these days.

Monday. I go to work. It’s finals week, and the students come in with eyes a little wild. Some of them can barely get up the energy to talk through ideas. They’re over it. Some of them are regulars, faces I’ve seen dozens of times throughout the years. Some are here for the first time, ready to try anything they think will help, even the writing center{cue scary music}. It’s an unrelentingly hot day. The door is propped open and so flies are doing their tickling hovering thing, but at least sometimes a breeze puffs in. We have fans for the rest. I flip the fluorescent lights to half-off and pretend it helps.

It’s a Monday like many others, and it feels normal. Except for all the things that hang behind it. I am happy to be busy, but a little bit of me is resentful of the way students slide themselves in to my open time slots because it doesn’t give me time to think. I want to remember what it’s like to see the switch click on behind someone’s eyes when the thing they’ve been struggling with becomes clear, to watch confidence blossom. The way it feels to work through my own impatience and frustration, to master it enough to be useful. Even the feeling of a misfire, the sense of blowing hot air into an already stuffy space. I want to remember that too.

But I also don’t want to pause. If students keep coming, I don’t have to weigh the significance of the fact that today is my last day at the center, or think about all the things it’s meant to me, all the versions of me these three rooms have seen.

My last student of the afternoon is, poetically, the first student I ever worked with. He was brand new, and I was brand new, and now we are years older. He is going to graduate next year, and I wish a little that I could stay around to see it. But I’m graduating this year, and it can’t be.

We fall into our usual rhythms. He laughs a little because he already knows what I will tell him. I relish the familiar surprise that shouldn’t be surprise when he comes up with his own solutions, takes what I offer and transforms it. We both wave away flies. When I tell him this is my last shift, he hangs around a little. He says once or twice, three times, Congratulations. Good luck. He is going abroad next fall. I remember helping him with the application. I fight the urge to hug him, and I wish him good luck too. He walks outside into the sunlight, and I watch him hurry to the shade of the stairs that will take him to his dorm room.

* * *

Tuesday. I go to work. A different work. It’s a bit of routine I’d given up in the last month, choosing instead to focus on my research and writing. I’ve gotten out of the rhythm. But my eyes open at 5:30 like they’re on springs, and all I can think about are the Things I Need to Do. From my bed I yelp dry cleaners to find that one I’ve been to, see what time it opens. The graduation gown needs going over, and I can’t ignore it any longer. I hustle. Put cut up celery into a plastic bag, spoon peanut butter into a tiny plastic container. I get to the cleaner by opening bell and then drive to work. My eyes are dry. My brain is churning.

I get to the office. Do work. It is a Tuesday like every other Tuesday, except when it’s not. My boss comes into my office to ask when they have to start calling me Doctor Sharone. Thursday, I tell him. Or, if you want to get some practice in amongst yourselves, you can start tomorrow afternoon. We laugh, but inside my brain I am frantically reviewing notes. This is what I am always doing today, even when I am moving around words on pages about elevators and video screens. Thinking about tomorrow.

I leave work early because I know some of my favorite people in the world are waiting for me at home: the beloved sister from London, dear friends from up north. It is natural to have them in my house, and we laugh and talk. This is familiar, even though it has never happened before. We walk to dinner, eat cheeseburgers, drink beer. The littlest one does acrobatics over the edge of the couch. We spend 20 minutes half-trying to blow up the air mattress ourselves before giving in and going to buy batteries for the pump. The littlest one finally settles in to sleep. The house goes quiet and cool. The windows are open, and the traffic sounds are soothing.

* * *

Wednesday. Morning comes too early, and just on time. I know what to do, and I don’t, so I just do the logical things. Shower. Dress. Eat the lavish breakfast my sister has cooked for the house-full. Pace, a little.

We get to school, and I am nervous that my heels are too much for my ankle to handle. I pick my way carefully, but I feel good. I sit in the corner of a couch and try to look at notes. People come in, and I drift in and out of chat. Then, one by one, the committee arrives and we go inside and things start. There are a few unfamiliar faces in the room, but most are known and dearly loved.

I’m asked to talk about my process and choices. I start with my notes, but before long I am rolling on my own. What I remember most is having a lot to say. Being surprised by how much there is, how much I’ve forgotten I know, how much I love what I do. Speaking the story of my research into this room reminds me. The questions are not as many as I expected, and before I know it, we are done, and everyone is saying congratulations and taking pictures. I keep expecting that I will feel some big jolt, that I will know physically the thing I’m trying to know mentally, that I’m done. It’s done. It’s all done.

We stand a bit in the sunlight and shade. I change my shoes, thinking of the twinge in my ankle. We eat sushi, so much sushi. I hug people goodbye. I lie on my bed in my pajamas and watch Netflix for a while, read for a while, doze for a while.

In the cool of the evening, I rise, dress. I eat cannelloni pie with Jan, and ice cream with Vic, and in the dark we make one last walk across the parking lot, past the succulents, to the writing center. I know all these plants, so that even though it’s dark I can sense them. I know the corners we turn, the artwork, the way students in a hurry squeeze between and around people. I sift through papers in my box, throw away notes from years-old sessions, leave my key in the little cloth box. We change the countdown on the chalkboard wall so it says 1 ½ days until graduation. We walk back to the car under a thumbnail moon. There is a cool breeze. The night and I, we exhale.

* * *

Thursday. I am at work again. Back at it. My sister will be at home waiting for me tonight, and tomorrow too.  And on Saturday, I will wear a purple robe and a funny hat, and I will say goodbye to my school days. A large group of family and friends will eat and drink together. I will cry and laugh, and I will find it hard to catch my breath. Then I will go home to my house, the same house, and sleep in the same bed, and then Sunday will dawn clear and bright.

This is a week like no other week. This is a week like every other week. These are the things I keep saying to myself, rolling them over my tongue as if repetition can help me figure out how they’re both true.

4 Responses to these days.

  1. HopefulLeigh says:

    Love this, love this, love this. Congratulations!

  2. What a beautiful account of the week before your graduation. The magnificent yet ordinary moments that would otherwise grow blurry, I imagine, with time, captured so concisely and so well. Toss that tasseled tam high on Saturday :).

  3. mandie says:

    I am so, so proud and excited and happy for you friend. So much love….

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