nostalgia

nostalgia

overcast day

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.

reptilian,

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

nightmares.

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.

this is real.

this is real.

this is real,

coca-cola red real.

heel stuck in the side walk, real.

skinned knee stinging real,

runs in my stockings real.

the way you smiled at me on the bus, real.

texts at 1 am, real.

forgetting my text book in my dorm room real,

running into you on campus unreal,

eyelashes- yes, they are real.

wide smiles, white teeth, real.

fingers touch, I blush coca-cola red, real.

it could be so easy if he was real.

new suit

new suit

when I look at you and see you staring back at me

all I can feel is this annoying little tickle

of my brain telling me not to hold your stare.

i own a suit now

so different from the future i imagined myself having

yet it feels so right.

now it’s time for me to move on to bigger bests.

if i was smart i wouldn’t look at you and want you so clearly.

because i shouldn’t want you since i only met you 3 days ago and i just moved here and we don’t have any classes together and we have only talked twice and i don’t know you and i don’t know this campus and i don’t know my friends yet and i don’t know you and i don’t know me yet really either.

i own a suit now.

it’s black and matches my skirt.

i think you’ll suit me.

unafraid.

unafraid.

“Helen! Helen! A pipe burst! The cabin flooded! We have to move all of our stuff!” my roommate, Cassie, shouted from our porch. I can see that she’s already moved some of our belongings to the front porch. I cross the porch and step through the narrow doorway. There’s barely an 2 inches of water, but the soaked sheets and books are already sending me spiraling back into my memories.

I’m now six years old, not seventeen. My dad just woke me up in the middle of the night, and I don’t know why. He lifts me out of bed and when I’m pressed to his shoulder, I see my dresser is floating. It’s only then that I realize that Dad is walking through a lot of water. I’m really scared. Dad carries me into my parent’s room, and drops me onto the floating bed where Mom is lying. Mommy is very, very pregnant. I can tell she’s scared too. I cuddle with Mom while Dad gathers our most important belongings, using my plastic toy chest as a ferry. Money; passports; my birth certificate; my favorite stuffed animal, a green dinosaur named Dino, that played “You are My Sunshine” when wound up; an emergency lantern with some batteries; and probably more things that I don’t remember. It’s still raining outside, the water is rising in our apartment. Mom and I count the batteries for the lantern and put them in. Dad goes to sleep, but Mom and I stay up. We’re too scared. Eventually, someone comes to get us. One of the front desk ladies. The water is lower, so it’s okay to open the door. It’s summer time, and last week Mom got me new yellow swimming shoes as a present. They’re still in their bag, floating around. I put them on, and then we’re outside our apartment, walking. Mom is holding my hand as we walk up the stairs. I don’t remember where we sleep. We’re in a higher floor of the apartment complex. When we wake up, it’s sunny. The lady gives me some cereal to have for breakfast, but no milk. It starts getting really fuzzy here. We go back to the apartment. There are a lot of people in our apartment. There are wet, yucky mattresses stacked up all over the sidewalk. It smells bad. Our carpet is soaking wet, and when I step on it, the water is brown. Our neat, happy apartment looks horrible. Piles of dirt and our belongings are everywhere. My dad’s books are soaked. I never saw our piano again. The armchair in the living room that Daddy and I would pretend was a pirate ship: gone. I wasn’t allowed in my room, but I know that all of my stuffed animals and toys were soaked. Mommy cried when she saw that all of her beautiful scrapbooks and photos were ruined. The white table that Grandpa made, with all of the pretty butterflies and fairies and flowers stencils painted on it in pink: gone. Many of our favorite, most precious things: gone, taken by the flood.

“Helen!” I start. Lynzi, my other roommate, has been asking me to take the squeegee. I push the water from under our bunk beds while she moves our luggage onto the porch. Revelle and Leora won’t be back till ten, so we have to save their stuff for them. “Don’t forget the ukelele,” I remind Lynzi. There’s water everywhere. Our porch is a mess of shoes, luggage and instruments. I have to focus on the task at hand, I have to be unafraid.