“This is the past; it drifts, it carries. If you are not careful, it will bury you.” -Lauren Oliver
The world is divided between those who know and those who don’t.
I am hideously embarrassed by my actions in class, even though I really had no control over them. I pride myself on my academic image; college is a niche for me wherein I have a place and a purpose, wherein people respect me. When I speak, people listen, and they care what I have to say. They don’t now. They can’t. This is all I can think about as I leave the writing center and flee down the hallway towards my car. Forget about class, forget about the fact that I have somewhere to be. My single mission was getting out.
Of course, this meant I ran into the professor in question. Literally. She was reading while walking; I was staring at the ground while bolting. I see several emotions cross her face, too many to notate. “What happened?” she asks at the same time as I say, “I’m so sorry, I…”
We both stop, doing an awkward sidestep around each other.
What I had told her, prior to class that day: I have something that might prevent me from being in class for a few days, but I can arrange stuff in depth if I determine it will be longer. If you need more information beyond that, please feel free to contact my advisor. And I promised to keep up with coursework, of course. She gave me what I referred to as an “out-card” from the difficult material. But I went to class anyway.
Went. And blew it in a completely flustering fashion.
“I’m sorry,” I said again. “About today.”
“Don’t be sorry. What’s going on?”
From her emphasis on the last word, I was able to deduce that yes, class had been as bad as I thought. I asked her if she had spoken to my advisor, and she told me they were setting up a meeting for later that day. Somehow, we were walking together, in the opposite direction from the parking lot. I wasn’t sure how that had happened.
The stairwell up to the office area is the darkest, creepiest stairwell on campus. The walls are a dingy gray, and the posters that hang on the strip across the landing are outdated. “What’s going on?” she tries again, the last syllable substantially more gentle.
I wait until we are at her office. Wait, and think. I open my mouth several times as she turns the key, but nothing comes out. She waits, putting her things away in her bag. I drift away from the door, and then back. She’s switching shoes.
What I want to say: “I need help. I need to take you up on that offer. I need to talk.”
What I actually say: “How much more discussion will be like today?”
She doesn’t know; I can’t tell her, because I can’t tell anyone. I can’t see what they think about me, all of the people that I respect so deeply. That respect me.
“What do you mean?”
I stumble over my next phrase. “Like, you know. What we talked about today.”
I can see the moment when it clicks in her head. “Oh, well, probably a lot of it. That’s a lot of what this author is about.”
I look at the floor, out the window, at her chair. Anywhere but at her.
I didn’t intend to tell anyone.
“I’m not…I don’t know if I can do it. This.”
She frowns slightly, but it disappears as fast as it appeared. “I think maybe a lot of the material will make you uncomfortable?” She phrases it as more of a question. “But you can handle it. We can talk about things, work things out.”
“I’ve come too far to quit, right?” I echo the words of the email I sent her over the weekend.
She nods and perches on the edge of her desk. “Right. Whatever’s going on, you can make it work.”
“Okay,” I say, even though I don’t believe her.
“Is there anything I can do? To help?”
This is my first opportunity. She could be person number two here. “I…” I begin. But instead, I shake my head. “Can you just talk to my advisor? I…I don’t know how to do this right now.” I wave between the two of us.
“Okay,” she says quietly, several more emotions flickering across her face. “I will.”
I back slowly out of the office.
“Have a good night,” she calls after me.
I practically throw myself back into the creepy stairwell, I’m that eager to get away. But rather than go to my car, I find myself going to class. Class is better than thinking. These days, my brain is desperate for me to think and obsess about these things. It isn’t good for me.
I am straddling two worlds; those who know, and those who don’t. I don’t fit into either. I don’t want people to know. I want them to still care, but more importantly, I want them to still respect me. I don’t want to hurt them, because it will show me how much I hurt. Like a mirror.
When something bad happens to you, sometimes the only solace that can be found is inside yourself. When the world is abnormal, when everything is altered, when you are all that you have…Controlling your emotions is the last thing you have left. And silence was the only way I could hold back my emotions.
I worry that I don’t fit into the world anymore. That I can’t. That I won’t.
That I have crossed a bridge that only goes one way.
If I can’t speak here, I can’t speak anywhere.