Regular Stuff

The Never Ending Rush of Study Abroad

Robert wakes. Kristian, still asleep, is making some loud snore noises across the room. Robert props up an extra pillow, pulls his laptop off the coffee table by his bed and works on internship applications for three hours. Name, Job History, Education History, Did You Graduate?, Special Skills, References, Cover Letter, Clips. He sips water from a tiny jar to scare out the dryness left over from last night’s red wine.

After an hour he hears a hammer through thin walls, looks up at a blank white corner where it’s coming from. Hm. Fixing the electrical system again.

At 10:45 Robert gets a text, from his phone service provider. Cinéday is offering movie tickets, two for the price of one. RSVP online.

It’s lunch time. As he eats, Robert spreads a deck of cards on the table. In front of him, above his desk, is a giant picture window opening up into Paris. The avenue, lined by parked cars and plane trees, is a straight shot to the Eiffel Tower. The 57 visible windows of the apartments across the street are all focused intently on his. Here we go. Everyone is watching. Robert lays out seven cards, then six, then five, then four, then three, then two, then one. Flips the bottom one over in each column and starts playing. Solitaire is his comfort zone. All the statistical uncertainty, and the slowly unfolding opportunities. Red queen to black king. Black 3 to Red 4. The adrenaline of throwing oneself into unlikely potential. The elation of an Ace, and the anxiety induced by half-baked strategies. Are the cards in the hand disappearing at the same rate as the cards in the field? Is there a melange of high and low numbers out? The game has hope; cards begin to disappear on the difficult right side of the field. Warm window-filtered sunlight comes through the window. Red 7 to black 8. Red 8 to black 9. Robert has played many games. Eventually he begins to see the learned signs of impending traps. A black Jack appears next to a black Jack. There are too many Kings in the deck. Soon he is stalemated. Robert folds up all the cards and reshuffles, ten times. Starts again. And again.

It is late afternoon. Robert enters a Facebook conversation. He struggles to share an mp3 file using the chat function.

As dinner approaches, Robert fires up Marble Blast Gold, the video game Kristian taught him how to torrent. He doesn’t like any levels except Level 44, so he tries to beat his record time again. Baguette tonight.

It’s dark now. Robert turns on Radio France, because maybe that will help him talk to French people some day. He spreads the cards out and lines up seven cards, six cards, five cards. He’s on a umpteen game losing streak. This will be the time. The lights are bright in the apartment, and to the pedestrians on the dark street he is backlit and impressive.

Robert decides to fill out one more internship application before he goes to bed. Chicago, New York, Boston, Colorado, Wyoming, Alaska. Robert closes his eyes, leans against the back of his chair, thinks what a dream it would be to spend some time in those places.

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