Happy New Year! Thank you for being such devoted supporters through 2009. Here's to a new year filled with Life, Love, Relationships and New York City! Cheers!
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
How can I miss someone I barely even know? I don’t miss people. Sounds strange, cold hearted maybe; alas, it’s true. I think of people often and wish they were near, but I don’t miss them, long for them. I think I am just used to people leaving or being far away. Some of my closest friends have never lived on the same continent as me. I supposed I have those I miss, but I miss them in a fleeting thought, lonely lost letter type of way. When someone pops into my brain and I remember my love for them, I stop and I write them a note, send them a text, or send up a prayer for their well being. Soft sighs, slight smile, on with my day. My heart hurts with a deep down ache I am not accustomed to. I don’t like it, but it stirs hope in me. I don’t know what to do with this anxious, needy, giddy, longing that is grabbing at my gut! I want him to pursue me, and he is.. But I must restrain my excitement, I musn’t tell him how I feel, I must just keep it locked up inside.. for now. I need to nail my ass to the seat and wait, sit in the tension and the squirmy, uneasy, happiness that is creeping up inside me. All in due time, all in due time.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I will see MP in Paris on January 21st.
I will see the Hungarian in Budapest on January 25th.
The MP visit, traipsing through our adopted city, will undoubtedly be giggle-filled and lovely. As for the Hungarian one... now, that's a great big question mark.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My bag stood in the hallway. The backpack I'd been lugging around with me for the past five days lay in a corner. I sipped some tea. Hugs had been exchanged, kisses on the cheek. We all sat around now, talking about the journey, of so and so who passed away, of the broken window that needs to be fixed, about my sister's wedding plans.
I sat on the settee next to my grandma and my aunt. I curled up into a little ball. I laid my head on my grandma's nap. Her fingers playing with my hair. Stroking my head. The conversation flowed around me. I'd comment from time to time. I held her soft hand to my cheek.
I woke up to find a blanket draped over me and a pillow tucked under my head. I finally felt refreshed.
Monday, December 21, 2009
It was freezing; the kind of cold that wormed its way into every fold of your jacket and burrowed next to your skin to coat your entire being in chills. I was waiting outside the bar for him but secretly didn’t want him to show. I hate first dates. There is too much pressure and I never come off as myself. I wanted him to see me one more time outside the intimacy of dinner.
He was two drinks in when I finally realized he was sitting at the bar waiting for me, instead of standing outside… like a fool.
“Should we order sake?” he asked after we sat down at the sushi place he had suggested.
“I’m not a big sake fan,” I told him. He ordered it anyway, poured me a tiny glass which sat untouched throughout the entire meal, and drank the bottle in its entirety by himself. He talked about himself for the duration of the date: his painting, his bar, his family, his childhood. I could write the brief history of L. after having spent one night with this person. And to top it all off, he seemed completely disinterested every time I brought up something about myself.
He walked me to the subway after paying for dinner and asked if I wanted to go somewhere for another drink. The last thing you need is another drink. “I should really get home,” I said as vaguely as possible. I couldn’t even gauge if I liked this guy because he was clearly nervous and clearly dealing with it in a bizarre way.
“I feel like I did something wrong,” he said bluntly. I didn’t know how to say that getting wasted on our first date qualifies as way, way more than ‘something wrong.’ We said goodnight and I went home and felt confused. He was a nice guy. Thirty-three years old, owned his own bar and restaurant with amazing food that I really respected, and a talented painter in his spare time. I wanted to give him another shot.
I did, it was more of the same, and I found myself not particularly caring if I saw him again. He called a few times and when I didn’t respond, he made some angry, jilted comments about me to a mutual friend. I washed my hands of it.
Until today. Two years later, almost to the day. A Gchat message.
“What was that town by where you grew up? The one ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is based on?”
“Um, hello there, stranger. It’s called Seneca Falls.”
“That’s right! Thanks. Awesome.”
We started chatting, he asked how I was doing, what I was doing, where I was living. He seemed happier than he was when we went out, incredibly optimistic.
“So,” he began. “Do you like sushi?”
“There’s this great place…”
“How did you know that?!”
“You took me there!”
“Oh right… I’ve been dying to go back.”
“Yeah, it was great food.”
“Let’s go!” What? Huh? Quoi? I’m sorry, are you asking me on a date two years later?
“Are you sure you want to go with me?” I asked. I felt I could match his boldness.
“Well… we argued a lot.” Because you are an argumentative person.
“I think it was a miscommunication. I was really sick the last time we went out.”
I decided to give in. He was persistent if nothing else. And I did promise myself I’d be more open minded when it came to guys, so as not to pass up a great opportunity in case one should stare me in the face in a less-than-perfect package.
We agreed to meet on January 5. And what a busy January it will be.
Friday, December 18, 2009
He stood in the doorway of my office and handed me a white envelope with a shaky hand. “Hey. I have a card for you. Sorry… about the envelope… I messed up and then I ran out and I had to make it. So, I hope you have fun with your friend tonight and I’ll see you when we get back from break.”
All I could say was “thank you.” He walked away and I stared at the envelope. It was folded so tightly around the card that I couldn’t even pull it out. My brain thumped against the walls of my skull. The tiny thing from Tuesday night echoed in my thoughts… not so tiny anymore. I imagined an engagement ring falling out of this envelope.
“Lauren, I hope you and your family have a lovely and relaxing holiday season and a happy new year. I look forward to seeing you when we return from break. Sincerely, M.F.” He signed his full name. The entire note was written in beautiful, curvy, feminine script. We hadn’t even been on a single date yet and already it was too much. It was way, way too much. And then the little thing in my brain… clear as a bell.
Drunkenly whispered in the back of the cab, “Lauren… I love you.” Suddenly I wished the OC had stayed a fantasy.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It was the Monday after Thanksgiving break my junior year of college, and I couldn't sit still. When would this infernal class end? Didn't my professor realize that that morning, filled with nervous excitement, I had picked out an especially cute outfit? That mi amor and I had spent four whole days apart? That I could burst with missing him? After what seemed like eons, it was time. In his hat and this sweater, a new purchase from a department store sale at home, I rushed over to the coffee shop. There he was in a similar hat (after all, he had given me his for a reason and we both agreed it looked better on me anyway) and cashmere sweater. I edged past the line, and he left his post behind the counter. Happiness restored. In the softness of the wool and the tenderness of our new love, the world fell away.
And in the conference room this morning, my eyes welled up at the memory.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
At the bar, and I felt a cold wind as the door opened and in walked The OC. He came, just like I hoped he would. Our first real conversation would ensue.
“You used to be F.’s assistant, right?” Of course you were. And then you were promoted in September of last year and now you’re an assistant editor.
“Yeah… and you work for T&H, right?” Of course I do. You used to work one office away from mine.
A few drinks later. “Get the married lady a drink!” he exclaimed. He was referring to me.
“Married? Why would you think I was married?”
“You used to wear a ring on your left ring finger.”
“You’re right, I did. But I’m not married. Never have been.” I grinned. “But I kind of like that you noticed.” It might’ve been the gin talking, but I didn’t care. He didn’t seem to either. It was the push the conversation needed to slip into uncharted territory.
He had been watching me. I had been watching him. “I walk by your office on purpose multiple times a day,” he admitted. “I’ve had a crush on you since I started working at T&H,” I confessed.
“Are you sure this isn’t a joke?” he asked. “Because I’m just not that cool and you’re gorgeous.”
We split a cab back to our neighborhood (and yes, we share the same zip code) and he kissed me. Today he bumbled and stumbled his way through an invitation to the MOMA on Friday night and it was adorable. It took two and a half years… but as Kelly Kapoor would say, “I have a date!”
“J, will you have coffee with me six times a week plz?” His spare texts make my cheeks warm. I sit in anticipation for his witty banter and sarcastic tones. He makes me laugh. I am intrigued by every story and turn of the conversation. We’ve gone out a couple times now, and each evening a reservation has been made, the time has been watched closely and every door is open ahead of me. I even caught him intentionally walking on the street side of the sidewalk. Pleasantly surprised by his gentlemanly behavior, I welcome it warmly. Our conversation on any given date consists of topics ranging from Orwellian non-fiction to the art of whisky cocktails. He digs up a side of me that has lain dormant and dead for so long. After all, I tend not to lean the conversation towards, mise-en-scene or the commodification of human life with just anyone; most of my friends just don’t swing that way. I’ve found myself growing frustrated, his presence inspires me to create again. I want to display that artist in me, I want to wear it through my clothes and hang it on my walls, but feel stuck in the place I am in. This frustration has been closely coupled with excitement, anticipation for an outlet, a new phase of life, turning back to those things that once brought me so much joy. Much too early on in this thing... dare I say relationship? We’ve talked about screen plays we want to write and films we’d love to make. Possibly, quite possibly, could we do this together? Time will tell the tale. Time will discern the outcome.
2009.12.7 Rushmore at Midnight
Before Monday: We’d met several times before; a friend of a friend type thing. Each meeting, we hit it off, chatting on and on about the tortures of writing and our oddly similar taste in obscure films. Yet, time and time again, no effort was made to connect beyond these random sightings. Until..
Monday: “Meet me at Sunshine Theater, Friday night. A midnight showing of Rushmore with me and a friend.”
Appearances might state our differences. I work in finance, graduated from NYU with vast, frustrating ambitions. He moved to
Friday: Rushing through the day exhausted, I made it just in time. Meeting and greeting me outside, he handed me a ticket as we hurried to our seats. Stated fact, I love Wes Anderson and had never seen this, the film that brought his vast recognition. It was perfect, impeccable, I cried throughout with tears of laughter. By the end I was soo thoroughly pleased, I wished it wouldn’t end. He and his sister walked me to the train. Passing Christmas trees, I expressed my love and he admitted he hasn’t had one since moving to the city. Forty minutes later, I received a text from him thanking me for coming out and telling me he had purchased a Christmas tree on his walk home.
Saturday: Waking up early I’d promised my roommates I’d participate in a kitchen cleaning overhaul. Nine hours later, my roommates had been long gone as I was left to finish the job. Having three cocktail parties on the docket for the night, I decided not to bear the thought of putting on a dress and heels to traipse into the snow for these parties. I sent a text instead. “I am so embarrassed; I forgot to pay you back for the film last night. When will I see you again to pay you back?” An immediate response followed. “I’m not worried about the price of the ticket, only hurt. When are you free?” Elated, I responded, I’d canceled my other plans and was free that night. We had dinner, talked for two hours and went to view another film.
Two dates in one weekend. I must like this guy. I do like him. I just really like him. I am enticed to hope this could be the beginning of something great.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
This was after a day of realizing that I had three days worth of studying to do and only one day in which to do it. A day of realizing that my job prospects weren't so much prospects as they were mirages in the desert. A day of looking at my to-do list and seeing fifteen things that must absolutely get done in the next twenty-four hours. A day of freezing temperatures and an interview that required a skirt and heels. A day of eyes bleary from staring at my computer screen too long.
I stamped my foot. I snorted. I thumped my thigh with my hand. I saw stars. I saw darkness.
I hadn't laughed so hard in ages. Laughing till the sides of your mouth can't open wide enough. Laughing till your belly feels like it'll pop with every peal. Laughing till you can't breathe anymore. Laughing till your eyes water and scrunch up tight. Laughing till your hands go weak.
I tried to explain to D that he'd somehow made the world all glowy and warm, that even the white clouds seemed to have silver linings, that my heart must've tipped and let the weights slide off itself.
I couldn't though. I was too busy letting out peal after peal of laughter.
I think I sounded like a horse.
Monday, December 14, 2009
This picture is everything I want right now. Hot tea, Dickens' A Christmas Carol (the hilariously abridged version), dark wood, cookies and fried eggs for breakfast, and packages tied with gold ribbon. I could write a book on why I love Christmas, or the inexplicable joy and warmth I experience when the first few piano notes play in Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home" (Home for the holidays, I believe I've missed each and every face. Come on and play one easy, let's turn on every love light in the place. It's time I found myself totally surrounded in your circles...).
But this picture says it all.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Friends have asked:
- Was it difficult for you, to move to a new place, a different country, at that age?
And I give my much practiced and much perfected answer with just hints of hestitation thrown in here and there at exactly the right moment to give the effect of a spur of the moment spontaneous response:
- Yea sure, I mean, I don't know. It's difficult at first, ya know, you're leaving all of your friends and stuff. And I went to an all girls' school! Imagine being thrown into a middle school with boys! Even girls who'd been in co-ed school all along didn't know what to do with that! But I mean, you know, you make friends, you learn the culture, you find your niche, and suddenly it's like you're a part of it. So yea, it's kind of tough, but it teaches you a lot about adapting to a new environment, ya know? And then you're fine.
Every time I say it a little part of me mocks myself. Didn't I cringe when my parents would say "Oh kids adjust so quickly"? Didn't I want to scream "No! They don't! It's as tough as raw leather!"?
But isn't this the answer that works the best? Do I really want to go into how I didn't know what "Billabong" was? Do I really want to talk about how I stopped wearing skirts because all the other girls shaved their legs? Do I really want to explain the embarassment of having a guy ask you out in awkward twelve-year-old fashion and not knowing how to respond because a) I was twelve and b) about 90% of my interactions with the human species were of the female variety and c) why were people thinking about dating, hadn't I been more interested in barbies until last week? Do I want to go into an explanation of how much effort it took to be able to look into the mirror and see a friend, and not someone to hide? The answer is a resounding no. And so I fall back on my practiced pauses, the little smirk here, and sympathetic sigh there.
And there you are. That response, just like this blog post, misses the mark. Somehow I can't get to the story. The real story. The unshaven legs and the unfashionable clothes story. The smelling like Indian food and not having perpetually shiny bouncy smooth hair story. The tears in the dark and the comfort in books story. The resentment and the anger story. The not thinking dating was normal in middle school story. The realization and the adaptation story. The first awkward friendship and the friendship with myself story. The growing up story.
Perhaps it takes more growing up to write about growing up. Perhaps it isn't just my story, but the story of every girl who ever went to middle school and high school. For now the practiced little speech stands me in good stead. For now maybe it suffices to be able to think back and not cringe, to be comfortable in my own skin.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In one year everything in my life changed. In 2004 I was an optimistic dancer/singer/actress with an all-star swimmer boyfriend who went home every once in awhile to Rochester, NY and slept in the same room I spent my entire nineteen years in. By 2005 I was a hurt, embittered English major with plans to be a writer who ached when she saw swimmers and went “home” to a cold empty house an hour north of the city in a hard bed no one had ever slept in. I was changed. And I left a little piece of me in Rochester, dancing and singing and acting with the swimmer.
Every year since then I have had to face a decision. This year is no different. An invitation to a “reunion.” I stare at the RSVP list and I see E.’s face smiling back at me, pressed up against his new girlfriend. I don’t feel jealous. I don’t compare myself to her (okay, I’m more attractive… I’m still human). But when I think about going back to the city I grew up in that is no longer my own, seeing people I used to dance and sing and act with who still ask if I’m performing, and making plastic-smiled pleasantries with E., who just 2 months ago told me I’d “never” hear from him again, I get sick. My insides begin to churn and I have to make a choice.
Nineteen years turned me into someone and one single year turned me into another person completely. E. doesn’t know this new girl, and neither does anyone else who watched me on stage in high school. Sometimes even I don’t know this new girl. She is like a mythical character, part optimistic shining star part hardened, blackened city girl. And when City Girl walks into the bar and greets all of those familiar faces, she feels a little lost and out of place.
“Are you attending?” Yes.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
On Sunday I spent the day at home studying away like a good little child. In the back of my mind the countdown ticked on, but I typed away in a studious blaze.
On Monday I got a prick of anticipation. Any time now, I thought.
On Tuesday I waited and waited and waited. That prick turned to a stab.
I know this happens every month, but every month worry away. I start imagining the horrid scenarios. I start looking up options. I once even worked out in detail the amount of money I would need just in case. In case. Because I know the choice that I've already made. But it isn't one I want to have to put into practice. I check every couple of hours and come away with my heart heavy. I wear a morose look on my face, convinced that this is it. This is the month I've been dreading, the month I'll have to go buy a test. I've read the literature online enough times, I know it's not cause for concern this early on. I'm good about sticking to the schedule. Never more than three hours late. Like clockwork each day I reach for that little pack. And yet every last week, like clockwork again, I turn the thought over and over and over in my head.
I mention it to D, just to get him to worry. I can't be alone in this insane process. He knows I do this. He tries to comfort me. And strangely, it works. Not his words or his hugs. But the fact that I see a little doubt where there was none before. Is that wrong of me? Shouldn't I keep my neuroses to myself? But it feels better having company, doesn't it?
Wednesday morning: hallelujah! Here it is. I shake my head. Of course. Why wouldn't it be? Don't I take my precautions? Don't I know the pattern? And yet inside my head the little voice says: but you know what you'll do next month. And I know. Saturday I'll go about happy as a bee. And Tuesday I'll be Googling the closest clinics.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
He started working here around the same time I did. His office was down the hall from mine so I’d overhear his (occasionally) witty banter with his boss and began to admire his haughty but jovial demeanor. “Looks like he used to be fat,” my co-worker whispered once. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had a crazy Office Crush on this guy. The antithesis of any guy I had ever been attracted to, I found myself excited and a little giddy when we’d happen past each other in the hallway.
Our solitary interaction, aside from “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” in the halls, was in the elevator.
OC: Do you know if it’s raining?
L: I’m not sure. I hope not, I forgot my umbrella.
It was love… clearly.
Two and a half years later and our only other exchange was an alcohol-induced lingering glance at an office retirement party. Until today.
I was in the kitchen at the microwave, waiting for my tea to heat up. He was at the sink. I overheard him start to rib a fellow football fan for the Steelers’ staggering loss to my favorite NFL team, the Oakland Raiders. “They lost to the Raiders!” he exclaimed. I had to laugh. He caught me.
“I’m sorry,” I began with a grin, “But I’m a Raiders fan and that game was priceless.”
The banter began (albeit, two other co-workers were chatting with us, as well) and I found myself ruddy cheeked, grinning, joking, hilaaaarious. And once again I played the part of unlikely-female-football-fan. I like to think he was smitten.
Later in the day I heard two men talking at the end of the hall. “How about those Steelers, huh?”
Mutter, mutter, mutter. “Lauren? Really? The Raiders? Oooh, I’ll have to talk to her later about that.”
Project Office Crush to Office Romance commence.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Since his dad just happens to be the Hungarian Ambassador to the United States, we both left New York for DC that Friday morning. His flight back to Budapest was on Wednesday.
I wrote him an email welcoming him back to DC. No answer. I wrote another the following day, Halloween, to see if he wanted to hang out after the fancy dinner his parents had arranged for him. He wrote back, to my glee, saying that he had had that in mind. Would it matter that he didn't have a costume? I checked my phone all night. He didn't text, he didn't call. In an email Sunday night, he apologized for not getting in touch. His dinner had ended late, and feeling under the weather, he had passed out. Did I want to hang out Monday or Tuesday night?
The plan was to go to a hip little show on Monday night. Completely absorbed in each other, over a drink at the venue, the show sells out. No matter. We exited into the night, arm and arm, and made our way into a diner. At the counter, we split a chili cheeseburger. So comfortable, so easy. I didn't want to leave him, but it was getting late, so he walked me to the metro. Until lunch the next day.
We laughed, discussed our favorite European films, and shared soup and spring rolls. Our goodbye was near. Unseasonably warm, he wanted to sit out in the sun, so we strolled through Dupont Circle and sat on the steps of the fountain. We nestled into each other. I told him I would be sad. He said that he wouldn't always be there, and I wouldn't always be here. That I made him like the States, something he didn't think possible. That this past week was like a dream. But what if it's a dream you don't remember in the morning? Nah, it's like surrealism, you can always access your dream life. Our last goodbye kiss, and then the walk away. We looked back at each other twice. When I sat at my desk, the tears rolled down my face.
That was a month ago.
We've kept in touch, albeit not nearly as much as I had hoped (who knew starting the green party in Hungary during an election year was so demanding?). Nevertheless, during our last chat, I mentioned a potential visit to Paris to see MP this January. What if I tacked on a trip to Budapest?
"Bring some good luck charms in your bag."
Thursday, December 3, 2009
"The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it." -Mignon McLaughlin
I’ve been called negative before. A cruel jerk in middle school used to call me Daria. Occasionally I blame my parents for my glass-half-empty outlook, having grown up hearing things like, “If you keep your expectations low, you’ll never be disappointed,” “hope for the best but expect the worst,” and after a hopeful statement, “Don’t jinx it!”
So I have kept my expectations low for a lot of things, and you know what? I’ve still been disappointed. And the disappointments accumulate like a snow drift, piling on top of me, so hard and so heavy that sometimes I can’t breathe. I carry the burden with me like a pack, referencing past heartaches as reasons why I am so pessimistic now. I’m allowed to feel wounded because I am wounded.
So is it better to always hope for the best and expect things to turn out well, even if there’s a good chance they won’t? Is it better to raise up our voices in optimism and shout out what we hope will happen, regardless if fate hears it and then deems it false? I don’t know if happiness and optimism are connected. In my reassembled little heart, they never have been. But I’ve been thinking about beginning my own personal Year of Yes.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Those aren't her exact words, but I've captured the gist of them exactly. Just remove the capitals, insert the date, and a few abbreviations that only she and I would ever understand.
I stared at the screen, feeling like I was in Grey's Anatomy: seriously? seriously! seriously?! I varied the tones, I emphasized first one syllable, then another. I lowered my voice at the beginning, then at the end. I raised an eyebrow, then let it fall. But all I was left with was that one word, in its many permutations: seriously.
And it stabbed me as it has so many times over the years. This assumption that I would always do what she asked - no, demanded, commanded - me to do. This flighty dismissal of my life and the possibility that I could have anything else going on that was of equal or (gasp! impossible!) more importance. This flippant question which asked, requested, nothing, but managed to imply a wealth of assumption that I would be available, of course I would be available, for what else could there possibly be for me to do, at the twitch of her little finger. Presumption.
An hour later I realize I have been staring at my computer screen flitting from one website to another, yet seeing nothing, always returning to her open email.
She didn't even sign it "Love" I thought. Such a silly thought. We never sign our emails with "Love" not ever. She didn't even say hi. We never say hi. She didn't even...
She didn't even actually ask.
I sigh and shake my head, telling my heart to stop angrily hammering in my chest every time I glance at her words. Shouldn't I be used to this by now? Should I even be expecting anything more? My silly heart. My silly little heart. Always expecting more from people when you know from experience that they aren't like that. They never were, they never will be. Considerate. Thoughtful. Stop hammering, my silly heart, stop feeling woeful and glum. It isn't worth it you know. It never is. You make a ruckus in my chest and you make my rib cage hurt, but it doesn't change matters an ounce. You'll get over it, my silly little heart, you always do. And next time I'm sure you'll jump up once again, ready to welcome her in at the twitch of her little finger, as you always do.
I close the window. I don't trust myself to reply at once. And suddenly I cannot swallow. And suddenly my fingers don't want to type anymore.
Because this isn't how I'm supposed to react to my sister's wedding invitation.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
My grandmother is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is particularly luminous in a photo from 1961. Her wavy short brown hair is pinned back to reveal chunky gold hoop earrings, her makeup impeccable. Surrounded by her three young children with a baby in her arms, she wears a sleeveless white top and a skirt dotted with stars and moons flows around her. Her legs are crossed at the knee with towering white peep-toe pumps at her feet. This photo was taken in Kabul, Afghanistan.
One tugged at my arm to show me her schoolbooks, another pulled me in the direction of her dolls. Each wanted to exhibit her treasured object. "Didi didi! (Sister sister!)" the girls called after me, mischievous eyes twinkling. We played hand clap games and peekaboo and munched on biscuits. A fidgety group stood up to sing a nursery rhyme in English, perfectly, and all giggled at my Hindi accent. Some were former street children, some were turned over by parents who could no longer support them, and yet at Udaan Ghar, a shelter home for street girls just outside of Mumbai, everyone was family, including me, the visitor from abroad.
Over the past five years, each kid has left his or her mark on me. A quirk, a gesture, a surprise gift.
EJ lacks the coordination to carry his lunch tray and open door to the library simultaneously. He knows an awful lot about transportation systems for a third grader, shreds ketchup packets, and throws his arm around me whenever I'm particularly animated while reading to him. Edvin, the Energizer Bunny, liked to be chased. We built flying Lego monstrosities, and each tried to shoot the other's spaceship down. Our down time had me judging his singing abilities a la American Idol. Emmanuel often played me inappropriate hip hop ringtones on his cell phone. We fought epic Connect Four battles, him chanting, "I'm gonna win you!" and me correcting, "No, you're going to beat me." For Valentine's Day, I brought him his favorite candy and iced tea, and the following week, he gifted me with a chocolate Easter bunny. The only girl, Chelsea, had the smallest voice. After the requisite homework help hour, her face would light up for arts and crafts. I pulled out everything I could remember from grade school: stencils, paper bag puppets, construction paper cutouts, and I always left our sessions with a token from her.
He didn't answer my question. Although, it was to be expected.
The "he" in question was a lieutenant general at the German Ministry of Defense who gave a group of American Marshall Memorial Fellows a talk about the German effort in Afghanistan. Despite my staff status, after all this discussion was not intended for me, I piped up during a lull in the question-answer round. I made the comparison between a divided Germany post-World War II and a currently segmented Afghanistan. Japan, solely occupied by the United States, has proved itself to be a great power in the region and in the world, while parts of east Germany still struggle with development-related issues. Given the recent discussion in the news about an "Americanization" of the Afghan war, what was his opinion on the future of the country?