I am shit at blogs.
I am the blogger equivalent of a one-night stand. I pick out the witty title and the cute URL to wear and then twirl around in front of the “preview” page for a while before skipping off to a slightly awkward first post, which ends in a slightly awkwarder climax (since the blog and I don’t know each other very well and so our pacing is all off). Then I spend the entire next morning thinking things like “oh god, I talked about myself way too much” and “wish I hadn’t spilled that entire glass of ice all over my face,” so I cheat on the blog with a good book to get my mind off things, and by the time that fling is over I’ve long forgotten the password. Which is just as well because Mr. Blog and I hardly had anything in common anyway.
To reiterate: I am shit at blogging. I never call that blog back.
But my friend Martin (who is already a *real* writer; in that Martin is published and continues to publish and is just fine at blogging) tells me that the blog is a part of the business. It’s a thing you do if you want to be a writer in 2014. It’s like, you can’t really be a grave robber without a flashlight: you can’t really be writer without a blog.
Well, I wanna be a grave robber in 2014. But I’m still shit at blogs.
I’m pretty decent at telling stories though.
So here’s a story about grave robbing. And it’s a real story. About me. Which has to get me at least 35% of the way up Blogger Mountain.
How To Rob a Grave with a Box of Crayons
*Please note that no actual graves were
robbed during the making of this story
In my Junior year of college, the dean of Liberal Arts called me to his office, sat me down in a cushy chair across from his desk, put three peanut M&M’s in my hand and said, “I need a favor.”
Because I was a stuck-up snobademic little asshole in college, this wasn’t an entirely uncommon occurrence. I munched my candy, threw one leg over the other, and answered, “Sure,” without even hearing the proposal.
“I need you to go live in Wales for five months,” said the dean. A saxophone played in the background. (Which is not my way of setting the tone, the dean was just always playing saxophone music. In his office, in his classrooms, in his car…I imagine that even when he went to the grocery store, that saxophone music trailed behind him.)
“Uh?” I said. And three months later, I went.
It was part of a budding study-abroad program for which the school needed a guinea pig student (who wouldn’t accidentally burn down the historic little town of Carmarthen trying to light a blunt in the wind) to scope out a new college. There’s no real reason you need to know this information, except as a way for me to explain how the hell I went from studying Literature in Dunmore, Pennsylvania to (allegedly) robbing graves at St. David’s Cathedral in Wales.
I didn’t actually rob any graves. That’s important.
I didn’t actually want to rob any graves. That’s important too.
At no point during the study-abroad student trip from Carmarthen to Pembrokeshire, did I even say the words “grave robbing.” I did make a few friends while I was there. In retrospect, I think this story says more about them than it does about me.
St. David’s Cathedral was dazzling, in the way the only really old buildings with really old stained glass can be. We visited on one of the two days out of the year in which the sun actually shines in Wales. Sunlight wobbled through the windows and fell across the wooden benches and marble marked graves in the floor. It puddled on the engraved names and dates in different colors and dripped from the walls in a sort of “we’re painting the roses red” atmosphere. Except that the high, dark ceiling made it quiet, and the yellows and blues made it somber (though for all the building’s right angles and towering severity, no less—like waking up to the sound of your name in an empty room—a little bit mad.)
Outside, scattered across the grass and lining the path down the slope to the cathedral doors, old grave stones tilted left and right. I mean old gravestones. That kind of storybook old that we don’t have in the US. Really just very, very freaking old. All weather worn and lichen covered and nearly impossible to read.
At the end of the tour (which consisted of our study abroad chaperone bopping around on his own while we students wandered freely) we stood on the road and looked down at the Cathedral. I said to my shiny new study abroad friends, “We should stop somewhere for paper and crayons and come back later to do some grave rubbings. It’d be cool to have for a scrap book for something.”
They looked at me as though I had just vomited up a rude, talking frog, that kept telling jokes nobody thought were funny.
I shrugged, because, yeah okay, maybe it was a little morbid. But it’s not a thing that’s unheard of. Still, they were new friends, I didn’t want to scare them away by being weird and insistent at the same time. So I let it go. I said nothing else. They said nothing else. We went and had lunch. It was large and delicious and came with beer and was in all ways totally normal.
Seven hours later, seven hours later I finally learned what the rude talking frog had said to them.
Gina (tall, blonde, sang the word “fuck” in an operatic falsetto whenever something when horribly wrong) turned to me with a question in her eyebrows.
“It’d be pretty easy to get a bus back to Pembrokeshire,” she said. “What was it you wanted to go back to the Cathedral for? Grave robbing?”
“What? No. What? Grave rubbing. Like with crayons so we can read what the names used to say? I just… grave robbing…I said that hours ago! You guys have been hanging out all day with someone you thought was a grave robber?”
I was bamboozled. I was flummoxed. I also knew right then that we were going to be actual friends. The kind that keep being friends later even if they don’t see each other very often. Because they had chosen to spend all day walking around a tiny town (and eating lunch, and riding the bus, and standing blinking in red-stained puddles of historical sunlight…)
with a grave robber.