about the author

Jennifer Hollie Bowles’s writing has been accepted for publication in Echo Ink Review, Thieves Jargon, Word Riot, The Ampersand Review, and The New York Quarterly, among many others.

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Paradigm Stint

Jennifer Hollie Bowles

The apathy atrophied, sure as shit on the long road home. It wasn’t the apathy, per se, but more of the feeling that—that—the Professors I held as ideal were less intelligent than I thought and the lover I held as ideal was as old as the Professors. My dad had just committed suicide and fucked-up the whole animus projection thing. What on earth was I going to do without a damn good animus projection? The rainbow in the sky, the first full one I had seen in twenty years, looked absurd with symbolism after the funeral, as if it arced a pose to mean something. The concrete upon which I drove was by far more palpable to my apathetic condition, and while the atrophy of apathy would make one (or both) a moot point, I felt my eyes grind against the symbolism that had sustained me, again for about the last twenty years. Evidently, Jung’s synchronicity was just as prone to entropy as anything else, yet the simplicity of it all could be nothing less than the bastard of chaos. I had always held tight to the entropy of my mind, always, mind you, and now, even that was missing, and I could no more look forward to a new symbol in my life than I could “look forward to” the lack of a symbol in my life. The thought of new symbols drained me; the thought of new relationships drained me, but I knew, oh how well did I know—that—new symbols and relationships were inevitable. You don’t just shut those parts of your brain off because your projections cease to fulfill you, but rather you keep them alive, and oh so very full of apathy. (Sarcasm is an entirely different story, dear reader, and I won’t bother you with a mundane explanation of its utter necessity herein.)

Time to test it, I said to myself. No need to chuck-up tears. They had already been shed, and to think, God just wanted me to celebrate his death. I tracked down the Big Three, the Three Ideal Male Professors. The first one, a real beaut of a History Professor with his potbelly and Santa hair, fell right into my trap when I boldly proclaimed via email that Nihilism was the only true watershed in History. His response: typical concept-jargon-retort that hid his true feelings of absolutely disagreeing with me. One down. (Unfortunately, my intuition was serving me dessert.) Number two, my old Music Professor from before I changed majors, a beautiful (truly) little man with a big fire for playing flute. This one was too easy, “I’ve decided to switch to playing the clarinet,” I said. Complete silence over the phone, as he had fully expected me to ask to take lessons from him again. Instead, I asked for a good clarinet teacher. More silence. Of course, he couldn’t open his mind and be happy for me about learning a new instrument because I was his, the brilliant flute player who would one day come back to her senses and be in a symphony like a good little girl instead of studying Sociology in graduate school. Which leads me to my next “ideal victim,” a more complicated matter in that he was my Sociology Professor while I had pursued my Masters, or rather The-Ultimate-Professor-of-all-my-ideals. I had tried, unsuccessfully, for a number of years, to “goad” this man into an argument, so I decided to take the personal high road and just flat-out ask him to have an affair with me. “Dr. R—,” I began, in a snail mail letter the way he liked it, “I think we should have an affair. I really want to take your trousers off. I love your black thick-rimmed military glasses. Your brain makes me wet. I promise not to tell your wife. Love, Jane.” What I expected from The Ultimate Professor was that he would turn me down, write profusely about my lack of morality in an oh so kind sort of way, and then recommend a few Sociology books concerning marriage. To my utter horror, The Ultimate Professor wrote back to me with elaborate time-scheduled arrangements for us to meet in a couple of weeks at a two-star hotel (his frugality had always been paramount). I realized that I much preferred Professors-as-Fantasies.

The Ideal Lover had been my lover for several years. He was passionate, attractive, smart, and just morose and moody enough to seem mysterious. My fire for Professors sort of fed the fantasy I had with The Ideal Lover, and since my conflagration for Professors had all but shifted into the trunk of my car and no longer titillated my libido, the fire I had for The Ideal Lover faded as well. Not to mention the fact that he was sixteen years older than me. The whole “older man” thing began to appear pathetic, just like my dad before he blew 1/3 of his head off. I know you don’t want a whole, “oh poor me my dad shot himself sort of story,” but for fuck’s sake, what’s an intelligent woman supposed to do without a good animus projection? I mean, I got over the whole spiritual guru fetish years ago, and now the only place I have to go is inside myself into the nether realms of the male aspect of my own psyche. I don’t want to do this. I do not want to do this. Thus the apathy that feels like the atrophy of my mind eats me, and then shits out symbols like a crackpot. It was indeed a long road home. “Where’s my home?” said Dad in the letter. I certainly didn’t fucking know, one way or the other, symbolically or not. Home must have just been a crazy ideal too, and now I didn’t even have anyone to fuck.

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