Life is a series of options. Of choices. Or so I’m told.
There’s a pigeon outside. The view from the office is plain; I can see across the roof, and down to the path that leads to the next building. It’s still cold outside. There are no flowers blooming.
There is always the choice of quitting. It is an option that is continually available. Quitting, leaving. She will help me do that, if I choose. Do I? Choose that? Can I? It doesn’t seem to be a viable choice, at least not in my head.
Other choices exist, of course. Take some time. Come back.
Someone different is in the hallway, a man. I stare out the crack. I can’t keep track of the words he utters, but I am aware he’s there. I can’t focus on the words she’s saying.
She nudges the door closed the rest of the way. There are options, always options, and only I can control them. I control what happens now. Options.
I don’t have real options, that’s crazy. I can’t think farther ahead than right now. I had to make a list to remind me to shower and drive here at the appropriate time. My only real choices are to either keep going or give up, at least from my point of view. And one of those is a substantially more easy route than the other.
She believes differently.
How do I feel about that? What path do I want to pick?
I spin the rubber band around my wrist, snapping it repeatedly. I can’t quit. People can’t know. No. Never. Snap. Snap.
The rubber band breaks. No longer a loop, it is a straight line that I hold in my lap and stretch as far as the material will allow.
If I stay, she’ll help me with that too. She’ll help me with whatever I need.
What do I need?
I can’t answer. I can’t find any words. I want to stay; I’m not ready to go. No. But something has been taken from me. Something is missing. I don’t know how to explain. I don’t know how to make her understand.
I need to talk to my professors, she says. Ask them where I stand. Ask them to work with me. She reminds me of my good standing; she reminds me that I am strong, and that I can do this, no matter which way I choose. The choice to go one way or the other now is solely mine.
I’m broken. Fading. I shouldn’t have choices. I can’t.
I can’t tell people.
We talk about it. Who needs to know? We prioritize, put people in order. Certain people need to know. People who are more important than others, classes, things, that are more important. People who mean more. Who will be let down when I can’t achieve a certain standard. When I fail. I’m going to fail.
I should quit before I fail. I can’t tell people. I can’t let them down.
She’ll help me. She’ll tell whoever I want her to tell; she’s sure that they’ll make allowances, that they’ll work with me. I’m not. I will let them down. I will let everybody down.
I will let myself down.
I don’t know how to let her help.
Is this my fault? Most certainly, yes. I let this happen.
The pigeon is still outside. Something startles him, and he opens his wings and takes off into the sky. I want to fly away too. I can feel myself lifting up and away from this conversation, from what happened.
To myself: Come back.
I can’t escape. My wings are broken.