That moment when you’re just coming out of a dream. You want to chase it, go back to it, hold onto it in a tight grip. But it never works. You become aware of your surroundings, the blanket on top of you, the sheets beneath you, the air around you. The light coming through the shaded window doesn’t help, and your back among the living before you know it. You try to stay still; perhaps if you ignore the outside you can escape it. But it never works. Your body betrays you, tells you it’s morning. Your lungs react to the new state your in, your muscles want to stretch, your heart speeds up, pumping blood through your system. You take a deep, yawning breath, and curse the gods that won’t let you be. You hear the sounds outside your bedroom door of people moving about, being much more happy about the coming day than you are. It pisses you off.
Nothing for it but to rise. You sit up and give in to your muscles yearning, stretching, yawning. You look at the clock, see that it is indeed morning, further confirmation of a place you’d rather leave behind. You wonder if anyone would miss you if you remained where you were, encapsulated in a room that has nothing to do with out there. Probably not. If not for the obligations you could stay right there and leave everything, everyone, out there. But those obligations, they are the only thing that give your life purpose. If not for you, then for the others.
You rise, though you don’t want to. You put on your robe, though you don’t want to. You grab your toiletries, though you don’t want to. You hesitate, then open the door, though you really, really don’t want to. You are greeted by familiar sounds and people of the dormitory. Your class doesn’t begin for another two hours, but your up, and dealing with it. On your way to the bathroom you’re bumped from behind by the dorm bully. He says watch your step as he laughs along with his cronies. You almost drop your things. You wish he understood.
There’s that girl that you like. She’s dressed casually, a light blue t-shirt and jeans with store-bought holes. She’s talking to friends. Good thing, you don’t want her to see you in your rather drab robe and pajama bottoms. She sees you anyway and nods. You nod back. That is the total amount of interaction the two of you have ever had. You pass them on the way to the bathroom and you notice their conversation never broke, never hesitated, like you were never there. You’d think the sound of your flip-flops shuffling along the floor would make them at least see what was making that sound. But no, they’re too engrossed in each other. Just as well, you are not in the mood for talking. You just want it to end.
You make it to the bathroom and find a sink. Your toothbrush looks inert, even though it knows where it’s going. Maybe you expected more from an inanimate object. You brush your teeth and look at yourself in the mirror. You see a disheveled mess of a young man. Your eyes look so tired. They don’t glow like everyone else’s. You avert your gaze because, like other times, you don’t like what you see. You’re not ugly, you try to convince yourself, just…
You finish with your teeth, wash your face, and head back to your room.
It’s time to dress. Briefs, jeans, t-shirt, button-up sweater, sneakers, watch, backpack. You’re ready, but you’re not. You stand there looking at nothing. You wait for the impetus that sends you out again. The motivation you sorely need eludes you. Your stomach growls, but it’s not enough to push you out the door. Nothing is. You hear people walking by on the other side of the door, some talking, some not. Some running. No one stops. No one knocks. Which is good. To have to put on that face again is beginning to become painful. To welcome whomever into your life is a struggle. It’s draining.
A decision is made. You need the energy to get through the day so you must eat. Breakfast at the cafeteria is the only option, but you only do it for the nourishment. Perhaps some oatmeal. Maybe eggs, scrambled. Doesn’t matter. What matters is the face, the look you must present to the world. You need to fix it, before you step out again. You can get away with it first thing in the morning, but now you must face other people. Now it is expected to give off a semblance of normalcy.
You close your eyes and focus. Pretty soon a smile emerges. That’s all you need. It doesn’t have to reach your eyes, it just has to seem normal. That’s all. No more, no less. You even have a few jokes on stand-by. That’s good. You can do this, get through yet another day. After all, your father didn’t spend all that money on your education to see it wasted. You must finish what he started, you owe him that much. So what it gets harder and harder every day, you have an obligation. So look up, reach for the door handle, and move into the world outside of this room.
You look up, reach for the door handle, and leave the security of your room. Your face is correctly formed, and with your books in your backpack, you head for the cafeteria one step at a time. Eventually the rhythm of walking will become automatic, but for now it’s a focused effort. You meet a colleague who asks about yesterday’s lesson. You agree to meet him in the library to share a few notes. He does not suspect that this is an act. Good. Very good. Perhaps this day won’t be as bad as the others. Perhaps.