Outside a binary system, the brighter object is a dream

In graduate school, a former roommate
once said: what women actually want
is someone who’s the truck driver type,
but with a Ph.D. I wondered, how is that
different from someone actually a truck
driver, but who’s the Ph.D. type?
Doesn’t that kind of leave out, even
hypothetically, the guy whose funding
runs out in the last year of grad school,
so he’s willing to consider driving for FedEx
or UPS or delivering packages for Amazon using
his father-in-law’s pickup truck? And what about
the female long-haul driver (they make up 5%
of the industry) who finished the entire
audiobook series of Proust’s Swann’s Way and
Christie’s Hercule Poirot Mysteries, delivering
distilled water coast to coast to pay off student
debts? So I’m not exactly sure what my roommate
meant; maybe, was she just practicing how to explain
to friends more well-heeled or more “intellectual,”
why she got engaged to a guy who was some kind
of mechanic—though he worked on planes, which
I guess is a kind of upgrade from Jiffy Lube
down the street? Besides, that kind of question
is always tricky, because shouldn’t we know
by now that anything reduced to a simple binary
leaves out a whole field of intersecting nuances
we can’t even begin to address, whether in theory
or praxis? I learned about a poet married to
a woodworker who carves and sands honey-
colored cheese boards from natural wood;
I ordered one for a friend last Christmas
and thought it was a beautiful thing, a work
of poetry itself. I don’t know if he has
a Ph.D. in what he does. There’s a local
art fair where we go every year to admire
the handmade jewelry, glazed pottery with
uneven rims where sometimes you can see
the imprint of the potter’s thumb
on speckled clay. A few years ago, I helped
to edit another friend’s book, the product
of painstaking field research over the last
ten years— longer than long-haul driving!
She paid me with two hand-sewn, hand-
beaded blouses made by T’boli women
in villages around Lake Sebu. Each was
exquisite— on the bodice and sleeves of jet
black and royal blue: intricate beadwork, starred
clusters of hornbill yellow, ivory, macopa red.
I was told none of these designs was exactly
like another: they were dictated in dreams
to each artisan, who worked afterward
from memory and by touch.

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