Prompt: Write an entry about something that you can’t throw away.
I scrawl a note on Emily’s door about Friday and head into my room. I step around the stacks of books and over to my bed. There are open books strewn across it. I shrug and curl up amongst them, tapping the bed sheets in the quiet night. The fan for the air conditioner kicks in and its dull noise lulls me to sleep.
My alarm wakes me at 8:00AM. I rub the sleep from my eyes and pull off my clothes. The shower is hot on my skin, pushing the last vestiges of dreams from my mind. I throw on some clothes that smell clean and grab my bag. In the kitchen, Emily smiles and points to a stack of toast smeared with raspberry jelly. I give her a quick hug and nab two before leaving. She knows me so well.
We’re two months into our senior year. Emily decided on a psychology major with minors in history and philosophy. I still like math, but I have minors in physics and literature. Emily is part of a sorority on campus; she tried to get me to join with her, but I didn’t want to live with that many people. We talked the other girls into letting Emily stay off-campus with me in exchange for free tutoring in their science classes.
My lecture this morning is dull and dry. I tap my pen on my notebook and look at the 87.5 ceiling tiles. I copy down the homework problems at the end and nod to the professor on the way out. He smiles and asks for a word.
“Yes, Dr. Magnar?”
“Keledry, what are your plans after graduation? Will you be continuing your education?”
“Why not? You’re very bright.”
“Thanks, but I have to help my sister out.”
“I understand your commitment to your family, but please apply. You can always say no later. I can get you waivers for the application fees if money is an issue.”
“Okay. But Jo really needs my help.”
“Yes, I see. Still, graduate school does have a stipend and by teaching undergraduates, you can live modestly.”
“I’ll apply, but I don’t think I can afford to be away for another five years.”
“Okay. I’ll get you the waivers for next lecture. Don’t forget that homework 8 is due.”
“Thanks. I won’t.”
I head out, thinking about grad school. It’d be nice, but Jo’s been struggling. She won’t let me get a job down here. I know she wants me to be free to study, but it’s not fair that she works two jobs. I can find a job at a bank and get us a nicer place to live.
I make my way to a bench in the shade and sit down. I put a notebook on my lap and start watching the passerby. I listen in on a conversation between two girls to my left.
“Like, when you say ‘what’s up?’ it’s totally a rhetorical question.”
“I know! You don’t, like, want their life story or anything.”
I write this in my notebook. A group of boys wander by, their polo shirts with popped collars, plaid shorts, and backwards baseball caps acting as an apparent uniform.
“Chrissy was so wasted, man!”
“Dude, you hit that yet?”
There are chuckles and lude comments. I wonder if Chrissy is telling her friends about this boy. A pair of grad students approaches.
“Yeah half of my calc 2 kids don’t even look at the homework before coming to my office.”
“And they all ask the same damn question over and over.”
The other nods and they move out of earshot.
I pass almost an hour listening. I’m writing down a quote from a freshman that has some choice words about the professor that gave her a C+ on last week’s paper when a person sits next to me. Darryl smiles and leans back.
“I saw you from my office.”
He points to a window in the math building and I nod.
“Are you a grad student?”
“Yeah. Only when I can’t help it.”
“What are you studying?”
“My advisor does PDE’s, but I like algebra more.”
I nod and put my pen down.
“What are you writing?”
“Things I hear.”
I read off a few funny quotes and we laugh. It’s weird to be sitting here, next to this man I barely know and feeling safe. Until now, I wasn’t entirely sure last night’s meeting wasn’t just a dream. Darryl. He’s sad today.
He stretches and looks at me, those stormy eyes striking the bright light of day. I blink at him.
“Why did you ask me to coffee last night?”
He sighs and looks at the clouds.
“Seemed like you could use a friend. I’ve seen you walk past my office at night before. You always look lonely.”
“I don’t have many friends.”
We reflect into the silence. He takes my notebook and begins flipping through the pages of quotes and homework problems.
“Are these your class notes?”
“Your handwriting is tiny.”
“It’s more efficient that way.”
Darryl pulls his a pen out of his pocket and moves it across the page. I wait for him to finish. After five minutes, he closes my notebook and hands it back to me. He stands up and nods to himself.
“What time will you be at the party?” he asks.
“It starts at eleven.”
“What time will you be there?”
I watch him head back into the math building before opening my notebook. On half a page is a sketch of the two of us on the bench. The shade from the tree falls across the scene, obscuring part of my face. Above his head is a speech bubble with ten digits inside. I smile and close my notebook.