I came to present a paper at a conference.
feeling foreign in my business clothes
formally dressed in this place where I was so casual
no bra bare nails no skirts long hair no heels my bare face
I had this event on my calendar for months.
is how I felt,
seeing the remnants of the skin I had just shed,
but still uncomfortable in my new face.
This was the first time I had come back since I left last December, and now I admit that it was because I was afraid.
everything so familiar, the quad, the clock tower, my professor, some of my classmates,
yet so different, with a new building sprouting and people not recognizing me and the most important people gone or changed.
nostalgia and nausea, and discombobulation.
I came with two friends from my new life and seeing them there made me feel even more out of place.
everything is different, but still looks the same.
omniscient tickling of my brain that tells me that I have been dreaming that I have been back here since before I left,
stumbling around the quad in my dreams, sleeping in JRC, talking to Kierra about everything, kissing under the street light,
and your hands cupping my face while I look into brown or blue or green eyes that only seem to blankly stare back at me in my
As I give my friends a tour, images flash back to me of memories that feel only weeks old but are actually from a year ago.
Talking to you under that tree, sitting on that marble bench, saying good bye to my Mom for the first time in that parking lot,
learning that my grandmother died in that parking lot, crying in my car and in that office and in that room.
I am very proud of the paper I gave, and I was commended by professors and peers by how I answered questions afterwards.
I couldn’t fully appreciate it because of the suffocation I was feeling from my new skin tightening around my neck.
It didn’t occur to me until now, 5 days later, that I was dumped twice in that same building, just one floor up.
Doing homework with him on the couch outside of the chaplain’s office, doing homework in the booths, crying in that
bathroom. Giving Danny the riot act, telling Evan that he could trust me, doing homework in those booths,
writing the paper I presented on Friday, you meeting me there, my phone not working,
you not even unpacking your bag,
you telling me that we need to talk, you telling me that we were too different,
you telling me that it wasn’t my fault,
you telling me that I was too liberal,
you telling me that you didn’t mean to hurt me, you crying too.
you getting angry when my anxiety escalates, you putting your head in your hands,
you not responding when I say that it isn’t fair, you apologizing.
you saying goodbye.
me feeling my stomach sink like a rock, me in total shock,
me unable to convince you that we were the same,
me seeing that you had already changed.
me feeling defensive, me feeling violated,
me starting to cry big fat tears, me turning red, me my nose starting to run.
me feeling exposed, me telling you off for doing this in a public space,
me texting Kierra to ask her to stay awake until I came home and that it was over,
me crying some more, sobbing into my sweater to muffle the noise.
me still having to tell you that it’s okay, me holding your hand.
me wiping my face off in the bathroom, me staring at my face morphed by tears in the mirror.
me barely holding it together. me asking to walk home alone.
me walking past all of our street lamps, me hiding in darkness so no one would see my face or hear my tears.
me crying myself to sleep that night, me waking up.
me getting into the business school the next day, me feeling genuine pride and joy, me being congratulated by my classmates.
me writing my paper, me doing my homework, me studying for finals, me acing my classes, me dancing with Kierra at formal,
me seeing the students I tutored succeed, me taking charge of my peers at work, me being given responsibility,
me loving my work, me looking toward the future, me packing up my stuff and putting it into storage, me leaving Oxford behind.
me coming to business school, me joining a sorority, me struggling in my classes, me loving my friends,
me making impulsive decisions, me being reminded of you with him, me calling my family every day, me turning 20.
me doing my best, me being proud of what I do, me having genuine friends both new and old,
me being more me than ever before.
I know what I was afraid of now.
I was afraid of remembering this and so much more pain that comes with growth and adulthood.
I was afraid of coming and finding that everyone had forgotten me and it was as if I was never there.
I was afraid to remember that this place was once my home.