I’m reading a book, The Goldfinch, and when I first saw it at the library I knew I had recognized the title until I realized that I was thinking of the name “Goldfinger”. I’ve never seen a James Bond movie, and the only reason I know that name is because I saw it in an exhibit at the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.- which I think I only like because, when I was much younger, it was marketed to me as “interactive” which is code for: easy to understand but will make you think you’re smart. (If you correctly push the button Y that corresponds to lever X you have not only surpassed the realm of hand-eye coordination, but successfully entered the realm of hand-eye-brain-fishing for compliments coordination.) It wasn’t until this year, or maybe last, in math class that I finally understood the concept of ratios- simple probability- and it is because of this knowledge that I can supply this one of my own. The number of books I have started: the number of books I have finished and the number of books people think I have read :: millions : not that many. That was a weak and terrible analogy, not a ratio. I don’t know how to type the fraction symbol, and even though I think there’s a way to write ratios in other way slightly similar to an analogy, I can’t remember and never thought computers were important enough to find an interest in them, or whatever would make me able to type in a fraction.
After reading the first page of The Goldfinch, I readily chased each one after that until about the hundredth page. I have since been dutifully engaging myself, wondering when it will improve. A certain character has caused me to lose interest, and while it is the exact type of character I traditionally eye-roll my way past in similar books, it is still about ninety-nine percent more of a developed character than I have ever had.
Shortly after about seventh grade, I think, I started to get secretly tested for symptoms of ADD or ADHD or any other combination of letters that fails to hold my interest. I say secretly not because the tests were secret, or the locations were privatized, but because I was so caught up in the interesting aspects of it all- colors, questions, snacks, people talking intently to and about me- that I didn’t notice they weren’t just “tests all the universities do… just on random people, to get simple data for their studies” as my mother liked to secretly reassure me. I say secretly, again, not because she was speaking in a focused whisper, or because it was classified information, but because I was so caught up with not paying attention to what she was saying to… pay attention to what she was saying. There was a day when I sat slouched under the two-foot ceiling of a man’s Hyde Park basement, and if I hadn’t been so preoccupied with telling him which faces on the flip chart I had already seen twice, sometimes just once before, I would have known to still my hands picking at the wicker seat between my legs so that he wouldn’t have breathed a sigh of relief in knowing that he had, once again, reigned supreme in the race to find how many bored twelve year olds were chronically incompetent.
In one of my old history classes, I steadily claimed among the lowest, if not the very lowest, essay and test scores in my period, and more realistically- most of the other periods, too. My teacher at one point stopped even putting a score at the top of my essays, and although most of my classmates had an infrequent scattering of pink dashes next to the multiple choice questions they got wrong, the margins of my tests would usually be a near constant strip of color with a few jumps where you could see the white paper underneath. At the time, it was stressful (although well-regulated) because never before had I been properly exposed to the downfalls of my intellect. This year, while I haven’t saved my habits, work ethic, or prospects, my tests aren’t graded the same way and I therefore have saved the school some pink ink. The class was often spoken about as if its sole intent was to be rigorous and I was assured that each and every one of my classmates were having similar struggles, but while they were working at unsuitably early hours of the morning to understand the material, I was working at unsuitably early minutes into the class period the next day to scribble down anything that could pass as a coherent sentence.
Most times, I have a lot of trouble with being able to tell whether or not the blame I place should be placed on myself or others. In the case of my parents, it used to be that I would rather have dropped it onto them instead of pulling it myself- but there within itself is another problem: was it really true that they had just their shoulders to bear it and I, a cart, handle and all? I have a slight, pressing fixation on cracking codes, that is, which one of my parents cracks more easily, that is, which one of my parents is better at cracking codes, that is, which one of my parents is the better parent, that is, which one of my parents is really, my parent. I can blame myself for even writing those last two sentences, easy, because I already know the answer and I have long been chastised for wasting time. But do I blame myself for not noticing my mother’s expensive downfalls sooner, or do I blame her for spending her time as such in the first place? If I don’t blame anyone, what happens next?
6, alternatively titled “Mediocrity”
I was just recently in the process of finishing a sentence with the words “the good, the bad, the ugly, Wikipedia”. I can sense this may be quite the convoluted paragraph, convoluted because that was my first fancy-for-a-sixth-grader term I had to throw in to make myself feel prematurely successful, convoluted because I always have a lot to say but never the skill to say it, or the skill to say a lot but never anything useful to say. It has only ever been one of those two, which one, who knows? To start, I haven’t seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The title is one of those names that I was automatically born with the knowledge of but didn’t care or think about where it came from, like Michelle Pfeiffer, Pride and Prejudice, Peter Cottontail. I know it’s a movie, and not a book, play, musical, or show because one time my choir director told us about the term “Spaghetti Western” and made us pay for our soon-to-be-spent time by watching a ukelele orchestra of sorts pluck out the main theme to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It’s amusing to me how all the mediocrity in my life is connected; I find out about a movie genre four years un-premature of when I should have brought it to my own attention, in a class in which I am a participating bystander simply because I don’t even know what it means to take music seriously, and also at this point I should point out that the phrase “participating bystander” is an oxymoron- and I misspoke: it’s not that I should point it out but that I feel the need to, because if I don’t continue to prove my “knowledge” of English devices, then I will never accumulate the motivation to actually start studying said devices and improve my English skills in order to one day become the English Aficionado that, unexplainably, everyone near me thinks I already am. And speaking of “knowledge” it should be mentioned that in my head I was voicing the term “quote-on-quote” as I typed that, only to abruptly remember that the correct term is “quote unquote”. Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps this paragraph wasn’t as convoluted as I had originally predicted; the only thing not mediocre about me is my stupendous tendency to jump to conclusions about my own impulsive decisions before I can even stop falsely reenacting the future long enough to, you know, actually make a decision.
I stopped reading The Goldfinch soon after the boy in the story grew up, not because he was an adult but because he was an uninteresting adult and the story was, similarly, uninteresting. I gave the book to my sister to return the library, not because I’m trusting but because I myself didn't feel like returning it to the library. This was some number of months ago, and a slightly smaller number of months ago I got a letter in the mail saying that my library was missing The Goldfinch and I owed them about fifty-eight dollars. I didn’t even know a book could cost that much money, although I knew I wouldn’t pay it.