January 6

It’s one of those days when your stomach hurts and you don’t know why.

You wake up and the pit of your stomach feels like it’s on fire, so you stumble downstairs and into the cafeteria and it’s the first thing you smell, that stench of eggs and bacon and oatmeal, and something comes into your eyes and into your throat even though you haven’t eaten in twelve hours so you have to run to the bathroom really quickly and crawl to a toilet.  Afterwards, you sit hugging your knees and feeling like you never have before the air conditioning rumbling through your skin.

You pick your way through a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and apple slices and even though you’re starting to feel better the sight of your friend with a big plate of yogurt and berries sends your soul into a whole new spiral of nausea.  You wonder if it’s something you did wrong and mentally count forward from your last period, the last time you had sex, the last time you drank.  So many lasts including the last time you ever sat still.  

I don’t know who you are and you certainly don’t know me but I’m willing to bet there’s someone you want to call when you’re feeling like this, some guy with skin brown like the cinnamon powder in your dirty bowl, or else a girl with pretty black hair and a mark where her violin sits under her chin all day long. You want her to put her cool hands on your face and with her ten gentle fingers turn your life around.  You want to hear all about London and Reykjavik and the Pacific Ocean, the ocean you’ve never seen.  You want to sit on a Mexican beach and look straight into the heart of Africa.  You want to be free.  You want to put your head back into the hollow right underneath his collarbone and hold onto him until the world stops spinning.

But you don’t, you don’t do any of those things, you go back up to your room and get your notebooks and computer and are in class right at 10:15 AM as the professor starts talking about hemoglobin and sickle cell and adaptations to higher climates.  Maybe that’s why your stomach hurts so much, you think, if there’s enough oxygen left in your brain for thinking.  It is a problem that will haunt you for as long as there is hydrochloric acid in your stomach and for as long as you sleep with your arms folded under your head, that is to say, alone.