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“Second Semester”

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

By Nina Dumornay


The light pours down and glosses the drinks in yellow. I scan, I scan, I scan. Coconut water in a tall can, Nestlé chocolate milk, Hershey milkshake, Caramilk milkshake, Aloe Vera infused with mango, infused with pomegranate, infused with apple. People claim theirs’, pass me by and I squirm, I squirm, I squirm. Gatorade in blue, orange, red, mineral water. I skim. Sparkling water with strawberry, kiwi, lime. Monster Energy ( like I need that, but I’m tired), bottled Starbucks Iced Coffee, Mocha Frappuccino, Vanilla Latte. I slurp air in and out, quick. I choose and it is worse. And how, even here, even here, is this happening? I tear myself from yellow light and stand in line.

♦️

It started with the walk from church to the bus stop. There is stinging pain inside my head, breath doesn't come and nothing is wrong. Nothing is wrong but the tears and there is a weight like cement shoulder pads and breath doesn't come. I close, open, close my eyes, stop in front of the waiting place. The sky is spread thin with cloud and I begin to count. My breath detangles itself from my throat and like a running faucet: 1. Didn’t text Angela back 2. Didn’t say hi when he made eye contact 6. Spoke out of turn and cut her off 12. The glove lay in the street and I could’ve said something and he was looking for it and- 17. I sang the words and I didn't mean them, I didn't mean them ( I barely heard it) 22. Mom was facing the counter, back turned, I did not speak to her 26. Pages and pages and pages untouched and the semester slithers down the drain and I don’t deserve- 31. I feel nothing and smile my good smile and all at once my bones are pulling through my skin and I am so tired, so tired and my heart smacks against the cage of concrete fist and so I guess it started with guilt.

♦️

I smile at her from across the way and I’m nervous, I’m nervous, I’m nervous. She pats her chair and I sit beside her and I tell her. The water is rushing, rushing, rushing, splashing (gurgling) in the sink, down the drain and she says “Turn the faucet off.” She says “ Find it.” And I go back out the room, down the steps. Before greetings and smiles, back to the street and I am on the bus and he is staring at me. I sit in a single chair, against the window and across from me, body facing forward, legs slightly spread, he stares, he stares, he stares. I look at her and she says to turn the faucet off. I turn away from the man (it’s OK); 12:30 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, I log in my phone, I get off the bus, I look at her, I look at her, I look at her. I turn off the faucet. It leaks.

♦️

I stood and watched. Alone they sat, quiet, waiting, vaguely familiar. They were slightly turned away from each other, but towards no one in particular. Disinterested. Waiting. The son’s neon orange sweater impossible to overlook but they sat invisible, alone (undisturbed). I stood and watched. Others milled around like a stream, not stopping, not engaging and stress clenched my heart (hard). I felt the weight of the moment pulled rubber band tight in my arms. I held my breath as if holding this father and son inside me. I stood and watched. “You are fine,” I say to myself. “This does not affect you, turn away, you are safe, you are fine, turn away.” I felt the bubbling of their solitary presence under my skin. “Turn away,” I thought. I stood and watched.

♦️

The worst part was not knowing if it was real. The bus was overfull, people squashed together like gummy bears in the summer. The air is thick. Someone’s body stands directly behind mine (and continues above my head), their arm above my arm on the ceiling rail. The bus stops before my stop. I am on the sidewalk (in two seconds flat). I shake out my arms. I walk the rest of the way.

♦️

The worst part was that it was inside me. The waiting room had five chairs, a lamp and magazines. I recognize the boy in the one closest to her door. In her office, there are two chairs. I talk. She doesn’t take notes. The hall is long and they stare. In the car, my mother is in the driver’s seat and my father is in the passenger's seat. We are in the parking lot. There is room next to me in the back because my brother isn't here. I read my speech and my father sets the timer. He and Mom give me feedback. He sets the timer, I start again. I start again, I start again, I start again. Mom puts her hand on the phone. Dad turns around. I breathe. Dad prays for me. My hand drags on my face. My eyes are open. Dad prays. My chest contracts. Mom gets out of the car. Dad turns back towards me. My chest heaves. Dad stays in the car. Mom and I walk around the block. Again. Again and again and again. She talks. She waits. I talk. My chest heaves. We walk around again. We go inside.

♦️

I lie in the dark, under the covers, and like a beehive beneath my skin, I am shaking. My feet are ice, frozen blocks, and I curl tight, hands squeezed between legs so as not to snap off and shatter. Frost and raised hairs on my neck, the winter wind is blowing from inside, I know it (I know it). I try to wrap the cold with my body, forehead to knees, eyes clamped shut, teeth smacking in time with the tremors, waiting for the chill to pass me over, to let me go.

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