I really can’t stand this school. It makes me want to die. I hate the atmosphere, the people, the studying, the city. The know-it-all poly-sci majors, up-tight pre-meds, the thick-headed athletes. And I don’t know where it’s going or what I’m here for. You wake up and put yourself through class, don’t learn anything, go hungry with no money for food, stay up past two every night doing assignments (which aren’t educational—just packets of judgment and professors’ sneering), get drunk whenever possible to suppress your rage, but it’s not fully suppressed because it comes back the next day, like the weight of a book on top of the stack you were already carrying. The exams are not the tests—the absurdity of the situation is the test, and it wants you to crack.
I never talk about it with my friends. They know it can get stressful and tough at times, but they love the freedom, you know? College is your chance to experience so many new things, but I prefer to like stay in my room and read, or do homework, or watch TV on the internet. My friend Andrea Malhotra once invited me to math club, since that’s my major, but I never went. I was dressed and ready to go but I closed the door, got in bed, and told myself I was too tired. Really, I was scared of embarrassing myself in front of new people. One time we did an ice-breaker, I think it was at this dorm mixer, and they told us to share something interesting about ourselves. I said I wasn’t a serial killer. I don’t know why—I think I was trying to be funny, but I think about it all the time. Nobody laughed. They just looked at me. I’m such an idiot.
I had three friends, Jamie, Mai, and Nicole, who I lived with last year in the dorms. Jamie and Mai are math/applied science majors and Nicole is studying computer engineering. Jamie and I had spent a lot of time studying in the lounge, spending sleepless nights together and sharing our frustrations. This year, they live in an apartment together and I hardly talk to them. I see them in physics lecture sometimes, and we say, “hey, how’s it going?” but we never hang out. I want to hang out but I can’t ask them. They’re like giggling and talking and texting and I’m not part of that circle so I can’t impose.
Sometimes it’s like I don’t exist. One morning as I was walking to class this guy on a bike ran into me and like didn’t even stop. He was coming from behind me down the hill (the steep one that leads to the dorms), hit my arm with the handle bar, corrected his steering, and kept on riding. I’m standing there with this huge red scrape on my arm, looking around and no one gives a crap. What had I done wrong? Did I forget to put on anti-invisibility cream, anti-mute spray, or switch the button that turned myself from ghost to living? Obviously, it had been overlooked, whatever this thing was. I went through my morning routine in my head: turn off the alarm, don’t put on contacts and don’t look at the mirror before showering, dry off with a towel after getting out, put on deodorant and lotion, get dressed, do my hair and apply the mascara, eye-shadow, and eyeliner. Zits, to my knowledge, did not make you invisible—that’s why they suck. Maybe it’s because I’m half-white half-Japanese and I look like every other tiny Asian girl. Run ‘em all down with bikes, they must be thinking. Who’s thinking that, a Louisiana hillbilly? I don’t know—that’s what comes to mind when I think of America.
I actually was sort of freaked out about getting hit. I was shaky the rest of the day. The ground didn’t feel right, like the concrete was bending like ripples or waves. I got so motion sick I had to lay down in the grass, which didn’t help and I puked.
I texted my boyfriend Brendan about it and went to go meet him at his room in Dykstra dormitory. It’s twelve stories of cramped little bedrooms, with people crammed like sailors in a submarine. I usually don’t knock and I thought he knew I was coming so I went in his room and he was sitting at his desk without pants. I walked halfway into the room before my brain realized what he was doing. He was pumping himself with his laptop up and the video had some tortuous noise like crows being boiled alive, and his eyes were wide and mouth ajar, almost drooling. I tried to leave before he noticed but when he saw me I froze and we looked at each other. He stopped jerking it, kept his hand on it, and said “I’ll be out in a sec,” and I nodded and waited for him in the hallway. I avoided eye contact with people walking past.
Before I started dating Brendan, I didn’t really know about masturbation. I didn’t know about how it’s like a routine and a habit, and how the porn industry makes its money because guys can’t keep their hands off their own dicks. I’m not saying that’s bad or good or anything, but it’s the truth. There are people on the other side of the camera flapping their sweaty bodies so that the men on this side can choke the chicken to the sight of them.
When he came out I told him to go wash his hands and he’s like, “Are you serious?” “Yeah,” I said. He sounded a little offended but he went and washed up and came back and I felt more sick than ever. We went into his room and the video was still going on his computer so he shut it. I suddenly had the urge to open it to see what he’d been watching, to know what kind of stuff he’s into, but I’d already thrown up once that day.
We sat on his bed (the bottom bunk) and asked how my day was going. “Fine,” I said.
“I’ve got like a shitload to do this week…” he said.
“Yeah, I’ve got this paper due,” he paused, “and this other thing.”
“Oh,” I said, touching the scrape on my arm, “That’s pretty bad.” I sat next to him and he put an arm around me.
I couldn’t tell him how sick I felt and I couldn’t mention all the shit going through my head. The D on my last midterm that kept me up at night with stress. The nagging customers at the Taco Bell I worked at (the one in Ackerman). The math test I had tomorrow and the physics test on Friday. Parents telling me I owed them money for last month’s rent, and that I’d better not fail another class. And there was this stupid bitch who always came to lecture wearing these slutty sorority-party dresses and high heels. What the fuck?
Brendan tickled me in the belly. I gagged. “What the hell, Brendan?”
“Sorry,” he said, “I’m just messing around.”
I didn’t say anything after that. I sat there for like fifteen minutes and looked at the ceiling and pretended not to smell the socks and shirts that buried the floor, pretending not to wonder whether he was watching gang bangs or threesomes or whatever. After a while I got up and left. I went home, logged in to Facebook to see what viral videos people were posting. Facebook is a concrete world, static and straightforward. My identity is a list of things I like, people I like, and places I’ve been, displayed for everyone in vibrant color. What do I dislike? I can’t say because there is no “dislike” button here. Negative feelings belong to the world of the unreal. Despite this power, there was only so much that I could be online. One wrong click and I’d be reminded that most people went to parties, travelled the world, were star athletes, and had loving families.
I went on IM with Brendan, but our chats had not been going well. We’d been together for five months and he was getting really anxious, asking when we were going to have sex. He would say it straight out: “Do you want to have sex? When are we going to have sex?” I never knew what to say, and changing the subject didn’t work because he’d bring it up again later. He’d tell me, “I know you’re Catholic but it’s not like God will mind. It’s just sex.” But if it was no big deal then he wouldn’t want it so badly.
We’d do oral and it was always a mess, and by we I mean me giving him head. He went down on me twice, and honestly, I didn’t get close to orgasm. The only time I had one was when I was nineteen, watching the movie Tangled by myself in my pajamas, and the part where he says “You were my new dream” made my cry and cum at the same time. Anyways, I met Brendan last year at the dorm and he finally worked up the courage to ask me for coffee and now we’ve been together for six months and he doesn’t want to wait any longer. I think some men think sex is a one-man show (see above for Exhibit A). Like I’ll go down on him for such a long time and I’m not getting anything out of it. Sex is going to be him getting off at my expense. I do think God wants me to respect my body and keep sex sacred. Pleasure is a vulnerability, isn’t it? It’s part of life; it’s part of the cycle of life and birth. It’s meant to be part of the sacrament of marriage, not this gluttonous consumption for your own desire.
I need Brendan. He’s the only thing I count on. He acknowledge me, he looks at me, he listens sometimes. He can be really sweet, too, like on Valentines Day when he sent me chocolate and a dozen roses. He buys me lunch when I ask him. He tells me how pretty I am and how he loves me. I can’t imagine him not being there. Without him, I’d be completely alone.
That night I talked to Brendan on IM.
Brendan: help me with calculus?
Brendan: i dont understand limits
me: it’s funny
Brendan: no seriously
Brendan: yeah i dont get it
me: but it’s like the easiest shit ever
Brendan: just help me all right
Brendan: i cant wait to get out of college
im going to be the best jet pilot ever! 🙂
me: i thought you wanted to be an astronaut
Brendan: no i told you
that was before
now i want to be a pilot
me: that’s fine
Brendan: no yeah
i always wanted to fly a jet around
and kill people and stuff
drop bombs or whatever
its so intense
me: go for it =)
Brendan: i really want to like serve my country
i want to get the bad guys, show them what we’re all about
Then he said:
Brendan: about earlier
u should knock next time
the door lock is broken
me: haven’t you gotten the work order for it?
no one’s door works
so i doubt itll ever be fixed
its not like uve never seen it before
me: you masturbating?
me: I know
Brendan: are you upset?
Brendan: ok good
Cuz I dont want to have to do it
Im a guy
dunno if i can wait til marriage
its not natural
but im trying
to wait and stuff
in general i think you should knock
i have roomates too
me: I know, I will. I’ll knock every time.
cuz its not my fault
do you think its my fault?
So the conversation ended with this strange awkward vibe and I went to bed and said ten Hail-Maries (Mary’s such a badass) and prayed: Dear Lord, please help me to no longer be a worthless piece of shit. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. And I crossed myself.
My first midterm that week didn’t go very well and I felt so out-of-step, like an echo to the world. And like, there was a girl sitting next to me in Math 110 and I was going to ask what her name was and try to talk to her. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I kept glancing over at her and she eventually stood up and said, “Do you mind?” and sat somewhere else. I felt like everyone was looking at me after that, thinking I was a creeper, and I couldn’t concentrate. During the next lecture, the professor would write an equation on the board and it would take a minute before I realized he’d done so. At one point I looked at my notes and saw that I didn’t have what he was talking about, so I scribbled everything down in a hurried mess that, when I read it later, looked like the hieroglyphs of a dead language.
On Thursday night I was in my room studying for the physics midterm I had the next day. The test was going to focus on electromagnetic induction and I didn’t understand it at all. It was pissing me off because the professor never told us how to solve these problems, and on top of that I was trying to ignore the shouting and laughing coming from outside. Every Thursday you can look out your window and see girls in stilettos walking like wobbly spinning tops to the Pi Kappa Alpha house down the street. Sometimes they’re wearing strapless mini dresses with glitter on them and sometimes they’re wearing only lingerie, and when they get to the door the frat boys look at them and decide whether or not to let them in. Among these girls are my roommates Bene and Liz, who don’t seem to have much homework, who are spending their college dollars on late nights, long sun-tanning sessions, and terrible hangovers. They spent an hour getting ready while I worked through practice problems.
“Girl,” said Bene, “Your ass is like a weapon in that dress.” Liz bent over, Bene spanked her, and they laughed uncontrollably. They flung the door open and marched off, returning at 3:35 in the morning to me still at my desk studying.
When I took the midterm I couldn’t answer a couple of the questions. I wrote a few equations down but I knew I’d get no credit. When I handed it in I felt empty and cheated, thinking: I would have gotten them all right if you had taught me how to do it. I anticipated getting like a forty to fifty percent, and the mean would be around fifty. But it stresses me out when I get below the mean, so I told myself I wouldn’t look at the grade when I got it back.
I went to Brendan’s later and he wasn’t there, but Todd, one of his roommates, was in there playing Xbox. The television screen was rosy-red with pixilated blood and I asked how he was doing. He told me everything was good and asked about me.
“Fine,” I said, “Kind of a rough week, actually.”
He played the game with such an ease, leaning back against the chair and resting the controller on his thigh. Todd is one of the most attractive people I’ve ever seen. He’s not as fit as Brendan, but he’s clean-shaven, with clear skin and a square-ish jaw. His brown eyes have such a light in them, inviting you to tell him something about yourself. He lets his short dark hair do as it pleases, and he’s got the warmest smile and a face to die for, really. Talking to him gave me the jitters.
“Rough week?” he said.
“Random question,” I said. “Do guys actually rank girls’ hotness on a scale from one to ten?”
“Yeah,” he said, “A lot of guys do. It’s just convenient, you know? Why, are you wondering how guys rank you?” He looked up from his online shooting game. I must have blushed at that point.
“No, it just seems odd.”
He blinked and was like, “How so?”
“Don’t you think it’s kind of fucked up?”
He shrugged. “Not really. People size each other up all the time. Girls are worse than guys.”
“You think so?”
I’d heard that guys sometimes do more than “size up” the girls they see. They actually imagine them naked and imagine having sex with them, even if they’re complete strangers. It’s pretty gross when you think about it.
Explosion sounds came from the TV screen. “Shit,” he said. “So get any midterm grades back?”
“I got a D in chemistry.”
“I hate chemistry.” Todd was a film major and the projects he worked on sounded like way more fun than mine.
“It’s been like stressing me out because now I have to do really well on the final.”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re really smart.” He leaned back in his chair.
“You must think I’m stupid for worrying about it.”
“No. Everybody worries. What I’m saying is like, don’t waste too many emotions on it because in the end it’s not that big a deal.”
He almost fell backwards in his chair but he caught himself and put all four legs on the ground. He laughed and said, “That was close, I almost died!”
We talked some more while I watched him play the game. He wasn’t very good but he didn’t care that much. At some point Brendan’s other roommate Garret came in and got his laptop and left without saying hi or bye. I’d only met him once before and Todd said “He’s not around too much,” and I’m like “At least you all get along.”
I asked him how his movies were going and he said he was editing his most recent one. It was about a gay guy whose relationship is falling apart because he has a bad temper. What makes it complicated is that it’s a five-year relationship that should probably end but it’s fighting tooth and nail to stay alive. It sounded interesting. Todd was impressed with the actors’ performance.
“It was so real during the shoot,” said Todd. “It felt like I was spying on a real couple with my camera.” I smiled. He’d get a good grade on it for sure. He once told me that he didn’t care if he made no money or if nobody ever liked his movies. They were his and he liked them, and he’d slip into oblivion before giving it up. I wish I had those kind of balls.
When Brendan got back he kicked Todd out and we fooled around for about an hour. I remember, the first time I saw Brendan’s unkempt and uncircumcised penis, I was totally turned off. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it’s his fault or anything, and it’s not right to blame people for things they can’t help. And it really wasn’t lacking in size, I think. But it seemed to me to have the hairy and feral presence of a sopping wet werewolf, and the callous and wrinkled texture of an elephant leg. I had no idea what to think and what to feel about it. Oh, and it had a funny smell, like vinegar and a fish market. And I remember thinking: so this is what’s inches out of sight in television and movies. You become an expert on the chest, back, buttocks, but there remains the alien, the unseen.
That night there was a party on Brendan’s floor of the dorm. It was this organic, all-over-the-place party, with peoples’ rooms open and the halls filled with people mingling about in a stench of cheap beer and puked beer. There was green and blue paper over the fluorescent lights and the hall was murky like swimming in a pool of algae. This one drunk guy was naked and visiting all the girls’ rooms saying, “Hey ladies, how you doing tonight?”
But they were sober and said, “Oh my god…” and one of them borrowed a pair of boxers and told him, “Here, put these on.”
The guy kept going “No no no.”
So she said, “But you look dead sexy in these boxers.” The girls agreed, saying “Yeah, you really do. Please put them on.”
He said “No no no.” again. They went on like that for a half hour at least until the guy got tired and passed out naked on the floor. Someone put a towel over him.
I was drinking Bud Light and vodka mixed with orange juice. Loud music bounced around the hall, the voices of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars turned up to the shrillest. Brendan was singing along, but that was normal for him, drunk or sober. Of course, I knew the songs too but I didn’t start to dance until one of my favorites came up. It starts like this: “Man, fuck these niggas…” I hooted and got up and danced in a crowd but Brendan doesn’t like to dance much so he went off to chat while I sang along, “I fuck around and leave a nigga brains on the street, ooh.” I pumped my fist and thought of people that I hated. I thought of my math professor who asked all the irrelevant and random proofs and failed the class. I sometimes imagine strangling him to death with my bare hands and that calms me down. I crush his adam’s apple with my thumbs and tighten my grip while his veins begin to swell and his eyeballs nearly burst. His tongue is squirming in his open mouth and he makes tiny grunts until he dies. I move on to the next victim: Sally Chang who never studies and gets the A. I hold her head under water and she flails her needle arms in a wild panic and she fights and fights until her limbs drop in the water. “Now pop that pussy I bring her to the bedroom/ and pop that pussy, uh huh we be steady mobbin.” The hall was undead and I saw a slutty girl giving this guy whose pants were stained with cum a lap-dance and this couple was on the ground next to me making out half-asleep. The boys were grinding their crotches on girls’ asses but no one grinded on me. And I shouted out my favorite line: “if you the shit, then I’m sewer rich.” Some guy was dancing by me and he poured me another drink. I drank it as I busted a rhyme in my head: tha’s right muthafucka I the shittiest, prettiest/ bite the curb bitch you know you hideous, grittiest. And everyone was having a great time. Brendan returned, put an arm around me, and puked on my blouse and jeans. I shouted goodbye to Lil Wayne and the party rolled on.
The puke was like soaking through my clothes and as soon as we were in his room I took off my shoes, blouse, and jeans. I used his towel to wipe it off my skin and it was mostly beer and not too chunky. He lay down on his bed with his forearm over his eyes and groaned. He sat up and saw me finish undressing. I was setting the dirty clothes and towel on the floor when he turned off the lights and started kissing me in his goofy sucking way. He said “You’re so sexy” and his breath was bad so I turned away and he pulled me on his bed. He undressed himself and me while in his bed and I was very drunk but I knew what was going on. I thought that as long as I didn’t get pregnant it would be all right. I was disobeying the will of God but I was also so tired I couldn’t feel my fingers. Math equations materialized in my brain and disappeared, popping in an out of existence. Muffled hip hop music pounded in the background of the swirling room and Brendan rubbed my naked breasts. I told him he could do it if he used a condom. His eyes lit up. He got one from a drawer in his desk and was like shaking as he ripped it open and put it on. I was lying on my back and I let him go inside me but he wasn’t gentle at all. He just rammed his way in there and it hurt like a motherfucker. There was a lot of friction—way more than I expecting. After several hard thrusts, I asked him to stop. He kept going though, pummeling as hard as possible until he came like thirty seconds later, and he rolled off me and fell asleep without removing the condom. I was glad it didn’t last long. It made me feel a little woozy and disgusting. I felt a desperate need to shower.
I sat up in bed and clenched my foot because it was cramping. Then I felt intense burning down there, on the inside. I touched it and saw that I was bleeding. I turned the light on and searched around for any napkins or tissue but couldn’t find any. All he had were dirty socks and I looked around the floor to find the cleanest one. I picked one up and it smelled atrocious so I grabbed another and it was brown and muddy. The best one that I could find was a little green but it was dry. I dabbed myself with it but the bleeding did not stop.
I struggled to put on my panties with the sock in place and my bra didn’t seem to want to attach. I wore a pair of Brendan’s shorts and his Dodgers t-shirt and held my vomit-soaked jeans and blouse at arm’s length. I opened the door and bumped into Todd. “Oh,” he said, “hey.” I gave a quick smile and a nod and got the hell out of there, wishing he hadn’t seen me. I went home right away and my roommate Liz said, “Are you ok?” I told her I was fine and tried not to look like I was rushing to get to the bathroom, asking her how she was and about her day, then slipping out. I put my dirty clothes to soak in the sink and tried to clean myself using toilet paper before getting in the shower.
The bleeding had stopped but the burning had not. Going to the hospital, of course, was not an option because the doctor would’ve had to look at my vagina and ask for a detailed explanation and that wasn’t happening. No, I had no choice but to wait and hope it wasn’t infected or damaged in any serious way.
I imagined dying from the wounds and felt half-accepting of the idea. Death seemed all right. It seemed like a big improvement, better than having to face the next day and live with this choice. My non-accepting half got the strangest notion that I would have perished without ever having sold a painting. I keep a stash of my artwork beneath my bed, where it’s safe. When I told my parents that I wanted to apply to art school, they laughed at me to my face and I laughed back because it seemed like the only appropriate thing to do. To them, it was bad enough that I didn’t get in to Princeton or Brown, but there was no a chance I’d take a subject outside of science. My father is a chemist and he was devastated when he lost the Nobel Prize in 2005, and now he spends time thinking what went wrong. I suppose he thinks it’s out of reach forever. My mom’s a professor in biochemistry and they agreed that I would study math because it was my best subject in school. Of course, I didn’t argue. But now I wished I hadn’t listened. I should have put my foot down and told them math is not for me. I could have been brave like Todd but I wasn’t. I shook my head, hoping that the motion might physically remove the thought.
Well, I survived, which was good. The pain died down and I went to bed and didn’t sleep a wink. I just felt so ashamed of myself, you know. Sometime in the night I burst out crying and I put my head in my pillow so as not to wake Liz and Bene. It was very sudden and brief, and when it passed it seemed as though it never happened.
On Monday I went to class and hoped that someone might sit next to me or talk to me or something but no one did. It shouldn’t bother me, not getting noticed, but it does. And I’m too scared to like put myself out there. It seemed that Brendan was the only person in the universe willing to put up with me. I mean, you can’t stand a person who lives in fear all the time. Our society confirms this by rewarding the outgoing and wiping out the introverts. Not to mention, introverts are pessimists and misery is infectious. Something about being aware of the world always gets you down.
On more than one occasion, I’ve looked in the mirror in absolute shock at what I see. There’s oily hair, unshapely eyebrows, skin with blemishes and pimples, flat lips, dull-looking eyes, a small and curveless body, and immeasurable ugliness. When I see myself I can’t believe it’s me.
The next few days didn’t really exist for me. I think I went to class but it’s sort of blurry. I remember being in my bed without my laptop and without an mp3 player, motionless and silent. I think Liz would come and go but didn’t hear or see her. I was unaware of time and couldn’t tell when it was day or night. I was so sick of worrying. Every bad grade, every awkward moment is like a blow to the guts. And my guts, I think, are strung up and dragged out of my body by a winch. Blind fear is the only thing that gets me out of bed. I’m afraid of saying something stupid and failing to fulfill my responsibilities and losing my job and getting fat. But most of all I’m afraid of the consequences of letting the fear destroy me, and becoming nothing. The world expects that I go to school and get a job and either love the work or love the pay and like, I’m not supposed to ask why I need to work so hard—I’m supposed to nut up and do it.
This dream state was interrupted when Todd called me up and said he wanted to meet and talk. We met up at In-N-Out and I ordered nothing but a vanilla shake.
“Not hungry?” he said.
“No,” I said. I’d stopped eating for the most part.
We talked for a while about school, his work at the bookstore, and my recommended professors, with long intervals of silence between topics. And at the end of one long interval I said “Todd.”
His face was pretty much flat and he’s like, “I know.”
“No,” I said, “I’m serious.”
He nodded. “I know.” I asked him what he thought and he shrugged and said “It’s really hard for me to say this but like, I don’t feel the same about you.” He waited and took a bite out of his burger and dipped a fry in ketchup. Todd could have any girl he wanted, so I didn’t blame him.
“Well,” I said, “I just wanted you to know.”
“I have something I want to say.” He paused. “The other night at the dorm party, I saw Brendan trying to make out with Rosaria. He said he never told you and like, I think you should know.”
His eyes were soft and he looked down as if he was ashamed for Brendan’s sake. I thought of how small my head would have to be to dunk it in my milkshake and blow vanilla bubbles until I drowned and it all went away.
I don’t recall exactly but I went to the store to buy Drano and got back to my dorm somehow. I took all my paintings out from under my bed and brought them to the dumpster. I held them over the edge for a minute and told myself to let go. I couldn’t do it. I put them back under my bed.
In chemistry, we learned about sodium hydroxide and its high causticity. Online I read that it was one of the most painful ways to commit suicide, but I thought I had the gumption to do it. I twisted the cap off and put the bottle to my lips and began to drink as quickly as possible. Easier than 151, I told myself. I swallowed once and puked immediately. My survival instincts kicked in and said Get that crap away from me. A feeling of razors afire spurted up and out of my stomach and seared my throat and tongue. It got on my desk and on the floor and on my hands, which burned and shook uncontrollably, and I thought of going to the bathroom to put them under tap water. I thought again (water might make it worse) and dove for my towel and patted them dry, crying and screaming dully with my torn voice.
I ran out of my room and knocked with feeble raps on the doors of my hall. The entire dorm seemed empty. I prayed: help me now Yon Virgin. Then I saw two guys come out of the stairwell and walk in my direction. I ran towards them with my hands held out and my mouth slung open drooling something foul and toxic. They ran away. I took the elevator down to the lobby. My shoes left vomit footprints and I must have reeked as I walked to the front desk. The lobby was quiet and the student working at the desk did not notice me at first. I got his attention by trying to scream and retching dryly. He looked up and said, “What are you doing? What the fuck is wrong with you?” He saw that my hands were cupped and sizzling from the chemicals, and that I was covered in vomit but he said “Did Jacob send you here?” I looked at him in frustration and he told me “I’m not falling for this again. Go try it on someone else.” I suppose he thought he was the victim of a sick joke, or that I was nothing but a silly drunk. I left the dorm and wheezed. I lost my breath after a few steps and collapsed with a splash in the dirt near the entrance. A guy was texting as he walked and never saw me there. A group of people didn’t notice me until stepping on my ankles, at which point they looked and then turned to each other and laughed, saying “Oh my god, I didn’t even see her there! Did you see me, I almost tripped!”
My face was nestled in the dirt, which puffed with every softening exhale. The burning seemed to intensify and I saw a small flower not a foot away from my eye. It was a white daisy, a small weed. It wavered a little in the sunlight. I remember it had a petal or two missing and was looking like such an obvious fool, with no other daisies in sight. I wanted to crush it but I felt bad for it so I lay there and thought: no one will ever find my body here. I must be invisible. No one cares if I live or die.
I woke up in the hospital and it was cold and bright but Todd was there, sitting by the bed with a computer on his lap and headphones on.
I tried to say “Go away” but I couldn’t make a sound. I felt mostly dead and I closed my eyes again because it was too bright.
When he noticed I was up, he took off his headphones and put his laptop on the floor and moved his chair closer to me.
“Hey Mitsi. How are you feeling?” I tried to scowl at him and he was like, “I figured.” The room was small and there was a curtain through the middle and a man groaned on the other side. The floor had grey tiles and the walls were plastered and white. I could see people walking in the hall through the window on the door.
“I don’t know where Brendan is,” said Todd, “I’ve been trying to call him but I can’t get through. Does he never like, answer his phone? I mean, I texted him so he should at least know you’re here.” He took his phone out from his pocket and opened it. He texted a short message before putting it back.
I swallowed and felt pain travel down my body and fill me with stabbing. It made me cry a little.
Todd touched my shoulder. “The doctor said they don’t have to take anything out. Like your esophagus and stuff. They said you’re really lucky. If you hadn’t thrown up right away you’d be dead.”
In my head I’m like “Great,” and I probably rolled my eyes.
Todd explained that the doctor would be treating me with liquid antibiotics. The doctor had put a camera inside me to see how bad it was. Swallowing would be a bitch forever.
He paused and I thought he was going to ask me why I did it, or tell me that it was stupid and selfish, but he said “You’ll be all right. You look fine to me.”
I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t strong enough for life. I wasn’t cut out for it. I was shy and scared—always scared. Maybe Todd knows the secret to keeping oneself afloat, like being stranded in the ocean and having the will to swim when you know rescue isn’t coming. Maybe there is no secret and I’m that fucked up.
“Do you mind if I stay?” he said. I shook my head. His phone vibrated and he took it out and looked at the screen and said “Brendan says he’s on his way. And he said your parents are coming.”
Crap, I thought.
“He says, Tell her I love her. Tell her Mr. and Mrs. Masuda will be there in like five hours.”
I imagined how mad they must be, getting all packed to get on a plane to see their crazy daughter. How they’d let the anger simmer like a stew the entire flight before taking it out on me. My dad would be too angry to say anything more than a few curt phrases, as though keeping an avalanche at bay. My mother would just be screaming.
Fuck. I rubbed my eyes with a bandaged hand, and some chords that were in my arm knocked around. They’re going to take me home and never stop telling me that I ruined all their plans. No Nobel Prize, no post-doc. Not even a degree.
I was trying not to think of what would happen next. Without a doubt I’d flunk my classes, and I’d heard that suicide was illegal so maybe I was going to be arrested? And I didn’t know what Brendan would say when he came in. He’d be so confused. He’d say he never saw it coming. I’d have to use sign language to break up with him, or wait until I could write it down. Or I’d be a wimp and take him back.
“Mitsi,” said Todd. “This will cheer you up,” and I lifted my eyebrows to show that I was interested. “Remember that drunk guy who went around naked at that party? The next day, I was in the shower and I overheard him talking and he’s like ‘Oh, man, I got drunk last night and went to the girls’ rooms and they were like all over me.’ The person he was talking to said ‘No way,’ but he says ‘No, really. I was ass-naked and I got a blowjob from at least three different girls.’ The other guys were like ‘Damn dude, that’s awesome.’ And he’s all, ‘I know!’”
It hurt a lot to smile but I did. Was the guy lying or did he remember wrong? How could he be so full of himself? Todd seemed satisfied. He told me about his latest film project (I don’t really remember, but I think it had something to do with a talking cat) and he asked me what I thought. I shrugged.
“Not the best idea but it’s going to have great cinematography.”
He pulled up Family Guy on his laptop, put it on my legs, and we watched an episode about Brian and Stewie travelling through time. The impulse to laugh and the pain it caused told me that I probably do exist. The hospital and the computer and the guy next to me are real, and time passes, so, yeah.