foxtongue: (beseech)
Friday morning was also a trial, though I crept out of it like a cat. I still had work, so I had to skip the symposiums, which hurt, but I made on-line plans from there with Alan to meet at the Science World party that night. So after, once I'd gone home and showered and changed into new clothes and did all the things regular people do when they're about to go seriously crash the largest science conference in the western hemisphere, I packed a duffel to bring to the hotel after the party, so I wouldn't have to return to the apartment again until the conference was over. (Could have done it the day before, but whatever. Dinner! Whales! Plus Science World has a significantly better coat check that the Aquarium.)

Once there, the only question was finding my people in the crush of people pointedly lingering next to the open bars and clumping in the areas where the waiters would cruise by with tasty nibbles. It all came together eventually, but I spent the first twenty minutes completely on my own, wandering through the exhibits, going from table to table, attempting to find the promised non-fish based food, as well as scouting for my clever partner in crime. The trick, apparently, was to stop looking for the shortest gregarious person and instead make for the tallest, Erik, as naturally they would be speaking together.

I didn't know Erik, but it was instantly clear that I should. He was funny, eloquent, and involved in his topics in a way I utterly envy. Truly, there may never be a group of people I immediately get on with more than journalists. There's just something about a profession that attracts the intelligent, literate, and perpetually curious that gets under my skin in the best kind of way. He wasn't selling his story to Cosmos that night, though. It wasn't quite the right fit, even though I found it personally fascinating. Even so, we all walked up the ramp together to the massive dome of the IMAX Theater, for the Kavli Foundation Awards, just in time for me to somehow lose everyone all over again at the door.

Just my luck, I almost sat alone for the show, stranded in the empty seats I tried to save. Thankfully a very nice woman from Berlin came and sat with me, social orphans together. I have regretfully misplaced her name, but she was wonderful company, telling me about her goth days back in Germany, about her lab, about her adorable daughter. She saved me as easily as grabbing the keys to the car on the way out the door. We stayed together downstairs for nearly the rest of the night, playing on the exhibits, sitting on spinny things and climbing the hollowed tree in the nature room. If we'd been children we would have been running through the yard, thrown together by chance but making the best of it, playing tag by the overpass.
foxtongue: (canadian)

alt-text: i hear smashing glass in my head, ever time i laugh


I awoke a little panicked, aware of a certain dreadful absence of pinging alarm, not quite damning my day job, but coming close to it. The entire morning thing seemed insurmountable. It had been a long, unexpected evening, the sort I am generally familiar with, but never actually had, so all I wanted to do was sleep in. Drinks in a bar, an invitation up, my cue to pass out chastely on half of a hotel bed, that's how it goes, how it suits my blood. But he was impossibly sweet and it seemed, after an indeterminate sleepy amount of cuddling, that my desire to cling to the familiar had evaporated somewhere, possibly seared from existence by his fiercely protective intellect, and the only path available was towards a new choice.

We went to the Aquarium after dinner later that night, (foreign dishes in a basement, the beginning of my stories, the tragic litany, the darker side of a thousand and one nights), me to crash the party, him with legitimacy, both with an equally sound purpose. Mine was to sneak in, the better to get me into even more later. We split up right away, once it was assured I had successfully bluffed past security, and that was that, I was on my own, a mercenary butterfly released into the opening party of the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

It's startlingly easy to make fast friends at the beginning of conferences. There are always a few people who've been attending since the dawn of time, but the majority of the crowd are strangers thrown together or people who've only known each-other tangentially or on-line, so the ground is primed for the sort of introduction that doesn't generally fly in public, where you simply walk up like a little kid to a friendly looking face and say, "hi!".

I almost immediately fell in a lovely women, Shauna, a fellow burner from Berkeley I knew I would like, then together, after taking pictures with the sharks, we found Elizabeth, there for CNN, best characterized by her amazing smile, as permanent as the moon. We chatted about the fish and science and wondered about the whale, elusive and grand, sequestered in an area of the aquarium that the conference hadn't rented. Occasionally I drifted away, encountering new conversations and faces, making mental notes for later, attaching myself here and there, but made sure to keep swinging back to touch base, so as the night progressed, as I fluttered, I forged a little group with which to found a conspiracy.

Eventually we made a feint at sneaking past security to see the whale, but we'd gained mass, our core blossoming as we went into an unwieldy six or seven, too many to slyly saunter into an area we weren't supposed to go. Then, sadly, after some magic with the otters and the dolphins, it was time to leave, the staff ushering us past the sleeping octopus and the shimmering glass cube of tiny blue fish that look like living streaks of light to a queue in the the parking lot for the hired buses that were shuttling everyone back downtown. I lost my partner in the crush, perhaps because I lingered too long, loitering in a hope to find him, yet I found surprisingly good company in his wake - Alan, Estrella, and Marc, who I first met inside as part of the attempt on the beluga tank. They wanted to walk, but didn't know the way, so I put aside my concerns regarding my misplaced self as less important than the possibility of an entire lost group and appointed myself their guide.

The walk home was beautiful, if long. Mostly I fell in step with Marc, who I pressed for details about the Ig Nobels and traded stories of odd employment paths, but got on well with Alan, too, who possesses a Patient Zero level of infectious cheer. By the time everyone peeled off for their separate hotels, we'd discussed several adventures, planned a couple more, and all traded business cards, a habit I was to pick up even more as the conference went on. (The trick is to remember later which card goes to which face).

My fellow turned out to be table camping with the rest of his crew at the hotel bar, which I walked through on a whim, hoping to stumble across where he might be, my lack of cell phone again a strangely crippling artifact of the shockingly recent past. I joined them, of course, and was immediately taken with RJ, a clever young man from Waterloo University who was sitting at my end of the table. I spent the rest of the evening pulling ideas from him, chatting about clean energy and the internet, until the table finally dissolved, leaving me and mine to drift upstairs into the sweet oblivion that promises endless wonder but only ever delivers tomorrow.
foxtongue: (Default)
#10 - Wilson
"Why don't you just put some clippings together, get a press pass, get in legitimately?" He is obviously more straight laced than I am. I haven't sneaked into anything yet, that's for later tonight, after dinner, but even the idea of breaking the rules is making him nervous. I offer that I haven't kept track of my work. I try to spin it like it's an airy topic, as if there's no reason I would care, a faint mask of a ditzy girl, but he knows better, he presses, and so, uncharacteristically, I lay it all out. Everything. My project, what happened to it, how it failed, how it ended my life, how I've only just barely scraped by, that I bitterly swept my work away, deleted all of my writing in a harsh wind of regret and hate. This is the first time I've ever admitted what I did. He offers very little in the way of commentary, except to occasionally ask small questions, the better to clarify details, and allow me pauses to pick at my food. He is an exceptional listener. I am struck by his understanding, how immediately he grasps the heart of the thing. I think, "This is why he has me, absolutely completely. He is the rarest of creatures, one who not only looks, but sees."

"That must be impossibly hard," he says, "How do you survive?" "I don't," I reply, and he nods, "Of course." He looks at me as if I am a wonder, a myth. He says, "It is incredible that you can bear it, that you don't fall apart." Gently, he teases more from me, as if delicately pulling threads from a loom. I am Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus, unraveling at his feet, spilling everything across the table. He describes how he thinks it must be, mentions the word brittle, and it is so accurate I almost cry, but not quite. He keeps me balanced, he keeps me safe. It is amazing. "So this is part of the shadow underneath your skin."

When I am done my story, terrible in all its grand detail, he sits a moment, somber. "I understand why you stopped writing." A rush of heat, not quite anger, flushes up my throat, "I wouldn't have stopped unless I had a good reason." It tastes bitter. What sort of person does he think I am? But then he continues, "So. This is the point where if I were to answer as a woman, I would offer a similar story about my life, the better to offer empathy and make you feel less alone. Shared understanding, emotional community support." I laugh. "I don't think you have anything like that." "No," he says, "not really." He gestures, one hand, then the other, not quite smiling. "Or, if I were to answer as a man, this is where I would try to offer a solution, something constructive, to address and fix your problems. Make everything better." I am blinded by adoration. This is precisely the sort of reply I have always needed, but never been given. Just like that, I am relieved of my burden. He is sublime. "Which kind of answer would you prefer goes first?"
foxtongue: (Default)
This past week was a crucible. I did something I've never done before and come out of it like a phoenix from flame, a new thing, my impurities burned off, the corrosion washed away. If I play my cards right, I will never be the same again.

It started with the unlikeliest thing, choosing while being chosen, seducing while being seduced, a photograph then a note, a reply then a phone number. Within ten minutes I was dressed, throwing a toothbrush in my bag, hopping for the door as I pulled my shoes on, still talking, fleeing from my life and towards the cab at my door. Another ten minutes and I was downtown, stepping from the vehicle, saying hello, saying thank you and good evening, everything set in motion, the confluence of a thousand superficial things coming together for this perfect fact, two impossibly complementary strangers in a hotel bar.

When any uniform magnetic field is applied across the cloud chamber, positively and negatively charged particles will curve in opposite directions, according to the Lorentz force law with two particles of opposite charge.

Just over a week later I am exhausted, every muscle of my narrative stretched, a pile of serious sounding business cards in a small pile on my desk, an entire new life hovering in the wings, waiting for me to settle in, work hard, and accept. I have moved back into my apartment, reintroduction shock and all, taken the appropriate pills, and abandoned nearly every scar I've ever gathered, given away like baby teeth as a gift to a new and extraordinary friend. My time away was a radiant miracle, equal parts unexpected and compassionate, as lucky as a random mutation that betters a species, the dream like paths of the particles seen in a cloud chamber made flesh. Now all that's left is to take what I've gathered, sort my thankful thoughts, and dig in and write.

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foxtongue

April 2012

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