My next set of classes weren’t until two days later. Because of that, I busied myself by unpacking, arranging clothes about the dressers in the room, and doing homework in preparation for my next meeting for not only math, but my social sciences and history classes. I also had my next project to consider, especially considering that I was here exclusively as a result of the fellowship.
They’ll want to see pages, I thought. Something substantial. Something definitive.
The only problem was: I was, in part, petrified over failing—or, at the very least, turning in subpar work. While I knew that the revision process could change everything when it came to a piece, the fact that they wanted me to check in every month was a bit sobering, especially considering that I was not one to normally rush into anything.
It has to be perfect storm, I once remembered thinking.
The lightning, the thunder, the rain—all had to align within the sky, then fall upon the unfortunate earth in which the fruits of my labor were meant to grow. Added to the fact that I then had to cultivate the manuscript, and work under a deadline to boot, and I thought that I would suffer a horrendous and miserable defeat.
But you won’t, I thought. You’re here because of your merit as a writer. Remember that.
I should’ve had that tattooed on my wrist, or at least written it down in a place where it would never be forgotten. At least then I would be forever reminded of it.
Still—despite my unease over the matter, I did manage to scribble some notes down, and began to roughly snowball outline something that I felt could come to fruition, so long as I allowed it to germinate within my mind.
The act of organizing, my school work, and the work on my personal project carried me throughout the early morning, and well into the afternoon.
Come time I realized I was hungry, however, a new sort of apprehension arose.
Going to the common room.
Though I imagined that it wouldn’t be too bad, all things considering, I did have to note that I would be interacting with complete strangers—men who, by all definitions, had grown up in normal homes, and as a result, might not take kindly to me if they sensed that something was wrong.
What are you concerning yourself over? I thought. There’s no bullies here. You have absolutely nothing to worry about.
And even if something did happen, which I highly doubted it would, I could handle it on my own. I was a big boy—technically a man now if I wanted to be honest, even though I didn’t really feel like one.
With that thought in mind, I grabbed my room key, locked the door behind me, and made my way down the hall to the common room.
At this hour of the afternoon, most people seemed to be in class, or busy with schoolwork, maybe even sleeping. This left me the perfect opportunity to make my way into the common room, withdraw one of the few microwaveable meals I’d purchased before arriving at the dorm in the previous days, and eat in peace.
By the time I arrived, the room was completely empty—offering me the peace of mind I needed to adjust to the place and the fact that I was now living in a shared living space.
I opened the freezer, withdrew my frozen macaroni and cheese from a box with my name on it, then walked to the microwave, all the while listening for the sound of footsteps or voices that would signal the arrival of strangers in my midst.
The microwave, as it counted down the minutes, seemed excruciatingly-loud—far louder than I could’ve ever anticipated.
Don’t think about it, I thought. You’re here now. Safe. Somewhere you can’t get yelled at, or hurt, or made to feel guilty.
Unfortunately for me, my thoughts began to cycle to nights in the past—when, under the cover of darkness, I would dread using the microwave for fear of waking my sleeping father, and suffering his wrath as a result.
My chest tightened.
My back tensed up.
My throat felt dry.
By the time the microwave dinged, I was ready to explode.
I had just leaned forward to withdraw my food when the sound of footsteps entered my ears—
—and instantly made my squirm.
Thankfully, the student who acknowledged me was merely passing by. He offered me little more than a “Hey” before grabbing a water from the fridge and exiting the common room.
That interaction, inconsequential as it happened to be, forced me to flee to my room.
By the time I unlocked, passed through, and shut the door behind me, I felt like I hadn’t drawn air in ages.
As rich oxygen entered my lungs, I came to a realization so painful I couldn’t even bear it.
This behavior, typical of me as it happened to be, was not normal.
But what could I do to stop it?
At that moment, I realized only one thing could happen:
I had to go to the doctor.