Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The end-of-year blues

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

The last of the Christmas feast was consumed for lunch today, and most of the desserts are dwindling. It's always a depressing thought because it means that the new year is about to begin. It's always been the case that the new year brings some serious blues until March, at least. It's an uncomfortable feeling, like meeting a rather lukewarm stranger for the first time. Round about March, though, the ice starts to break a bit and by June, one has a good feeling of what this new acquaintance is all about and where things are heading. The period of complete relaxation and comfort around each other comes in mid-October and lasts, of course, until a day or so after Christmas.

Part of me is ready to resume my studies, but the other part is rather soured on the whole ordeal and wants to break off and participate in unorthodox artistic efforts. I feel compelled to join a blues band and ramble around the country, to write and direct films, to photograph as much of the remaining natural untouched land as possible, to hole up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a typewriter and tons of paper...

I think this comes from losing focus on becoming a doctor. Last term, I was too wrapped up in trying to stay afloat in the brutal courseload I signed on for and paid no mind as to the purpose. Medical school seems so far away for some reason, despite the fact that I'll (hopefully) be there at this time in two years. Hmm.

Spoke with Old Flame for two hours on the phone today, and halfway through the conversation I wondered if I should just stop. I'd gotten irritated, unbeknownst to her, as has been the case many times. For all our similarities, we have just as many differences...and some of them get under my skin. She's more in tune with the popular culture gossip rubbish that I so desperately despise and would eradicate from regular news broadcasts and publications given the chance. Anytime she brings that up, I guess it reminds me that she isn't right for me, and I get agitated thinking about all the time I wasted thinking that she was. It's silly, and it's embarrassing, but that's the way it is. I thought being a grown-up meant seeing the end of these kinds of complications. ha ha ha.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Grocery Story

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

I am here to report some most interesting happenings during my trip to a local grocery store for procurement of some last-minute items:

* My life was threatened by a three year-old girl, who said to me, "I'll smoke you! I'll smoke you!" as she pointed at my face. Nice kid, definitely nice parents!

* At the checkout line, the cashier held up the tub of pumpkin pie topping and said, "You're only getting one?" Yes, ma'am, that's why there is only one on the cart. "They're buy one, get one free, you know!" Ah, then in that case, I shall come home with two. I felt quite foolish when I'd run back to the freezer case and saw a gigantic, "BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" sign.

* Upon return to the cashier, she held up a bag of frozen broccoli and asked, "Do you know how much this is?" in a manner so as to indicate that it might be more expensive than I'd thought. I told her it didn't matter. She looked a little flustered, and said, "Well, actually it does...the scanner won't read the barcode." Whoops. Later, I got to laughing about that and couldn't stop as I was putting my groceries in the car...all alone. People must've thought I'd gone off the deep end.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Going up!

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

I am pleased to report that, as I write this, I'm in slightly higher spirits. This evening, I visited with a relative who has achieved some of the same academic goals I have set for myself at one time or another (some of which I abandoned). We discussed my first term at my new university and I explained that I had just barely scraped by. In 3 of the 4 classes I took, I was hanging onto a C by a wee thread, while my claws were dug sufficiently into a C in another. Straight Cs. That is a first in my academic record. I've had a C or two in the past (damn you to the depths of hell, Mr. S. Alek, and your ridiculous pre-calc class, too.), but generally As and Bs. These grades have been the source of much of my recent depression, for I took some pretty important classes. I was convinced that my medical career vanished right before my eyes. The reality is that I might not now get into any of my top choices of schools, but I'm not yet condemned to St. Lucia (please imagine me laughing, because I am). It's over and I'll never make the same terrible mistake of signing up for so many difficult and demanding courses in the same term. My ego is now ghastly under-inflated.

I am soon to see my doctor again for my 6 month check-up. More blood drawn. Oh, how I look forward to sitting in that frigid waiting room, starving to death! Also, I am not looking forward to being told to raise my HDL. I hate making him say that every time, and the embarrassment and shame I feel about it is good for a few weeks' worth of daily exercise, but there's always that one morning when I wake up after insufficient sleep and I'm feeling a bit off..."I think I'll take it easy today, get to bed early, and really put in a good effort tomorrow." I might have a go for a bit a few days later, but that's the complete and total dropping off point. Since switching universities and having classes all over campus, I figured that all of the walking between buildings (as briskly as temperatures allow...don't care to be exerting myself in 90+ degree weather and high humidity!) and taking the stairs, always taking the stairs, would give me just about the right amount of exercise daily. Of course, I know this to be wrong...mostly.

Also, a cause of great embarrassment is an allergy to a medication that I once thought that I had. My doctor didn't argue with me about it, but only asked what it was that led me to that conclusion. I told him, and he didn't seem convinced, but again, didn't argue against it. If he has a blog, I'd love to go back and read the entry from that day. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I'm sure he thought me nearly fit for the asylum before that revelation, and it's a wonder I wasn't committed after. I can take some comfort in the fact that all of that happened after an extraordinary and terribly frightening medical incident brought on by ingestion of an unfortunately common food additive, to which I'd never experienced any adverse reaction before. At that point, I was terrified to introduce anything new to my body and was eating the same "safe" foods for months, for fear that I'd experience those symptoms again. Without question, the three (yes, THREE) times I went through it were the most torturous events of my life.

New Year's resolutions have never been something to which I've paid any mind, except for when forced to for a writing assignment in grade school English class, but I'm thinking about devising a list of things that I've neglected long enough. Hmm.

1. Quit smoking.
    Aha, one down already! Round about next Easter time, it'll have been 5 years.

2. Cut down on the alcohol intake.
    Say, I'm on a roll! I haven't been drunk since a blow-out with a former lady friend in the early months of the year. Before that, it had been at least two years.

3. Exercise more
    Celebration of accomplishing the first two goals is now to cease. The idea is to take advantage of the free gym to which I have access, and to do so at least three times a week. Next term, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be my "off" days, having only one class to attend. I shall also try to work in something on Wednesday or Friday, depending on which day ends up being scholastically more demanding. Once I'm adhering to that schedule without fail, I should then seek to tack on an extra day, and then another, until I'm in there for at least half an hour five days a week. Yes.

4. Seek help for depression.
    ...as well as whatever else may be going on up my head that causes me to fall into such nasty ruts every now and again. I have noticed that it all starts with me feeling a little "off" one day, and then something happens to take my level of self-worth down a notch or two, which opens the floodgates. At the lowest point, I'm just about ready to accept complete responsibility for the slaughter of this continent's indigenous folks in the name of westward expansion. It doesn't make any sense, but it's how I end up feeling, although slightly exaggerated in my description here. I'm sure that part of this affected my grades, which served to make me even more depressed. Nice little cycle there, and I really don't want it to get further out of control.

5. Kick Biochem square in the pants.
    ...but first, provide that treatment to Organic II. That poor showing in Organic I has to be made up for.

6. Seek help in bettering my time management skills.
    I've always been good at splitting up my time and prioritsing...that is, until last term. There were many moments where I spent ten minutes try to decide between studying for my calc or organic exam first, and for how long.

7. Smile more!
    I enjoy smiling and I love laughing, but I've noticed that I've, at some point, picked up a scowl as my default facial expression during my travels across campus. There have been probably untold numbers of female admirers spurned by my angered look.

The first step to success, they always say, is setting attainable goals, and I believe that I've done just that. So, my dear, off to bed I go.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Although quite accustomed to, and welcoming of, change, the things which are changing at this point in my life are rather depressing. The major issue is that I've already spent my last Thanksgiving at home, and am in the process of spending my last Christmas at home. Next year, my mother will have moved, and while she swears that I'm welcome to stay with her, I wouldn't feel at all comfortable with it. She's remarrying, you see, and I hardly know the man. In fact, of what I do know, more of it is negative than positive. My mother hardly even knows him, for they've only been dating for one half of a year, and she won't listen to reason. So much has changed with her and it's almost as if she is not the woman who raised me. I want her to remarry and be happy with someone, but I surely wish that she would take her time and pick someone worthy of her love.

To make matters worse, last night I went to the home of an old flame to prepare and enjoy dinner together. We've remained great friends and I thought that I'd made peace with her new relationship. It's been nearly a year, after all... I am here to announce that, apparently, I am not over her. On the dresser in her room sits two professional photographs of them together and it made my stomach churn...a most surprising reaction. I don't understand.

All of this brings up the thoughts I used to have a decade+ ago, where I'd imagined myself at 25 with a wife, a home, and a good job. At 27, I have none of these things and no prospects for any of them, either. Well, the first rays of hope from medical school are just nearly dawning, so at least the good job aspect of my dream is coming into sight.

Furthermore, while it has been rather nice out for the last couple of days, this has not been the case for the better part of the last few months. I should not expect cool weather in this miserable state, but each year, I go on with my foolish dreams and hopes, anyhow. Christmastime has not felt it since moving here so, so long ago, almost entirely due to the lack of cool weather starting in late September/early October. When it's still in the 70s, sometimes in the 80s, in December, it's hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Yes, I am well aware of what should be on my mind at this time of year, and I can assure you that it is, but I am a man who has always enjoyed the fine particulars of things.

Altogether, it's been a strange, and sometimes quite harsh, year and I'm about ready to throw it out on the curb with the rest of the rubbish where this mess rightfully belongs.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Friday, December 18, 2009

Please, somehow, someway, turn it around...

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Consider me sufficiently humbled. I spent the better part of this morning volunteering at a soup kitchen/clothes depot. Having never done anything like this before, I wasn't sure what to expect and was knocked for a loop. Some of the most pitiful creatures walking the earth came waltzing in today and as I did what I could to direct them to the kinds of clothes they were seeking and making sure their dining needs were met, the most peculiar feeling of complete helplessness overcame me. Knowing full well that it wouldn't do a stitch of good for rectifying the situations of these folks, I wanted to open my (mostly empty) wallet to them. I wanted to do something, anything, to rescue them from squalor. I wanted to cure mental illness, cure addictions, provide jobs, shelter, transportation, extraordinary medical care, education, dot dot dot.

What really caught me off guard is the large number of "customers" who were quite obviously in need of psychiatric care. Many a time I've heard that a large portion of the homeless are those who suffer from untreated mental illness, and it sounded like a reasonable statistic, but I viewed the situation in much same way that a person relates to news that thousands died as a result of a typhoon on the other side of the world. It's a troubling thought, but difficult to feel any deep, personal emotion over. The obvious effects of drug use were also quite apparent among many of the guests.

One man in particular singled me out and spent over an hour talking with me. I first noticed a little paranoia, in the form of constantly scanning the room, as if he were potential prey uneasy about edging up to a watering hole. As we spoke, I was stricken by the man's intelligence and vocabulary. Obviously a learned man. What went wrong? After twenty minutes, I noticed something else amiss, what with the way he was unable to remain on a particular topic for more than a minute. It was a little tough keeping up. Then, I noticed two spots on his forearm, which upon first glance, looked like strangely misshapen tattoos. I soon got a good look at them, and it appeared to me to be a combination of scar tissue indicative of a severe burn and some kind of infection. Maybe an intravenous drug user? Don't know. He mentioned several particulars of his life (hard-luck stories), and mentioned a previous career. His stated previous profession didn't quite match up with the overall picture I was getting of this guy, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and we carried on. When another volunteer joined the conversation, the subject of work was brought up again. He again mentioned his previous employer, and an inquiry was made as their location. He mentioned it was in a nearby town...and said that it was shut down by the feds not long after he left. Convenient. I then began to wonder how many of the other quite believable items he'd mentioned were grounded in any sort of truth. It was hard to relinquish those thoughts and just listen, because he seemed so desperate for someone to listen. So, that's what I did, until he had a mind to leave about half an hour later. He left in high spirits, thanking me for the conversation several times. He did most of the talking, which was fine, because I was at a loss to come up with anything. A crisis emerged in my mind.

I don't know what to say to these people!

I've spent so much time engaged in conversation about subjects related to my major, to the majors of others, our aspirations to be doctors...all sorts of things in "privileged" society. I found myself wanting to ask these folks about the past, before things went south for them, but I wondered in how many cases that "before" meant prior to conception. I also wanted to be considerate to their feelings now and not make them get stuck on how good things used to be, potentially putting them in a blue mood. This is a matter of great concern for me, because I do plan to donate my services to the uninsured (if such a thing exists by the time I'm a doctor...and I hope, desperately hope, that it doesn't)...how can I get them to keep up maintenance on themselves and trust that what I'm telling them is for their own good, if I can't first make them feel comfortable and erase some of those (mostly imagined) boundaries between us? Continual exposure is the only prescription I can imagine, which is good, because it's what I've planned on, anyhow.

As I was leaving, a lady was exiting the clothing depot with a bagful of items. She very nearly hit me with the door, and when our eyes met...instant recognition. I had worked with her several years ago, and we'd gotten along quite well...to the point where I found myself rather attracted to her. It was not a romance that would ever come to be, however, for she was separated from an abusive husband...definitely not the kind of situation in which I would want to become involved. Today, she was a far cry from the mildly physically attractive woman I knew so many years ago. Her face seemed a little sunken in, she had a bad dye job on a somewhat untamed head of hair, some teeth were missing...some were golden. I knew she had children and I wonder whatever became of them. I wondered what happened to her to bring her to this condition. Anyhow, I mentioned that I remembered her from The Business For Which We Both Once Worked, Inc., and I don't know if it was shame or honestly not remembering, but she gave the, "Oh, heeeeeeey! Good to see you! Gotta go!" bit. I felt guilty for saying hi just in case she was embarrassed, but I reasoned that I had done it in a very friendly, excited manner...but you never know what is on the minds of others.

What an end.

What a world.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Recently, it occurred to me that I have not worn a watch regularly since middle school. In high school, it was fashionable in my circle of friends to not particularly have any interest in time, sort of in the Captain America (from Easy Rider), "I'm hip about time," style. However, now that I am advancing in years and have many thoughts of settling down and bringing children into the world, the desire to own a watch that I may someday pass down to my eldest/only son fills me with a sense of...excitement, honestly.

The search for a tasteful, understated, classic-looking watch reminiscent of something from the 1930s or 40s was a difficult and time-consuming endeavour, in which I ultimately settled on a watch styled in such a way that is indicative of a decade or two before my target era. It has sort of an art deco feel, of which I am quite fond. There is a significance here beyond just that of my personal taste. The company for which I was working when the decision came to me to become a doctor was housed in one of the downtown area's oldest buildings. Our storage area (an adjacent building), had not been updated or modernised, and upon entry for the first time, my eyes immediately found the ceiling. It's one of those tray ceilings, made to look like tiling, what with the outline of golden squares and cream-ish coloured centers. The fancy moulding, with its sharp angles, always made me think of the film Metropolis. Despite the state of disrepair of just about everything from the ceiling down, and the multitude of oft-spotted roaches and other assorted vermin, I generally thought of it as a treat to visit...sort of as if I were stepping back in time, which is something I've spent the majority of my life interested in doing. So, yes, the watch instantly reminded me of that building, which has been and shall be forevermore, quite close to my heart.

My father never really had anything meaningful of his own to pass down to me, and in some far corner of my mind, I'm discovering that I wish he had. He did bring home various exciting items from his work, however...how many other 8 year-olds could've proudly proclaimed, as I did, that they were in possession of several flightsuits used by real military pilots? I also was the recipient of several duffel bags, canteens, fatigues, and Lord only knows what else. I cherished these things and still have many of them. Perhaps I will one day give them to my own children, telling them about my father's work.

So, in just a short paragraph written in a matter of minutes, I have realised that my father did indeed pass down something meaningful, and on more than one occasion. Don't I feel a right fool having gone all of this time not realising it?

I'm off, my dear, to ring my father and express my appreciation and future plans for the trinkets he gave to me.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unraveling, remembering...

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

It seems impossible that some of the most significant and defining moments of my early adulthood were taking place at this very time ten years ago. My first love had just casually waltzed into the picture...for an accurate description of how I see that in retrospect, please give a listen to Nat King Cole's "Orange Coloured Sky." The Beatles had just recently become a huge chunk of my musical diet, and at the time, the early years were my preference. Christmas that year, when I received Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, and Abbey Road as gifts, my stance was forever changed. I can still recall how it felt to hear "For No One" and "And Your Bird Can Sing" for the first time that beautiful morning. Oh, my, and "Eleanor Rigby!" Revolver blew me clean out of my britches. Also that Christmas, I was the enthusiastic recipient of a grey cardigan sweater, which was to become my trademark sweater for the duration of my high school experience. My best friend at the time lived right next door, and it was his younger sister who had introduced me to my first love. She went to visit my neighbour that day and we watched a little of Yellow Submarine, which Lil Sister had received from Best Friend. LS made a hasty exit, citing a craving for some left-over turkey, and Girlfriend and I wasted no time immediately engaging in frantic osculation. Later, the two of us, during the golden hour, sat together under a tree in the yard, each with rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes, and pounding hearts. Merry Christmas.

A year later, the relationship had been over for a month, having been brought to its demise by my depression and insecurity, for which I sought treatment. Yet again, the nice, crisp December weather would blow in a beautiful set of ingredients from which life-long memories were made. Coffee shops, jazz musicians, a homeless man, a new girlfriend, antique typewriters, Jack Kerouac..."On the Road" changed my life. This whirlwind of excitement was over in six months. Got dumped after a month, coffee shop closed just after graduation, homeless man disappeared (never to be heard from or of again), typewriters took up space...but ol' Kerouac, he stuck around. Matter of fact, Jackie-boy saw me through my political and spiritual transformation and growth, and introduced to me, together with George Harrison, eastern religions from which I've gleaned an incredible amount of joy and countless hours of imaginative contemplation. Tea. I discovered tea, thanks to "The Dharma Bums," and haven't let it go since.

The next several years of my life, during which time you entered and subsequently exited, were filled with weekends of excess...too much to drink, too many cigarettes. Not an incredibly unhappy period, but none of this will make the highlight reel. Things began to look up again in 2005.

I was promoted at the job I'd taken on and it looked as though a career in IT was my calling. It seemed a natural fit, having always been given to technological wizardry, if you will (and I think you might). However, this was not to be, and the project I was a part of had been abandoned. Once again, "What next?" was on my mind and I turned to foreign film for an escape. Quite naturally, I decided to become a filmmaker.

Best Friend/Drinking Buddy got swept up in my passion and, using his father's Hi-8 camcorder, we suited up, slapped a tablecloth on a card table, and started acting out a mobster tale. Later, I'd saved enough for a miniDV camcorder with all sorts of knobs and levers and I began writing short films about spiritual happenings, especially awakenings. Never could reliable "actors" hit upon my projects, and around the time of my 24th birthday, I hung the filmmaking idea up indefinitely.

...I had met a woman, someone with whom I was sure I'd be spending the rest of my days. I went back to college, having a mind to become an architect, but was soon put off of that when I found that most do commercial work instead of residential. The housing market crisis gleefully hammered in the final nail in that coffin. So there I was, without any direction once more.

It was at this moment that family, work, and personality combined in such a way as to reveal the path down which I am currently strolling. My grandmother began exhibiting signs of what I thought was Alzheimer's Disease. She soon began complaining of constant dizziness, nausea, and other uncommon distressing feelings. I knew what was coming, but I couldn't admit it and my family dared not discuss it. Everything was going to be okay. Everything had to be okay

Nothing was okay.

Pancreatic cancer. Less than a month after the initial symptoms, she was gone. In the meantime, we learned that the cancer had metastised, reaching portions of her brain and just about everywhere else. Aha, it was this that caused the changes in her personality. Hmmmm, I should be grieving more, but I'm having an awfully hard time not being curious about the mechanics of consciousness and perception. This took me way  back to my mid-teens when I first met people who regularly ingested LSD and shrooms. My exposure to psychedelics prior to these interactions came from Woodstock concert footage and a couple of episodes of Dragnet--the "Blue Boy" episode, most notably. In listening to trip reports from these individuals, always my mind sort of drifted away from the specifics of what they were telling me and towards the mechanics of the process. How? WHY? I happened upon a notable street drug reference website and essentially printed off everything there was to know about LSD...in the high school's library. Far too terrified to try these things out for myself, trip reports and pages upon pages of meaningless jargon were all I had. It was a valiant effort to make sense of the mechanical (or maybe, the theorised mechanical) aspects of acid-induced hallucinations, but it was beyond my understanding. I finally threw in the towel and moved on. Funny how things such as this resurface.

My obsessive personality took hold and anything that had even a remote association to the brain and its functions that I could get my hands on, I spent inordinate amounts of time with. V.S. Ramachandran became my hero and somewhere along the way, I just knew neurology was in the cards for me.

Please allow me to back up a few steps and explain that during this time, I worked for a document imaging company whose primary clients were hospitals. They'd ship to us boxes upon boxes of ED reports and it was our job to digitise them. I ended up in quality analysis, so I was the last pair of eyes to see the images before being sent back to the client. This afforded me ample opportunity to read through the charts, which I took to doing almost immediately, before the desire to become a doctor had hit me. After a few months, I got to where I could sometimes guess correctly the diagnosis, but this was rare. Eloquent language has always turned me on, and there was just something about the reports doctors would write that grabbed me...also of great interest were post-op reports.

As far as my personality is concerned, I've always had a grand desire to take care of people, to be someone that a soul in need can turn to for a shoulder to cry on, to offer solutions, to stand firmly by someone when perhaps no one else can or will...all of these things that are undoubtedly the wistful dreams of billions of premed students. But I'm different! Hmm. I know, my dear, that I am on the right path and that my enthusiasm shall not waiver.

Last fall, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to shadow several doctors at a neurology practice not far from my home. There were five there in total, and I sat in with four of them over the several months I visited. The first doctor seemed a little impersonal with patients, but to me, between patients, he was eager to answer all of my silly questions and expound indefinitely on conditions and treatment. I could not, however, get over the slightly cold manner with which he dealt with patients. The second doctor I sat in with was easily in his late 60s and did not seem to want to stop laughing, which is fine by me! During examinations, he was highly personable and asked plenty of questions about patients' interests, hobbies, family... almost all of the patients seemed receptive to this and, at times, it was easy for me to lose a sense of where I was and to what I should be paying attention. Nearly every patient left the examination room smiling and seemingly unwilling to part ways! That's the kind of doctor I want to be...taking care of business and getting serious as needed, but generally relating to these patients as people (as opposed to the next ailing thing in line to be treated), keeping their spirits up when things might not look so good for them in the long run. My favourite doctor was the one I shadowed next. Not only did he also display this desire to get on well with his patients, he was extraordinarily thorough, in both his examinations and in involving me in the process!! He made me feel as though I could contribute to the diagnosis and recommended treatment (although we both were well aware that I could not), which very nearly made me pass out from excitement. Before a patient arrived, he'd tell me their issue, what he'd done for them in the past, and a little about the condition if I was not familiar. He'd introduce me to the patient, instead of just saying "Do you mind if this guy sits in?", and during the examination he'd explain in detail what he was doing and what he was looking for, including those things which are normal and those which are not. At the end of his time with each patient, he'd open it up to me to ask any questions of the patient I so desired! I had died and gone to heaven. Needless to say, I spent the majority of my remaining visits with him.

 I'll have to admit, out of all of the cases I got to see, Alzheimer's patients were by far my favourite. Apparently, lady luck was great to me in that all of the patients were subdued and gentle, and nothing like the agitated and violent people one of my nurse friends so often encounters. Dementia. To say that I am fascinated is insufficient. A girl I briefly dated when I was 19, or thereabouts, had a grandmother who was severely afflicted. We were all at some family member's house for dinner, and as I brought my dishes into the kitchen, I saw the kindly old grandmother bent over the kitchen counter examining the toaster. I was unaware of her condition at this point, and didn't know what to make of what she was doing. As I began to offer assistance, she turned to several decorative salt and pepper shakers on the adjacent counter. Still bent over, hovering over them, she appeared to be murmuring to each of them. I put two and two together, coming to the conclusion that she must have diminished eyesight. Again as I was about to offer assistance, I was interrupted, My girlfriend walked in and seconds later, her grandmother leaned in further and kissed each of the shakers. She pointed to one nearer to the middle, kissed it again, and said, "Don't tell the others, but I like you the best!" I laughed, thinking she was fooling around, but I was soon informed of her dementia. It was still a funny sight, but a wave of sickness, despair, and a large damned amount of curiosity washed over me. I had never felt so moved by something in my life up to that point. I didn't know what to do with it, so like the curiosity about perception-altering drugs, I filed it away and moved on with my life.

For fear of need of extra postage, I shall cease these self-indulgent explorations of the past and turn you loose.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 1

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

The Friday before classes were to begin at my new university, I had aimed to transport the majority of my belongings to the new apartment, but first desired a haircut...a costly mistake. My hair ended up looking as though I was recovering from a bowl-cut. "What on God's green earth should compel a hairstylist to commit such a heinous act upon another's head?" An oft-repeated question that was for the next several weeks, I can assure you. Part of the allure of enrolling myself in this university was to see what I might be able to attract from the vast supply of lovely female students, but with a head of hair styled in such an offensive manner, my chances were severely diminished. This was a matter of great concern in the days leading up to, and especially the morning of, my first classes. I went so far as to even make several attempts at procuring a suitable hat, but with finances as strained as they were already, this was an unreasonable endeavour. After some thirty minutes' worth of attempts at taming the monstrosity adorning my melon back at my mother's place of residence, a state of equilibrium had been reached...and if only I could manage not to shake my head about and avoid any strong winds, I'd be set.

With ridiculous-looking head held high, once more I stepped up to face the world and it's next set of great challenges. Upon the starting of my trusty vehicle, it soon became apparent that the air conditioning system must be malfunctioning because all I was receiving was hot, humid air...a most unwelcome experience when, already, the temperature outside of the vehicle was easily in the mid-90s with 80-90% humidity. Having faced and dealt with such trouble in the very recent past, I knew that if only I could soon speed up to approximately 45 MPH, the cold air would kick in. You very well know that my body was not meant to be subjected to a hellish environment and that my suffering during Florida's 7 or 8 months of summer is intense and trying....well, here I was trapped in a sweat box in the hottest and most aggitating period of summer, stuck with speed limits of 25, then 30, then 35 MPH before, FINALLY, I came upon the stretch of road that calls for 55 MPH. Streams of sweat were running down my face and, within the confines of the light, thin, and quite breathable long pants I had selected for wear, my legs felt as if I were in the shower. The needle on my stress gauge came creeping closer to the red, point of no return, zone, and when the cold air had not decided to save me from the oppression of the season, I went well past that red zone. There was no way that I was going to make the hour+ trip in such conditions.

Having had (mostly) positive interactions with a particular mechanic in the past, I took my car there to be repaired. I told them my situation, and that I had to check into my apartment before 5 p.m. The time was now 1 p.m. They swore up and down that I'd be out in an hour. The time of my parting with those buffoons was nearer to 3 p.m. than 2 p.m. Not only did this displease me greatly, but they'd come back with a whole host of items that they considered to be urgently in need of repair. Even after explaining that my funds were not sufficient to even cover whatever repair was necessary to get the air conditioning operational once more, they persisted in trying to bully me into agreeing to have them fix the other issues. I had no patience for their games, and I'd been exceedingly pleasant, as is my nature, with the man up until this point...thrice I had to aggressively refuse their suggested repairs before he backed down, but not before he gave me the old, "Well, it's your car..." line. I'll have him, you, and anyone else who cares to hear it, know that after 4 months, I've not had a single issue with my automobile.

3:15 p.m., approximately, and I was on the road again...$100 more in the red, but at long last, enjoying the arctic winds from my air conditioning unit. The plan had been to stop by the university bookstore before the apartment to pick up the rest of my textbooks, but seeing as it was 4:30 by the time I made it to my new home, I had no choice but to stop by there and check in. Of course, a torrential downpour had started fifteen minutes prior to my arrival, eliminating the possibility of unloading my belongings. I sat, patiently waiting, in the parking lot for a quarter of an hour before deciding to head to the bookstore before they closed. After a successful, and pleasant, transaction there, I walked to my car without the need of my umbrella.

Upon entering my apartment, I first noticed the heat (air conditioner was set to 80!), and then all of the...well, junk, strewn about. Sitting in the living room amidst a pile of who-knows-what were a guy and a girl. I recognised the guy from prior interaction via a social networking website (interaction that he'd initiated upon learning that we'd be sharing an apartment) and was pleased with his well-meaning and friendly disposition. The girl was introduced as his girlfriend, who, it was announced, would be staying until Sunday. Hmm. Okay, that's fine. She seemed nice enough. Moments later, the second of three flatmates revealed himself. This was the one who'd been the cause of much concern prior to moving in, as his page on the social networking site was filled with tales of alcohol-induced tomfoolery and arrogant machismo...things that clash greatly with my personality. He was, to my great surprise and relief, quite amiable and welcoming...and much taller than I had imagined, although not as tall as me. The third flatmate, I was told, had gone out for food and would be back shortly. My concerns about having at least 7 years on them in terms of age were mostly washed away with this first interaction, which was most welcome having worried quite a bit about it in the months leading up to the start of term. After hauling my belongings into the apartment, I inquired as to which room was mine. This was my first hint of troubles to come.

The story, as relayed to me by the fellow who shall henceforth be recognised as Flatmate 1 (or FM1, should my manner be languid), was that all of the bedroom doors were open upon their arrival, so he grabbed the closest room. Later, upon discovery that the key he'd been given did not match the lock to his door, but after having moved ten tons of possessions into the room, he decided he'd stay put. He asked would I rather have the room assigned to me, and my first reaction was a resounding, "YES!" but I would've felt guilty having him transport everything down the hall... although, in retrospect, I had no reason to feel that way, espsecially since, if his story was true (and my belief is that it most certainly is not), holing up in the wrong room could've easily been avoided by checking to see which key fit in which lock. At the time, however, I had no real reason to suspect foul play and agreed to switch rooms. A few nights after moving in, I discovered that a popular, late-night meeting spot for loud and drunken students is right outside of my window. I've had many nights of discontinous sleep due to this fact. Furthermore, my room shares a wall with the living room, but for all of the protection from sound it gives, the wall may as well be a thin blanket. This, too, has greatly affected my sleep...obviously, my flatmates are about as deaf as they come, because the television can't be lower than volume 40 and they have to yell to each other instead of speaking at a respectable level. They are most fond of these activities the night before I have an exam or an early class. There have been many discussions about this, which I shall detail at some point in the future.

Overall, the apartment and my flatmates at this point seemed nice, and I was excited about the times that awaited us. My original plan was to make two or three trips to the apartment to move my belongings, but it was now so late in the day and I was exhausted. I left, with the promise that I should return the next day...and stay. I did just that, but, my dear, that also is a tale for another time.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Saturday, December 12, 2009

For No One

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Should this letter, this desperate attempt to connect, reach you, I am hoping that it finds you well.

Things have changed since last our speaking, so very much so that I dare say recognition upon first, second, and perhaps third glance would not be forthcoming. Out of nowhere, a chiseled jawline has developed and a variety of creases surrounding my oral cavity have worked in concert to bring a more striking, rugged, and ever-so-slightly more masculine appearance. Some things, however, have not followed suit and remain precisely as they were at the time of your departure; undoubtedly of most humour to you is the fact that still, at the age of 27, I cannot grow a proper beard.

Presently, yours truly is pursuing a degree in Microbiology & Molecular Biology at the University of Higher Studies and Such, with an expected graduation date of 2012. Future plans include gaining acceptance into any one of the country's finer medical universities. Yes, a physician I long to be...and, more specifically, my desire is to practice the noble science of neurology. Having just completed my first semester at university, and without having successfully established myself as a worthwhile student, plans are in development should none of the doors to medical school open up to me. Such plans include making that long dreamed-of trek across the ocean to the grand nation of Sweden, where I shall set to work immediately on a Master's degree in my field and perhaps live out the rest of my days.

Be patient, my...friend, as my time here is up, but further details are antsy to be conveyed.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris