“How are you liking school?” Everyone in the world asks me.
“Oh, it’s good! It’s definitely an adjustment, but it’s good. You know.” I always reply, always in my grown-up voice, always with a knowing-look.
What I don’t tell them is this:
Today, after my English class, I scrounged up five dollars worth of quarters and fast-walked to my car. I was wearing dark wash jeans, a denim jacket, and boots with fringe. I felt untouchable.
I got in my car and drove to Burgerville. I went through the drive-thru and I actually and literally ordered a shake and some fries. (Next to the fries section on the fluorescent menu there was a green check and next to the green check it said “vegetarian”. This made me laugh out loud, into the speaker. I hope the lady taking my order heard me).
Anyway, up at the window, I gave the lady all my quarters and she laughed at me. I laughed at myself. I thought maybe the Burgerville lady and I were on our way to being friends. But then I drove away.
I turned onto Main Street and cranked my mom’s Wilco album, which she let me borrow. I was only driving 25 miles per hour, and there were a lot of other cars around, but I felt free and I played my air guitar unashamedly. Occasionally I would reach over and pull a fry out of the paper bag on the passenger seat. Those fries smelled like heaven’s kitchen and tasted like Jesus’ tears.
About halfway up the street I spotted this cute boy who I saw in the library yesterday. I also saw him playing a real guitar (not an air guitar) at this church this one time before yesterday at the library. His face was scruffy with a young-guy beard and he wore glasses. Anyhow, when I saw him on Main Street he was walking with this cute, tiny girl who had excellent strawberry-blonde hair. They looked seasonal and perfect, so I grabbed a grubby handful of fries in my little grubby hand, and as I stuffed them into my mouth I shouted at the attractive couple, “OF COURSE YOU ARE. OF COURSE.” They didn’t hear me, obviously. Then I started laughing at myself and I felt the best I have in a few days.
I drove back to the parking lot at school and parked. I turned the car off but kept the music on. I nodded my head to the beat and downed that milkshake and polished off those fries.
And I just sort of felt like, I owe this to everyone who has ever had a crappy first term at college. I owe this to every girl who has ever felt unworthy, unnoticed, unwanted. I owe this to every girl who has ever tricked herself into thinking that she really wanted that salad more than she wanted that pizza—to every girl who has ever obsessively written down everything she eats in a day for no apparent reason other than to try not to eat that much. I owe this to everyone who has ever felt lost and sad and tired and anxious and alone and mute and shitty. I owe this to everyone who has ever thought, “Maybe I’m depressed, but what do I have to be depressed about?” or “Maybe I should go see a counselor, but where would I even begin?”
I owe this to myself—these last three months.
I ate those fries and gulped down that chocolately, creamy, milkshaky goodness and I felt untouchable. I felt like I was exactly where I ought to have been at exactly the right time.
“Today has been so much better than yesterday,” I thought to myself as I climbed out of the car and walked back to my weird, dormitory-style life.