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I just did it. After weeks of obsessing over the decision of where to go to school (to my dismay, I actually go into all 6 programs to which I applied), after thinking the deliberation was between Rutgers and UT and then getting a surprise acceptance from UChicago……,,,,then it clicked. Rutgers has been my first choice all along,but I started to be a little apprehensive.

UChicago it is. It’s official. After booking a flight to Columbus and paying my $250 deposit just now, my bank accounts are frighteningly wiped out, but it’s alright. I’m going to one of the best Social Work programs anywhere in the Fall!

Now, my tax return better hurry up and arrive so I can pay May rent.

I’m so relieved to have this decision made.

Tomorrow is my Friday hike with Shane. I simultaneously want to confirm with him that I think of him as a boyfriend (we still haven’t had that talk, though we act like boyfriends in every way) and share with him my news that I’m going to Chicago at the end of the summer. It’s a bit absurd. I should have clarified the boyfriend bit sooner. Is there a point now? For me there is. We still have the whole summer to spend together, and my feelings for the guy have grown deeper.

But, for now, let me just scream, “Chicago! U Chicago!”

SXSW 2014 has come and gone. I am still working on my final blog entry for EDGE, but anyhow, despite loving the festival experience (duh, film festivals are my heaven on earth AND this one included an onslaught of music, in addition) I was overwhelmed and ready for its conclusion. This past week and a half has been intense and memorable for me for reasons beyond the festival, as well. First of all, acceptances to Social Work programs have been coming in. I’m at 4 now, but I am really focusing on 2 of them; and now that the festival is over I am launching into untangling the mysteries of financial assistance and frantically attempting to determine which program would be the best for me before the deadline to commit (one program has the audacity to demand a commitment in two weeks, well ahead of the “universal” April 15 deadline). Relatedly, as I make my way around Austin, I am trying to warm up to the idea of spending another 2 years in this city in which I am becoming restless.

Of course, one obvious benefit of remaining here is that I wouldn’t have to say farewell to the magnanimous man with whom I am growing more and more smitten. He is the other memorable part of this past couple of weeks. He had a SX music wristband, so he was mostly doing music while I was doing film, but we planned some convergence time; and it was a lovely continuation of our Free Week bonding (series of concerts when we first met). I followed his lead to a variety of free music offerings during the day, between screenings (and suggested one or two myself, including Paper Lions at the Canada House on Dirty Sixth). And he made it into “Wild Canaries” with me, an enjoyable Brooklyn sleuth-comedy. More significantly, he articulated his affection for me in a very vivid way throughout the week. He missed having more face time with me. Last night I returned to the saloon (his place), and before going to sleep beside him he told me that he has never felt this level of emotional and intellectual connection with a guy, and it’s exciting. Earlier in the week he also told me, upon me expressing regret for being enervated while we watched music, that he always loves my company, even when I’m not at 100 % and that “bland” is the last thing he could conceive of me as. I have sort of been rehearsing what I want to tell him as I am bussing around town, or lying in bed. I did manage to tell him that I feel an intuitive connection to him. Man, I really like this guy. I told him I want us to carry on; maybe next time we hang I’ll actually manage to tell him that I want to call him my boyfriend ha.    Oh, and he wants to camp! We discussed it (not for the first time) in between kisses at the edge of the woods while the queer punk of the GayBiGayGay event played (we agreed that the music was disappointingly infantile, but we had a grand time just the same).

I have a bundle of Turkish films to watch (and thoughts of returning there for the summer if I do decide to go to school locally) for an article on the Boston Turkish Film Festival, but I have to prioritize corresponding with schools and applying for funding. Oh, I’m also mindful to enjoy my film writing now because it will likely fall to the wayside next year when I’m a Social Work student. Sacrifices: I’m ready for them.

It was a slow day at CST; nobody showed up for English conversation practice, so I sat and brainstormed future conversation topics. A flicker of light or some such movement near the door caught my eye, and minutely I was startled by the vague idea, ‘rodent’. Since the minor trauma of having a rodent in my closet (is he in fact gone or just quiet?), peeking out or leaping out and scuttling off as I read or surf in bed, little movements caught in the corner of my eye have connected to the unease of having a rodent in my midst. A tiny, irrational tremor. Because I was at the Center for Survivors of Torture and had been reading about the treatment of PTSD, I reflected on how the fact that such a minor, benign event as having a rodent run across my bedroom floor instilled in me this little skittishness/expectation of an unsavory encroachment. So, I wondered what it must be like for people who are beaten and abused in sustained and creatively cruel ways. The reverberations must be intense, difficult to escape. I’m not sure I would be functional enough to learn a new language after enduring some such horror.

Another example of synchronicity between my life and what I choose to read: Last night I started Malamud’s “The Tenants” because I have been intending to since I encountered a mention of it on a New Yorker acquaintance’s Facebook wall, and I just finished the amazing “Americanah”. It’s about a conflict between a writer struggling to finish his third novel, who is now the lone occupant in a NYC apartment building, and the landlord who is desperately trying to get him out so he can start over and become profitable. Then, on my way to volunteering this morning I get a text from my roommate saying that he speculates that the landlord is being negligent about fixing our sink because he has raised the rent on all the tenants, who are leaving, and we remain, remnants of the old rent. Gosh, we better keep my presence well-concealed from him, as I’m not on the lease. What an untimely and unpleasant mess it will be if I have to move out now, considering I don’t know if I’ll be in Austin from another two months or two years…..The sink situation is an embarrassment because when I shave my hairy water lingers for a day or so. I texted back to Cass, “Bastard. We should kidnap him and dunk his head in my dirty shave water.”

Speaking of texting, I generally don’t think much of it, but it sure is nice to get a vibration-causing morsel from an affectionate other. My text connection with Shane is unprecedented (a reflection, of course, of our actual affection-tinged interaction). We texted furiously back and forth last night; it was exhilarating, and I want to save our dorky wit, our propulsive rhyming, our table tennis of frolic and flirtation.

I’m not sure I have felt this way about a dude before. He not only accepts but encourages my dorky humor. He doesn’t seem to mind that I’m a heathen, and I don’t mind that he chose a Christian university (in OK) or that he goes to a (progressive) Church regularly. In him it is endearing, not threatening.       Oh, and add to the list of things I discovered about him while having falafels, then ginger concoction cocktails, his skill at spelling (hey, I’m a word nerd, it’s a big deal), which he revealed when I complimented him on being a rare breed that didn’t need assistance spelling my email (it’s phonetic but still people seem to trip over it).

I’m smitten. I’m spittin’ and shittin’ ardor (and the hard-on is nearly superfluous). We’re going to watch Les Blank’s “Gap-toothed Women” tomorrow night, which I have been meaning to watch for years. Maybe pick up some biscuits or hush puppies (where does one find those in Austin?). I love that he’s happily a Southern boy (native Texan) and a progressive with stellar taste in music. It’s a really appealing duality. Neko Case (oh yeah, we text each other her lyrics as greetings). It’s ok to be dorky when someone appreciates it.

Just put your four layers on and leave, Kevin. I spent the night with Shane again (third time), and again I felt guilty afterwards for taking my time leaving in the morning. Clearly, he wanted some time on his own before departing, and I hesitated out of some embedded fear of seeming abrupt, or perhaps out of desire to share those moments of morning ritual with him/ to have another moment of intimacy before separating. But then I feel ridiculous. I remember having the same anxiety with Hermes in Chicago, more than 5 years ago. I apologized to him for lingering.      It is better to seem abrupt or cold than to annoy by lingering too long.

This, however, is a very minor part of what is developing between us. There is an intuitive connection between us, a natural mutual magnetism that I haven’t encountered in a very long time. We correspond incessantly; we erupt in smiles and jokes when we meet. My awkwardness is absorbed somehow – not absent but not burdensome.

Last night, we went to see “her”, the new Spike Jonze, at his suggestion. It was his first visit to Violet Crown, the lovely boutique cinema downtown that I fell in love with when I first moved to Austin. My first time at VC was conjured because the first film I saw there (and in the city) was Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom”, and last night we saw a trailer for his new one. Anyhow, I am so glad I saw “her” with Shane because, wow, what a lift of quirky romantic inspiration. The kind of film that makes you want to live big and love big, not to waste a second. The kind of romance I feel pleased to sink my teeth into.

Afterwards, we went to Violet Crown bar on the East side (why not be thematic about it?), another first for Shane, talked about our musical affinities as teens (he listened to Christian Rock, didn’t get into “good” music until college) and Samantha’s, the OS system, quote from the film, “The heart is not a box that you fill. The more you love, the more it expands.” Or something like that. It lead to a brief discussion about monogamy, the nature of relationships,etc. We seem to be on the same page about love being expansive but romantic love being finite because of practical/temporal and emotional limitations. But then he excused himself to use the restroom, and I wondered if it was rash for me to lead us into the terrain of dating, maybe indirectly suggesting I desire that from him. I believe that I do, actually, but I don’t want to put him off by speaking of it too soon. With him, I have been mostly confident and remarkably at ease, actually, because he constantly reiterates his interest in interacting with me, being intimate with me. Still, little anxieties do arise along the way. I told him I am usually the more emotionally involved in a relationship; he assured me that I don’t seem emotionally demanding, then said he’s usually the more emotionally detached one.

I detect ideological differences between us, and this weighs on my mind a bit. I think he’s middle of the road politically, very wholesome and family-oriented. It’s mostly the former that worries me. I worry about offending him with my offhand political comments. He’s so adorable,though. At least once I have evoked a blushing smile when I say something contrary to his beliefs (mentioning anticapitalism in a Thai restaurant).

I object to the fact that I become saddened when someone I care about has a different opinion on a matter that is important to me (like class conflict/economics), but it happens. I don’t want to date someone who is my ideological/political twin, yet I feel disheartened if I get the sense that someone isn’t empathetic in the way that I am, if he isn’t remotely politicized around defense of the poor or otherwise marginalized. It’s too soon to know, really, about Shane. I know he is a kind, good-humored guy. I also know he made some quip about use of food stamps to buy junk food that bothered me. And he said that in his profession it is natural for one to be a fiscal conservative, that term that makes my skin crawl. I don’t want to over think this prematurely. We are still getting to know each other. And I would like to write something more organized about my thoughts on this; this is just preliminary. The predominant feeling here is elation over our mutual interest. He is a beautiful man; and when we are together I feel a tug towards him, a comfort like with a brother or close friend. But there is a sexual attraction on top of that, despite him not being the sort that normally turns my head. I love how red his neck and ears turn when he is titillated. And I love that I have the power to do that to him. I love that he plays trumpet and knows much about local music; and I’m amused that I’m now affectionate towards an accountant.

This is probably my least Christmas-y Christmas yet. At least in Istanbul Laura and I met to commiserate and eat pasta (which turned out to be surprisingly spicy). Right now I feel like I am reliving yesterday. I’ve come to the same coffee shop (of course, who else would be open on Xmas? Starbuck’s doesn’t count) at the same time to work on the same thing (U Denver application) and wearing almost the same outfit. I am, however, sitting at a different table and sipping a Dutch hot chocolate (they forgot the whip cream but I won’t complain) instead of a Mexican mocha. I did open gifts from Sis and Mom (intrigued to try Mom’s homemade peppermint body butter) and skype earlier.

I read about the attacks on Santa’s in Turkey. Apparently, they weren’t anticapitalist gestures but acts by fundamentalist Muslims.

I also need to finish my letter to my prison pen pal. He is demanding a juicy story from Turkey, and I’ve come up with something for him. A story I shared with Matty at work. We get bored and talk about sex, etc. Mostly sex but a certain amount of etc.

I woke to the sound of angry yelling and slamming doors, as my roommate and his gf were having it out.Apparently, he got a mini Christmas tree for her yesterday, then when she changed plans on him and got testy he “gave” the tree to his dog, taking a picture of the dog pissing on the tree. I had to laugh at that.

Must order transcripts; must order transcripts; must order transcripts online. I have a strong psychological resistance to this particular duty of navigating bureaucracy. Just. do. it. dude.

…..And while reading Kashua on the night owl last night I ran into _______ (horribly, I can’t recall his name), this energized UT student who I find quite captivating because of his interests. We hung out twice several months back, and I run into him on the bus from time to time because he’s a Hyde Park resident. He’s a Chinese-American guy whose major is Arabic, an Egyptaphile, who lived in Cairo and Alexandria and knows all about translations of Mahfouz (who I was reading last time we ran into each other). And apparently he knows bits of Turkish and Persian,too. Him mentioning that just reminded me how much of a linguistic underachiever I am. Ugh. I need to get with it: French, Turkish. Come on.      We talked about the epic snow in Cairo and Jerusalem. Apparently, it’s the first time there’s been snow in Cairo for 112 years (????!)

Side note: I just ate 3 chocolate covered cherries while writing this, despite having plans for preparing sweet rice ‘n milk. I’m a hog. Indian buffet tomorrow.

I don’t know how to be spiritual. I had this thought as I waited forty minutes for the northbound 10 to scoop me up from the HEB parking lot. I was cold in my hoodie because I had dressed for the day, though I knew there’d likely be a 20 degree drop after sundown. I cursed the blasted Sunday bus schedule (thought in terms of status updates, as I increasingly do these days, but caught myself, realizing another gripe about the bus system would not make for a compelling, or even half way interesting, status update). Anyhow, I pulled out the novel I’m reading (more about that below) and forced myself to read through the cold, but in between sections of literature I thought of the my spiritual void and also my desire to return to Istanbul this year (maybe, just maybe, it is possible, as I have been tipped off that cheapcheap airfare is available). I think a conversation with a customer (about Indian gurus and Krishna Das) had gotten me thinking about New Age spirituality, and how I’m a bit alienated/annoyed by some New Agey stuff but how some of it I could imagine resonating with me. I do wish that I could make myself fill my more languorous hours with some sort of meditation instead of useless internet surfing or….

I also had the thought recently that there is a certain amount of serendipity in my book selection. The most recent example: I have a hopelessly long ‘to read’ list, mostly comprised of more or less contemporary literature. Still, looking for a certain author at the Library the other day caused me to discover Sayed Kashua. Strangely, I had just finished reading Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata”, his novella about a man who kills his wife. Well, I took Kashua’s “Second Person Singular” home with me because it deals with Arab-Israeli’s and sounds quite clever, but then I discover that the protagonist of the book is reading “The Kreutzer Sonata” and also ends up enraged at his wife for presumed adultery (and kills her?). What are the chances of that? I had never heard of either works of fiction about a month ago. But maybe more significant is that I have been watching a fair amount of Israeli films lately and am thinking of that part of the world because the Rutgers Social Work program (my dream program, at this point) has a study abroad program in Israel that I want to do so I can learn about refugee services there and what is happening with the Palestinian struggle there. So, I have been fantasizing, and then I stumble across this book that can teach me a thing or two about the Arab condition in Jerusalem.