I don’t remember how often I’d cry. Maybe two or three times a week. Tears swelled behind my eyes like a sudden pregnancy of grief. Then, equally as fast, they were gone, drained from my system as if I had felt nothing at all.
I didn’t know how sad I was until I left. Thinking back to the campus, it’s silky concrete and ashy buildings, there was always an arrow of sorrow piercing my palm.
The only place I found comfort was during my shifts in the library. I never used the elevator. Even when I had to re-shelf a book on the third floor, I climbed the stairs, feeling the muscles in my thighs and butt pull me upward. I liked stamping the interior cover of books with the due date. The stamp made a soft, satisfying noise like kissing a baby on the forehead. I liked closing the cover and handing it to the patron with a full lipped grin.
I guess the dining hall provided comfort as well. On Friday afternoons, after Italian class, I’d drop my coat and backpack into a booth and head toward the dessert counter for a chocolate brownie. I stood the brownie on its side to cut it in half with a butter knife like two pieces of bread. I spread peanut butter onto one slice before closing it into sandwich. A cold, tall glass of chocolate milk paired excellently with it. On the walk back to my dorm, I felt stupid for spoiling the opportunity to go for a run. A run, I thought, would have been productive, would have made me feel a different kind of good. I felt like I was constantly debating which type of goodness I needed. It felt like I always picked the wrong one. Sometimes, during a run, I would think that maybe taking a hot shower would have been right.
Weekends were the worst. No one needed me but myself and something about Friday through Sunday made this feeling apparent. One Sunday in particular I remember hauling my heavy back pack down the avenue, across the highway, and onto the large campus next door. By the time I arrived at the study lounge, my armpits and forehead were plump with sweat. My feet ached. I couldn’t take my sweater off because I wasn’t wearing an undershirt. I tried to ignore how uncomfortable I felt. I wanted to go back. I wanted to pack my folders and pencil case and laptop into the backpack and head right back to my dorm room and collapse onto my bed shirtless.
I stepped outside and called my mom instead. My right leg felt unhinged as if it were floating outside of the socket. It hovered the grass in semicircles and then propelled back and forth. I dug my heel into the ground, trying to look nonchalant. Trying to look like a grown woman catching up with an old high school friend.
My cell phone, pressed against an oily cheek, contained warmth. I pictured my mother on the other end, sitting on the couch with a blanket and magazine in her lap.
You can come home, she told me.
I don’t think it’s that bad, I assured her.
Living at home is different. I make my bed every morning, I eat a full breakfast, I put on mascara before class. It’s easier to decipher my needs. Goodness, it seems, develops in front of me instead of going out to search for it. I don’t feel like I’m wandering or stumbling. I feel grounded.
I like being close to my family. I like being able to drive twenty-five minutes to my brother’s college to drop off a pencil case he left at home.
I like being close to my family, they make my life abundant.