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Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot like gushing meat.
Let me explain.
“For the Young Woman I Saw Hit by a Car While Riding Her Bike” seems morbid, I know. But Laura Kasischke’s poem is meant to be evocative. The poet sees a young woman get hit by a car and calls 9-1-1. The woman is fine and so is her bike (“Not one bent spoke on either tire”) but the poet is “shaking and sobbing too hard to say good-bye.” Even the driver who hit her, we learn, “did little more than roll his eyes.”
The poet tells us how the witnesses who saw the accident seemed uneasy at the poet’s own obvious unease. “Are you okay?” one stranger asks the poet. “Are you all right?,” another. “They should have put her / in the ambulance, not me,” the victim declares.
So they act like this. “Uneasily / As if / overhearing my heartbeat / and embarrassed for me / that I was made / of such gushing meat / in the middle of the day on a quiet street.”
I first read this poem in an English class that was all kinds of magical, where the professor compared villanelles to gumdrops and the TF brought in oversized muffins for breakfast, often, by which I mean twice a week. At the time, I was a jaded and veteran Lamontster who could tell you what café sofas had stains and where, at once disgusted and proud of such intimacy with that hellish library. I had learned, perhaps too fast, that surviving (no, thriving) at Harvard meant becoming, in many ways, numb.
Learn to ask a person how they are and except a stock reply in turn. Learn to bullshit an Expos essay, to be sure, but more importantly to bullshit your way through a comp hierarchy, then through that same exclusive organization’s election season, then the other exclusive organizations—you know, the Fly or the Bee or even now the Spee. Finally, of course, if you haven’t already, learn to eat the right amount of free food and spit out the right cordial phrases at Goldman banquets.
Learn to feel less.
I’m not sure what happened—if it was the right amount of distance, or (for you Social Studies 10 folks) if it was some a natural part of the dialectic, a guttural reaction to my first year at Harvard. But I’m starting to feel a lot more this year.
Everything moves me. Sometimes comically so.
The way the buildings in the Yard jut out like crooked teeth. How Memorial Church towers above the rest of them like an overgrown molar. The way HUDS put a screeching witch in Pfoho’s dhall during Halloweekend. How my friend whistles to “Trap Queen” in between venting about an unresponsive lover.
A few weeks ago, a fellow Crimson columnist and I were trudging from the Quad to Lowell lecture hall for an open-mic event. The moon hung in the dark sky—cradled, it seemed, by invisible strings. As we entered the Johnston Gate, light from a pole near Mass Hall refracted onto the crisp maroon and green and yellow leaves dangling from a nearby tree.
I felt very much like gushing meat at that moment and told her so.
“I’m trying to figure out, fam,” she said very seriously, “when it is that you feel this way.”
I’m trying to figure this out, too.
All I know is that I feel a little faint when my British English professor reads the line, “What do I think about life? A little and a lot,” from “Effi Briest”. He’s read this at least four times in lecture, and each time I felt something escape my chest. I felt light.
I know that when I walk downstairs to the dining hall and see tutors’ kids waddling and toppling—see them dressed in Superman capes in November or wrapped in only a towel, see them throwing peas on the floor or gazing up, starry-eyed, at the ceiling—my legs get woozy, and I have to hold tight to the railing as I carry my tray up.
My friend still believes that it’s my iron deficiencies causing these corporeal reactions. She might be right. But still, I know that there’s a certain reverence for life, a certain overabundance of awe, that washes over me sometimes, unannounced, hammering on the heart’s door at 4 a.m. I know that my heart loudly beats at these moments because they remind me that every moment is in fact fleeting, that every moment should be imbued with an extra ounce of meaning.
That every moment calls for me to be “made of such gushing meat / in the middle of the day on a quiet street.” Or at least, to live like I am.
Aisha Y. Bhoori ’18 lives in Pforzheimer House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.
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