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Summer Postcards 2013

Sic Transit Gloria

By Lisa J. Mogilanski

FORT LEE, New Jersey—Reading Crimson postcards (and trying to figure out what’s going on in the background of Snapchats from friends who’ve gone abroad), I can’t help but wonder—am I wasting time? Should I have done something more with my summer?

I like my metals trading internship, during which I’ve learned about things like anti-dumping regulations, Incoterms, and zirconium oxychloride.  I’m not sure that I want to manage shipments of potassium fluoroborate for the rest of my life. And I’m not sure that God didn’t forget “thou shalt not heat up fish in the office microwave” when He handed down the Ten Commandments. Yet I enjoy the work.

The commute between my Queens, New York, home and the Fort Lee, New Jersey, office is a little less than two hours each way. It’d be faster if I just drove (which I can do legally, just not safely) or if, instead of waiting for a NJ Transit bus across the George Washington Bridge, I were to hitchhike. But I can’t imagine getting into the backseat of one of the cars lined up near the bus stop without also imagining winding up in the trunk.

Long as it first seemed, I’ve grown to like the commute (except for the Times Square/Port Authority stop—this cesspool I will always hate), even if the exhausted high-school-er in me who rode the crowded subway every day would consider this a major betrayal. I keep my music—the opiate of those who take mass transit—on shuffle, partially because I don’t want to have to interrupt my internal monologue and partially because, in music and in life, I don’t really know what I want, I’m just sort of hoping that it’ll happen of its own accord and that I’ll recognize it when it does.

Shuffle is dangerous business when your iTunes library includes songs like the techno remix of the “Inspector Gadget” theme, so I keep the volume low. In any case, the iPhone merely makes the commute tolerable; music and Fruit Ninja only go so far in the way of escape and intrigue. Books are the company that makes the trip good. Some of my favorite people are books.

I’ve explored the part of Fort Lee that I can cover during my lunch hour. Weeks pass without my really noticing; I do the same thing every day. To be honest, I anticipated tedium—for this summer to feel bland, unexciting.

I just never expected not to mind. This is not the generalized longing and anxiety I’d assumed was in my contract.

I remind myself that I’m not dead yet—one day I’ll see the world, or maybe Hoboken. But as time dissolves behind me, it feels odd that I’m not sorry to see it go.

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Summer Postcards 2013