The Day I Disappeared

Three days.

I should not be here.

The desk is constraining; I can feel its weight around me even in the places I’m not touching.  Words being spoken enter my brain but fail to process at anything more than their base level.  I tap my pen against the enormous hardcover anthology on my desk, but the noise is not distracting enough.  My focus flies away; I twirl the rubber band around my wrist and snap it just to feel the ping against my skin.  

Behind me, the speaker for the overhead system emits a random crackle.  I jump.  

I try tapping both of ends of my pen against the desk.  It doesn’t help.

I love this book, and this author.  His subtle nuances, the way that he says things without saying them.  But that’s at the back of my mind now.  All of the things I love about the stories have vanished in the presence of a word that’s being said over.  And over.  

And over.

The speaker crackles again.  I jump.  People stare. 

The discussion continues.  I keep a tally in the margin of my book, a permanent series of slashes that will live for as long as the book, of how many times the professor or someone else says the word.  I am hyperaware of it; it feels like someone is pressing a taser into my back and every single nerve in my body is electrified.  I am completely lit.  I could jump out of my chair.  I want to.  But I don’t.  

I tell myself I like the professor.  I tell myself I like the class.  Neither of these statements help me.  I lean forward so that my hair falls in front of my face, preventing me from meeting anyone’s gaze.  I lose count of the number of times my pen strikes the page.  I move it to the desk, the noise is much more satisfying.  

Tap tap tap tap tap tap.

The professor is looking at me.  Did she ask me a question?  I’m not sure.  I was counting the taps.  I look up; my eyes meet hers for a moment and then flit away to something else.  Anything else.  I can’t let her see me.  If she asked me something, I didn’t hear.  I can’t answer.  

She is writing on the board.  Someone says something about about adequate punishment, and the word again, and…

Tap tap tap tap tap tap. 

Can I just drop out?  Just leave?  Would anybody notice?  Can I walk out of the class?  I told her that if I came for this, if I came to class, I needed to have the option to leave.  She said that was fine.  But can I do that?  Can I just get up and leave a class?  I’m frozen.  I can’t move.  Breathe in, breathe out. 

Too much pressure.

Tap tap tap tap tap tap.

Class is ninety minutes long.  We are more than halfway done.

It’s just a word.  It’s nothing more than a word.  

I love school.  I love learning.  But I didn’t know how much this would suck.

I remind myself again that I like this class.  I remind myself again that I like the professor.  Peeking out from behind my hair, I accidentally catch her gaze again.  I stare down at my book.  What page are we on?  The words make even less sense than they normally do.  I yearn for regular English.  

This is too hard.  College is hard.  I should quit.

My leg joins the pen.  Tap twitch tap twitch tap twitch tap twitch tap twitch tap twitch.

Ten minutes left.  I can do it.

My teeth sink into the inside of my cheek, keeping the tears inside.  I hate how hard it is to handle some things.  I hate how hard it is to handle this.  

I lean back in my chair, taking care to still let my hair cover my eyes.  I move my pen to my lap.  The slash marks number seventeen.  The discussion was all about that.  I never should have come.  I hide my hands in my lap.  I stare at the board.  I avoid everybody’s eyes.

It is time to go.  I can’t escape fast enough.  I think the professor tries to talk to me, but I grab my stuff and leave the room as quickly as possible.  I run up the stairs towards my advisor’s office, and when I pause in the stairwell to take a breath, a single tear slips down my cheek.  I wanted so badly to do this.  I want to be okay with it.  I hate that I can’t be.

My advisor is waiting when I get to her office.  I push the door mostly shut, sink into a chair, and I can finally breathe again.  She asks how class went; she knew I was worried about it.

My professor is outside.  She knocks; she says something like, “Are you with someone?” I recognize her voice, but can’t see her past the crack in the door.  She is there about me; she is there about class.  I know it.  Crap.

My advisor nods without saying anything, and my professor disappears down the hall to her own office.

I wish that I could hide here forever.  I want nothing more than to disappear.

Damn you, college.

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