and that’s the kind of shit that shouldn’t even happen in March.
Maybe June is about telling some secrets. Those of you who know me, I want you to listen to these instructions closely. It really might be best for you to take a deep and cleansing breath and to maybe hold the hand of someone close to you as you read this next sentence:
I have started running.
The people who don’t actually know me probably can’t comprehend how insane that sentence is coming from me, but to put it into perspective, please know that normally it would be far more likely to hear me say any one of these sentences instead of that I’m running anywhere during a time when I’m not being chased:
I’m moving to the wilderness to bond with squirrels because I think they’re a very misunderstood species.
I’ve been so moved by Bruce Jenner’s transformation that I have chosen to become a man and if the two of us swap genders, our nation’s latest census need not be compromised.
I’m buying a pair of flats.
But no – it’s the running admission that still reads as the most ridiculous for me, so I think I should maybe provide some clarification and context. I’m only running in very short bursts, which I think might be called sprints. It started because of the running I was doing on my trampoline and because I began to get a little dizzy from all the bouncing and I wanted a flatter surface. The actual running has only been going on for about a week, but I’ve done it four times and I feel like someone punched me in the upper thighs. I hate every single second of it, but God, I love how it feels when I’m done.
And what I decided for myself on this first day of a brand new June is that I think this June will be about experimenting just a little bit to find out exactly who the newest incarnation of me should be. I think I’ll be a little bit healthier than I used to be and I will definitely end up with shin splints in about seven days and I’ll probably only enjoy eating frozen grapes until mid-July and I might end up being less patient than I was a year ago. I’ll expect more from myself and more from those around me, but that equation will be more than fair because I’ll give a lot too.
I know it’s hard to keep an open heart
When even friends seem out to harm you
It’s the last day in June and I’m about twenty years old and I’m leaning against someone’s car in a parking lot of a mall in Binghamton and my friend Alex and I are belting out November Rain at the top of our lungs. He’s really impressed that I know all the lyrics and I’m more impressed that he has restrained himself from telling me how terribly I sing. And all I can think about is how I don’t want it to be November soon, how I wish I could harness those summer days and those clear and endless nights and keep everything perfect like it feels in that very moment, and it’s maybe right then – right when June was about to end for another year – that I stopped myself from doing that kind of thing, of falling into the future instead of living in the present, and I understood something then and it was something really important and the lesson slid inside of me like all those lyrics once did and I smiled for real and when the song ended, I looked right at my friend and then I whispered, “It’s June.”