Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Events of Tonight

I drove down today from Oakland to Santa Cruz, leaving after traffic and staying between 65 and 80 the whole time. My side mirrors were a bit off from when Mom and Dad borrowed my car, so I adjusted them. While doing so my hand brushed the interior dash control, and it went dark. But my headlights were still on. I felt like I was Batman, in stealth mode, and left it dark for a few minutes until I got worried. I was going 70 with cruise control, and a full tank, so I didn't need any information from the dash, but I am used to checking it as part of my mirror check a few times per minute and it's best not to be disoriented while driving.

I get to Santa Cruz, show the guard my id, and drive up, parking at the gym. I plan to move the car before 7am when the meters turn on to the nearby East Remote lot, then take the bus to near Social Sciences 2 where I have an exam at 8am. I walk up to the bookstore and realize I have to pee urgently now that I am walking around in the cold. So I rush to the nearest bathroom. Locked. I walk slowly out to the patches of trees seperating the paths from the road, scanning for places to pee. A group of four stumbles past me, and I am glad I did not choose the nearest tree. I find a very dark patch of trees and walk in. I am scanning for people who might spot me or things that might be dangerous and I see, very nearby, the symbol for a men's room. I run over to it, a small outbuilding I've never seen before, around to the women's side and try the handle. Locked. Damn. So I run back to the patch of trees, dark because the bathroom blocks the orange streetlights, set my laptop case, and can of tea on the porch of the men's room, empty my pockets onto the stairs of the men's room, and then pee in the little dark patch. I have not planned what to use as toilet paper so I opt for nothing, pulling on my pants quickly, scared to be undressed in the dark outdoors. Then I gather everything back and go to wash my hands at the water fountain. Great. I continue drinking the tea and make my way to the 24 hour computer lab. More than half the stations are taken and there is no where to set up my laptop except the food and drinks table so I put it in front of a computer, pushing the keyboard aside. It's hard to focus I've been studying all day and all weekend and don't hardly know the slide ids yet, so I take little breaks to read the complicated, dense readings.

I really have to pee, again, so I gather up my laptop and notes and consult the "24 hour bathroom map" on the wall. It has a long, long path across cowell college, past the upper quad, past the fountain, and I am unfamiliar with this college but set out. Outside the lab a tall man asks me if I know where the bathroom is. I tell him what the map told me and where the map is, and we walk together. "I'm not trying to piss in the woods" he tells me so I say "I already did that once tonight. I've been drinking a lot of caffeine to stay up." "Yeah, me too. Well, I don't want to follow you in case you have to piss in the woods." so we part ways. I find the fountain (yay!) and then find a wall map that says the restrooms are next to the cafe. The man meets me again, and asks if I've found them. I tell him what the map says and he points to where the cafe is. The door is open! "Yay!" and we run into our respective bathrooms.

I wait for a second, hoping not to run into him again, and fix my hair. I look to myself like a different person, since I put on my contacts this afternoon for the first time in a few weeks. I look like a normal, generic college girl. Partly this is because there are no black frames hiding my eyes, but also my prescription is so strong it distorts everything a little, like a fishbowl. The distortion makes things at the center of my focus look a little smaller and the edges bow out. Wearing contacts I feel like my computer screen is 2" larger than usual, for example. I pat my hands dry, and head out. I am relieved he is a ways away already; it would be weird to talk to him any more.

I start walking and see big, old vines. I recognize this courtyard as the place I went to my freshman orientation lunch, where an orientation leader suggested I join another person eating alone so I did, and he hated being there and answered me as briefly as possible when I tried to chat. Nearby is the Cowell College library, a tiny library in which I sat awkwardly that day, hoping someone would see me and love me, to no avail. People talked to me a bit but they seemed relaxed, like this was something manageable and not a huge, life changing, scary process, and I couldn't match their energy so people made excuses and moved on. I have not been back to this library because it is not one of the two large campus libraries, one for the humanities and one for science and engineering. Surprisingly, there are people inside so I try the door. It's unlocked and I choose a couch, spread out my notes on a low table, and fire up my laptop to make a note of how I've grown up. It seems strange to be so glad I can talk to a stranger about peeing but God, the last time I was in this library I wanted to just be invisible, be in bed, be in highschool, be anywhere but where people could see me and see I was no good at friendliness and fitting in. So. Sitting here (of course I picked nearly where I sat 3 years ago except there were chairs put out then and I didn't want to crowd the boys sitting on the couch because I was frightened) I want it all to do over again and also, I am so glad to have got the hang of college, being a young adult, and yes, small talk.

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