Amid the news of my beloved college in financial crisis (another post on the subject is in progress) our own personal financial crisis is in the works. The irony of the two happening at exactly the same time is too much for me for some reason; I’m having a hard time handling this. The thing to do is to tackle our own crisis proactively; to face reality and move ahead; I know this. And there are other factors. And when the subject comes up I… well… I freak out. I am not proud of this. Yesterday we were having an IM chat on the subject, some alarming things came up, and I cracked.
All of a sudden I typed that I was going out, smacked my laptop shut (yes, the laptop I couldn’t afford but needed to get because my other computer had died), and burst into tears! Here, in the middle of my weekend writing spot, with other writers nearby! I covered my face in my hands, crying as quietly as I could manage, until I realized I should lock myself in the bathroom until the waterworks were over. I fled to the hallway bathroom and hid in a stall until I could calm myself down. It took about ten minutes. Then I returned to my desk, the only evidence my eyes. They were bright red. I’d dried the tears and blew my nose multiple times, but I could do nothing about my eyes: they still betrayed me.
That’s when I noticed the writer across the room watching me. He kept looking up from his own laptop, peeking at me. I’ve seen him here, though we’ve never spoken. I don’t know his name, and I doubt he knows mine. Still, he seemed concerned.
I couldn’t meet his eyes. I left immediately for lunch and when I returned an hour later, eyes no longer so red, he was still in that spot, still peering at me every once in a while, I guess to see if I’d freak out again. I was—I am—really embarrassed. He must have thought I’d received some awful news, a death in the family, a sudden freak accident. I hope I don’t see him today. What if he asks me what happened?
I am reminded of something I witnessed during a study-abroad trip to a faraway country. I was young; new to the city; so unsure of myself that all the words of this new language I’d learned were buried down deep in my throat and wouldn’t come out when I opened my mouth. I was at a train station, going from the university campus to, I think, buy, of all things, perfume-free laundry detergent at a place someone suggested might have it, since I am allergic to everything else. I was too early for the train. I was waiting on a bench and, across the way, on the platform heading the opposite direction, a young woman was sitting on a bench, too. Not a foreigner, like me. She was probably a university student. There was no one else around. She sat there calmly, quietly, until suddenly—all at once—she burst into tears. Loudly. She was sobbing, shaking, wailing on the bench across the way. She turned away, but I saw her crouched there. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I forgot how to ask “Are you okay?” though it was a simple phrase I could have called across the tracks. Should I have gone over the pedestrian bridge to talk to her? What would I have said? Would she understand me if I spoke in English? I was alarmed, truly at a loss for words. What had happened to make her cry so deeply, so terribly? Then, to make the situation odder, I realized that there were a few other people on the platform with me now, waiting for the train. They could see her crying, surely—they couldn’t help but hear her—but no one talked to her, no one bothered her. It was as if we were all intruding on a private moment and we were just politely giving her some space. After some time, she stopped crying. And the reactions of the people waiting on the platform were just the same: as if it had never happened. My train came; I got on it. But I couldn’t stop thinking of her. Obviously I remember her still.
I’m afraid now that, for the one writer from yesterday at least, I may have become that person. Let’s just pretend it never happened. That seems like the natural thing to do.