For many academics, the most depressing time of the year is not Blue Monday (for which, as is well known, there is no scientific basis), but rather the three days in August/September known as Labor Day Weekend. As the rest of the world prepares for its last fun in the sun, you start feeling dizzy and restless, your chest tightens and your breath quickens, your muscles jitter and you want to cry for no apparent reason. At that point you think you’ve reached at least some understanding of what death row inmates feel because you know, with the absolute certainty of the irreparable, that classes start on Tuesday.
Throughout the previous week, as evidence of excited (but, you’re sure, hateful) students moving in mounts, you become aware that you now have to wait for restaurant tables just like the The People elsewhere in the city. You drop by the office because you’ve got to get something done, preferably on the college’s a/c bill. You catch sight of colleagues you’ve always liked, yet avoid saying hello. And they avoid you too because the tacit understanding is none of us are ready to face this: we’ll leave the big smiles and past-tense questions about summer for next week, and no one will be the worse for it. The Administration slowly starts the feed of distressing emails, which you resolutely skip to open a new browser tab and look for an alluring Labor Day Weekend escape. However, five-star and three-star hideaways get passed by as, deep down, you know that after a whole summer of gallivanting, your bank account has reached its yearly nadir. You contact those friends who do not have fancy plans (mostly academics too) to see who might welcome visits, and their eyes fleetingly light up at the vision of a relaxing deck barbecue before once again being forcibly lowered by the knowledge that none of us have finished our syllabi.
By Friday you know you’re doomed to spend all three days at home, and not even a bollycao is coming to your rescue (not even The Devil Himself, to whom you’re suddenly wanting to give your soul, seems immediately available). Desperately evoking the childhood joy of back-to-school shopping, you search for comfort and evasion at the DKNY end-of-season sale (NOT online, on Madison Avenue!), because when everyone else deserts you, Donna is always still your friend. Only she never fails to place a drape on top of something you’d like to hide, or come up with store décor that matches the void inside your soul:
You accept that you MUST sit back at the computer. SO WHAT–if you facebook in the forest, does it still make a noise? Is HuffPost Lifestyle not a respectable media outlet? Glass in hand (early wine-o-clock), you answer dating-site messages from a handsome UN guy currently living in Kyrgyztan (really!), passing on the corporate lawyer in full fishing paraphernalia (proud in the knowledge that you’re not a golddigger), and on the twentysomething who wonders if you dig younger men rather than gold (on this particular weekend, hon, you remind me too much of the incoming personae non gratae). You take a break for a one-hour phone call with your best grad-school friend in Seattle who, desperately evoking the childhood joy of back-to-school shopping, is combing the town for just the right pair of… ipod speakers. And then make a plan to talk some more later, because surely there’s something that went uncommented and undiscussed.
You try to read the readings–the ones on the unfinished syllabus–and end up revisiting Leonard Cohen’s Flowers for Hitler because you’ve lately gotten it into your head (another friend’s idea) to connect with works created the year you were born.
They all conspire to make me free
I tried to join their arguments
but there were so few sides
and I needed several
Forsaking the lovely girl
was not my idea
but she fell asleep in somebody’s bed
Now more than ever
I want enemies
You who thrive
in the easy world of modern love
look out for me
for I have developed a terrible virginity…
AND THEN you realize you want to write, but not the book. And–since time immemorial the failed poet–come back to the abandoned blog. Because what is this night, if not a Vicissitude.
Tomorrow is another day, and you can go to Newark.