Fade to white and Somewhere warm are the two previous diaries in this series.

Log into student portal. Pay outrageous bill. Feed cat after headbutt reminds you today is a weekday and work happens. This strikes you as an absurd thing to hold onto: you have to go to work or no one will feed the cat. Your clothes are clean even though you always forget to do laundry on Sundays. You wonder why these habits are falling away from you, take conscious effort to remember, the thoughts pass like tree sap from one part of your mind to another: brush teeth. Feed cat. Take shower. Have something besides coffee and pills for breakfast.

Your boyfriend says this is okay, this not being good with day-to-day stuff and it’s true. You seem built for more difficult tasks than navigating the path from bathroom to kitchen to bedroom and even now, going to work with the rest of the bus people, you wonder if your room will ever be clean again and wish for a crisis so you can shine for anyone at all.

At work all your questions are about death with dignity. You are from Oregon and became the go to person to explain these things. You teach two different students how to read American political cartoons. One of them is a young woman whose eardrum ruptured as her parents escaped Mogadishu. You try and have some perspective. You remember leaving Oregon.

She’d stood next to you in line that day while the man at the terminal lectured you about how booking tickets online hurts Greyhound stations and you both explained this wouldn’t happen again. You remember looking out the window of the bus that let you leave and she was there. She stood by the side of the bus and cried. She’d call you sometimes, never sober, and you had to stop talking to her.

Sometimes you still feel your soul moving through the bus stations, airports, the whole life in the TSA designated personal item and carry-on. You worked nights. Two jobs. Stayed awake for over forty hours to cover shifts. And now you are here at Enormous Midwestern University and no one knows you. There will be no orientation for you, no tour of campus, even though a series of synchronicities made it so everyone knows your name: a word for the beautiful red that will adorn your wedding dress/PhD regalia someday, and plasters the school. You wonder if she would be proud of you, the girl in the wrong body waving goodbye in the bus terminal.

Go to class. Answer professor’s questions about your work. Register that this is the first time anyone has asked you about “your work” as though it were something that belonged to you and not someone else. The other students seem okay with you, though many use the word queer to describe their work and you are very good and don’t cry. She’s picked a terrible time to die.

You walk home after class. It’s dark out and there’s snow on the ground. The pond in the middle of campus freezes over and the ducks look indignant, but it is beautiful here with lights in the trees. Night is still home for you. The too many classes, the insanity of dayshift, the memory loss, the aching body and the last thought that comes today is like the tide moving out: you will go home. You will not forget the crosswalk and become part of a Kia. Brush teeth. Feed the cat. Have something besides wine and sour cream and onion potato chips for dinner.      

Originally posted to science of staying awake on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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