I wake up to a whistle this morning. A man calling his dog, probably. It reminds me of my cat. He comes when I whistle for him. Not because he thinks he’s a dog, but because he thinks he’s a special kind of princess. I let him.
I hear that whistle again and wish I’d woken up in my real bed. At home. I can never really sleep here anyway, the sheets tangled around my ankles because, even with the window open, my room is too hot. I met this girl yesterday, in the laundry room I never use, and she said I need to wash my bed sheets more often. She said, “You never know, dude.” Never know what, exactly, I didn’t care to ask because I’m actually a very clean person and this girl doesn’t know that. My creative writing professor told me to notice things, so I stared at this girl’s cheekbones and thought about how much she resembled Jennifer Lawrence.
I have homework to do, but I sit in my armchair sipping coffee diluted with milk and watch cartoons instead. They aren’t adult cartoons, but adults understand them better. I watch three episodes, which is about thirty minutes of my morning gone. I hate wasting time. If I end up failing college and having to explain to my parents why, I don’t know what I’d say. That this particular cartoon is entertaining and has a lot of seasons. That this particular cartoon is a distraction from all the thoughts the PTSD brochures warn you about. I don’t have PTSD, just like I don’t have an addiction to coffee or perfectionist tendencies. My co-worker, Faith, she’s a veteran/firefighter/paramedic/victim services advocate/mom/wife/grandmother, in no particular order. She says you need to talk about these things that disrupt your life so much they land you in an armchair watching cartoons all morning. I write about them instead. My brother called me yesterday (he never calls) and told me about how a girl he knows died in a collision accident that Tuesday morning. And I don’t want to think about all the girls I know who’ve died in a collision accident on Tuesday mornings. So I keep watching cartoons until I’m not aware of my thoughts or the stack of homework on my desk calling my name or the soft tick-tick of my timepiece telling me I’ll be late to class if I don’t get up soon. I don’t have issues—truly—some days are just like gray sludge on your conscience.
I’ve had chemistry in the morning since high school. I was usually late to that class because my sister’s class was right across the hall from mine. I don’t think the counselors who scheduled us ever realized this was an issue, but our respective teachers did. This is why: We would leave home early to get coffee, and no matter how much time we gave ourselves to do this, we were late to first hour every time. Every time. But we were caffeinated when we did this. And now I wish I were with my sister, who is taller but most certainly younger than me; and I wish we could take turns buying each other coffee again.
My chemistry professor is okay. He knows his stuff, but he also forgets to include known values for the calculations he gives us to solve. So when he writes a problem on the board for us to do, I count to twenty before starting. Then he’ll apologize, say he meant this or that or “I forgot to give you the boiling point constant for…” and I’ll kind of feel bad for him. He makes us wonder. When he mentions his own research, my initial thought is, Oh God. What a mess that must be. I’m sure he’s put together sometimes. I just never see him then. At least he’s consistently inconsistent. I wonder if his pulse is regularly-irregular or if it’s just his thoughts. I don’t really take notes on his lectures either because I read the chapters beforehand. I buy books all the time, but his words are probably the most expensive and unnecessary ones I’ve ever paid for.
After chemistry, I have an hour between classes. So I walk past the tennis courts and climb into my car. I don’t go anywhere, but I consider it. I think if I left now, I would arrive home wishing I’d just stayed here. If I stay here, I won’t have to explain myself to anyone. So I retrieve the takeout box of pizza I forgot to bring back to my room last night. It’s cold but still has more flavor than cafeteria food. I actually went off-campus for dinner yesterday. The girl I went with, she calls me a psychopath because my job sometimes deals with the dead, dying, or want-to-die kind of people. She’ll say every so often, “But I know you’re actually not a psychopath.” I know I’m not either. I think I’m just very self-aware. I sit there, munching and staring out the windshield at the snow melting on my glass, and I think about that girl I see walking around campus who always looks so sad and isn’t afraid to show it. I noticed her before I was told to notice things. I think about my brother. I think about all the girls who have died on Tuesday mornings and how there will be more of them next week.
I finish my pizza, climb out of my car because I’m going to be late. I’d rather stay there, my hands gripped around the steering wheel, with the illusion that I’m going somewhere. I think a lot of people’s existences hinge on this illusion. That you aren’t stuck. That you’re in control. I’d rather be going home or buying my sister coffee or whistling for my cat to come here.
But it’s only Wednesday.
I still have things to do.