You wake up. It’s early for you, but then again, anytime before noon is early for you. You lie in bed for ten extra minutes. Just lie there, savoring the still quiet of the morning. The cat stretches and hops down from her perch on the futon across the room. She looks up at you, expectantly. No one’s home, except for you. It’s that small time of the day when the house is silent.
You sit up and stretch, neck aching. Why do you insist on sleeping with so many pillows?
You stumble your way to the bathroom. When you’re finished, you don’t look in the mirror. Seeing yourself in the morning is uncomfortable. You walk out the kitchen, thinking you’ll eat an egg this morning. With a teaspoon of syrup, yes. You eat, too quickly, like always.
After your grumpy morning tummy is full, you feed the cat. (Always last, and she complains because she knows it.) She meows gratefully before digging in, hissing to warn away the other cat. You return to your bedroom and pull out the outfit you thought up last night. It’s not exactly in style, is it? But you can’t be bothered to care for more than a moment. You have no one to impress.
You leave an hour early. You have a few errands to run. When you’re through with the first, you drive to purchase the school books left unchecked on your list. Even though you only ask for the Condé and the Austen, they bring you everything but. You tell them it’s fine, and purchase only the Spanish textbook and the Wordsworth volume. One hundred dollars less than you thought. You rejoice silently on the way back to the car.
You park in the parking lot across the street from the university. There’s still forty-five minutes before you need to be on the bus headed to class. You read the text for your class on the Salem Witch Trials, the only reading you have not already completed. Your confusion at three-hundred-year-old spelling throws you off and so you don’t finish in the forty-five minutes. You continue to read on the bus.
It’s comforting, to have something to occupy you on the bus packed with people. Your sunglasses– the pair with the minute floral print– snapped in half last week, so your wandering eyes are not hidden. You can’t stare at people and wonder about their day. Not without being wondered about in a less flattering manner.
You step off the bus at your stop. Two English classes await you. You tell yourself as you start toward the third floor of Peck that you will speak to at least one person in each class. This is how you make friends, people tell you. Again and again, they tell you. Like you don’t already know.
And you do. You speak to the girl with the beautiful tanned skin who sits one seat down from you in Early Euro. (It’s January. Where did she find the sun?) Admittedly, you only speak to her because the professor told you to partner up and find examples of epic convention in your text.
You speak to someone in your next class too. This time, of your own free will. After you finished your green beans in the hall, you followed the rest of your peers into the small classroom and only just stopped yourself from sitting down alone. You shake your head and move your coat to the chair beside the dark-haired girl. You sit and smile, introduce yourself. An exchange of names, and nothing more. But it counts, you tell yourself, completely satisfied with the interaction. You speak up in the class too. You won’t remember what you say, but you said it.
You have to leave the building and walk across the street for your next class. You feel out of place with your two tote bags (instead of a backpack) and your mother’s black and white houndstooth coat (too dressy for class). But you always feel a bit out of place.
The next class is in a glass room, and the people are a bit more talkative. You don’t join in, but you listen. When the discussion begins, you feel your heart beat a little faster every time you think of something you could add. Finally, you force yourself to speak, raising your hand (all the while, knowing it makes you look elementary and silly). You suggest something that sounds not unintelligent, and are satisfied with the response. There’s a handsome boy in the class, and you sneak looks at him all through the hour and a half. As you leave, you laugh at yourself.
You go to Spanish next. It’s your least favorite class of the day, made worse by the fact that it is so late in the afternoon. The professor is lively and energetic, demanding verbal response from every student. You hate that, but you oblige because you want to learn. Si. That’s the extent of your vocabulary so far, but you feel confident that you’ll grow quickly. There’s a nice girl in the class who wears a hat. You want to ask her where she got it. But you don’t.
Then you’re outside, waiting for the bus to return you to your car. The bus is crowded again, but you manage to secure a seat. Someone calls your name, and you see and old friend, then two. You say hello, and the conversation continues until the bus is too full to speak. You feel normal, like a normal college student, for the first time all day. The girl with the hat from your Spanish class sits across from you. You smile at her and start to ask about the hat, but suddenly blue jean pockets are all you can see. You roll your eyes and wait for your stop.
When you’re back in your car, you turn the heat on and wait. You reflect on your day. An air of satisfaction and quiet fills you. It was a good day, you think. Better than last week. You sing along with your new Kim Walker-Smith CD all the way home, praising God from the confines of your Altima.
Once you’re home, you change into your sweatpants and feed the horses, continuing your talk with God. There aren’t any stars tonight, and you’re disappointed. Stars are the best part of feeding, aside from the rare nights when Casper lets you pat his shoulder and breathe in the deep aroma of his dirty white coat.
When you’re back inside, in the relative warmth, you remember that you promised yourself you would write a post every Tuesday. As you eat dinner– delicious turkey chops that your mother fixed especially for you– you ponder what you will write. You have drafts started, but they need revision. You decide to write about your day. Then you remember that your days are spent in measurable solitude. Alone, but surrounded by people. You worry that people will pity you. That people will think how you must be sad soul. How lonely you must be.
You write it anyway. And decide not to explain that you’re alone, but not lonely. At least, not all the time. There’s a difference, and you wonder if people understand that. You tell yourself not to underestimate people. Then remind yourself that your audience is quite small, and that surely most of them understand. If they read your words, then they care about you, at least a little bit. You hope that they’re not lonely either. You hope that their weeks go well. You send up a silent blessing for each of them, thankful for anyone who would read such a long and drawn out post.
You publish the post, and close the window. Check your email and Twitter one last time. You read the bell hooks article for your religion class tomorrow, then decide that, yes, just one Supernatural episode tonight. Then I’ll go to sleep. (You probably end up watching two, but that’s okay.)
Inspired by: Tanya Davis and Andrea Dorfman’s “How To Be Alone”