All I want is a normal week
Driving slowly through the hills feels like being told to calm down and breathe: the temporary high, the hiccup, and the everlasting descent. I wake in the mornings, a ray of sun dancing through the windows onto my sheets, forming a weighted blanket of air. Sitting up, the iridescent covers shed from my chest, but the weight remains.
I’ve been silent for a semester now. “How are you?” It’s amazing how much you hear when you have nothing to say. “I’m well.” “That’s great!” “Maybe we should hang out?” I’m wound up, programmed to say these few phrases for an eternity. Maybe I’ll actually hang out, but more likely than not I’m glued to my bed, unable to find the activation energy to even get up. Why don’t I have more to say?
After all, I TA’d my first class; I got my driver’s license; I ate all-you-can-eat sushi for the first time. But I also had my first mid-exam tunnel vision; I started speaking to the ghost in the passenger seat; I ate a tub of ice cream Tuesday night and refused to eat more than 800 calories per day the following week.
But you see, static is everywhere. Some days, I can’t even look at people without the fog creeping in. There’s shame in making eye contact. Everyone is disappointed in me. Once I’m far enough south, even FM 98.7 playing softly on the radio fades to silence. People laugh, crack a few jokes, open a cold Diet Coke, and show teeth when I greet them over the fire.
The sun sinks below the rooftops, cloaking us in a fluorescent golden hour. I look at you. I feel the physical fabric of space between us, but I’m not really there. I’m a thousand feet in the air, piloting a pale reflection of myself, going through the motions during the week, and rewinding on the weekends.
Today is a roller coaster, and nothing will get in my way. Two minutes to get dressed, another five to get ready, and a ten-minute timer ticking down to class. To-dos, to-dos, and more to-dos. From now on, I resolve to make one such list every day. I promise to be doing something every waking minute, checking things off: one, two, three, pset, class, pset, lab, class, club, socialize, Chinese, and maybe, just maybe, sleep. Breathe.
A hundred reminders go off on my phone. Wow, the Stud food tastes incredible today. I tend to each notification in succession. “We should ride the commuter rail to Cohasset and just run around in the parking lot.” “Has sparkling water ever tasted this good to anyone before? Okay, me neither.”
My vision is 20/20 behind these glasses. I notice every blade of grass. I finally use that BlueBikes subscription for the first time in months. The garlic sizzling on the pan smells like home. I eat some spinach, snack on carrots and hummus. And as the old saying goes, “fitness isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.”
When I step outside, I can hear the birds harmonize. This mountain is silent; the echo of our voices is impeccable. I’m going to make sure everyone sees what I’m made of. The air is thin up on that hill, but my will to ascend is stronger than the weight of the atmosphere above me. I make a joke. My friends laugh, smile, and, just maybe, crack open a Diet Coke over the kindling.
The sunset shows its opalescent colors, and like magic, silence falls. Time slows as I gaze at you. I’m firmly rooted to the ground, but my spirits are a thousand feet high. I laugh, jot down a few more notes to finish the pset due a week from now, and breathe a sigh of relief as I rewind through the highlights of the week.
And sometimes, it’s just a week. A normal, uneventful week. No abysmal lows or insurmountable highs. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, and that’s all I’ll ever need. This simple desire for monotony still feels like a gift when it dawns.