It’s not that I am violently angry about it or anything. I’m pretty well insulated from my emotions at this point, I’m just so used to this kind of stuff happening that I expected it sooner or later. Probably should have been sooner, honestly.
A couple shreds of paper, just enough to make the words all blurry, were too buoyant to go down on the first flush. I decide to leave them there. It will confirm to Millie that, yes, I did read your stupid letter, and no, I really don’t care.
I peek out the bedroom door after changing into a black tank top, maroon cardigan, the same pair of jeans from the day before, and my trusty old pair of black Converse. Then I put on the Cheap Stupid Watch (CSW) my dad gave me for Christmas right before that happened.
Millie is pensively fixing herself some sort of weird quiche-thing in the kitchen, directly adjacent to the living room, making it hard for me to retrieve my backpack unnoticed. I could tell that she had a concerned look in her eyes as I walked towards her. For a second, Millie successfully communicated through her expressions that she really did care through all of this. I have no such grace. I shove by Millie, stole one of her granola bars out of the cabinet, and head straight for the door.
“That’s going to give you a sugar crash during the middle of the exam!” Millie yells. “You need something with more—” But I didn’t hear the rest because I already slammed the door. Besides, I’ll bet after eating that quiche she’ll really need to go to the bathroom.
Let’s just get this over with. In my attempt to flag down a transit, I make only a passing observation about how beautiful (but very chilly) an April day this is. Gosh, weather here can be so bipolar. Believe me, though, I’d much rather be reading a really long book under a white oak tree in the cold with pollen choking me to death.
At first I try a proud but brisk walk, with my head held high, much like a baseball player taking the field or maybe a lion on the prowl. That didn’t last long though, because the simultaneous glimpse of the time on the bank clock and the transit closing in on a group of students at the bus stop quickly dispelled any existing Machiavellian attitude I might have.
I break into kind of a gawky sprint, almost dropping the unwrapped granola bar still in my hands. Still, I manage to recover possession of it after buffeting it around in the air for what must have been like three seconds. I made it. Just in time.
“I should have just bought a damn parking pass,” I mutter under my breath as I board the transit, speaking just loud enough to draw a few strange looks from other students on their way to class. I find a couple of adjacent open seats and I take the one next to the window. Most importantly, I place my backpack, my purse, and my grey plaid scarf for good measure on the joining seat to deter anyone from thinking they can just come up and sit by me. After all, making friends is not a requirement in grad school, and I see no need to waste the energy right now.
Speaking of energy, time to eat my – ew, it’s apple cinnamon. During my tirade, I had neglected to be picky about the flavor, instead opting to just reach into Millie’s granola stash and dramatically grab one.
…holding Millie back? Hmm.
As I was nibbling on the world’s most disgusting granola bar and staring out the window, a fog of contemplation was descending.
The same recurring possibilities have been haunting me for the last couple of years, the idea that I am not important in the slightest. That, no matter how skilled I am or how unique I become, there will always be someone better. Skill is an inelastic demand, and even if it weren’t, I lack the self-confidence needed to be anything more than average. I probably should be even more bombastic, sarcastic at every opportunity, unique enough to dominate every conversation.
Still, I suppose uniqueness is just another way of masking the fact that, underneath the surface, everyone is so incredibly average. Getting noticed just involves observing social norms strictly, but violating them in ways just relatable enough to keep everyone from running to the hills. The world demands friendly and relatable faces, in its celebrities, in its college professors… even in its serial killers if TV programs are to be taken seriously. People require balance to be relatable, even though balance is the one thing that won’t get you noticed. I guess that means it all comes down to random chance. I refuse to sell myself for a random chance.
Even in the town of New Country in northeast Iowa, with its 100,000-some-odd people, most of them college students, I am just another aimless face. A shadow that appears and disappears within all the trees, uncatalogued. Nobody cares about a shadow, and nobody cares about me.
Hey look, there was one of those approaching nameless faces now. I guess I had failed to notice the bus was filling up more rapidly than usual today.
“Can I sit with you,” the fragile looking blond girl, probably no older than first or second semester, asks with a rehearsed nervous kindness in her voice. I couldn’t really blame her. I used to be a lot like her, both apprehensive and ambitious. But that was an eternity ago. Another me had those eyes, that hair, that face. Sometimes I wonder if she’s still in there, making me weak.
I stared for a second, blinking two or three times, not really sure what I was thinking about.
“No,” I say succinctly.
“Oh, okay,” she pokes out her lower lip and then moves on.
A few minutes later I feel the vehicle come to a screeching halt, and a bunch of stressed-out college students, myself included, herd onto the quad right in the midst of New Country University. That’s where it takes just four years to become a New U, if you believe the bad marketing campaign on 90 percent of the billboards in town. The other 10 percent are taken by this random lawyer guy on all the local TV commercials.
I start walking towards the computer lab, autopilot taking control as if my legs are moving by themselves, with qualifiers the furthest thing from my mind. I accidentally drop the granola bar wrapper I intended to throw away in a trash can, but I don’t bother to pick it up.
A new section is released every Monday! Again, I welcome your feedback in the comments. 🙂