ranor's Reading Room
I roll out of bed at the sound of my bathroom door closing. One of my suitemates is using it again; it's 5:22 in the morning. My neck is strained because of the angle I've been sleeping at. My closed eyes were facing my laptop computer is it sat idly on my bed, begging to be used.
The suitemate vacates the bathroom and I use it. I might as well. No more sleep, kiddo, not today. You've got work to do, and you need to do it now. I imagine my laptop agrees with me. Use me, use me, it says. Write your abstract and be done. Take advantage of our time in bed together. Don't sleep like a lousy lover post-coitus. I want to have some more fun.
I flush the toilet and switch off the bathroom lights. Light seeps through the space between the bathroom tiles and my suitemates' room. Et tu, Matt? Or is it Chris? Whoever it is, it seems like sharing a living space is not the only thing that binds us together now. Solidarity, my friends. Solidarity. Do your work and head to bed. That's the ticket.
I step outside and it's colder than I ever remember it being in Southern California in early September. I clutch my lighter and put the cigarette in my mouth. I shiver constantly like a small dog out in the rain. The fleeting flame feels warm on my fingers and occasionally a sliver of warm air brushes my face. Inhale, hold, exhale. The day has begun.
The construction site outside my room will spring to life any minute now, I can feel it. But for right now, it is only me and the cold. My fingers numb quickly. Inhale, hold, exhale. I'm standing outside with a t-shirt and a pair of cut-off sweats. It's uncomfortable, but pales in comparison to what I need to accomplish today. The next fifteen minutes, however, are devoted to a chemical high. Enjoy it while it lasts.
A pick-up truck carrying the foreman of the construction site drives past. I wonder if, when I'm that old, this will ever happen again. Barring graduate school experiences, when will I ever have to wake up at 5:22 in the very much AM and worry about the immediate future? It seems like such an adolescent thing to do. There I am, standing in the early September early morning cold--I can see my breath!--clearing my mind so that I can become preoccupied after the cigarette burns out. Burns out. There's something I don't want to be thinking about, what with what happened last semester and all. Burning out is the last thing I want to do again.
Inhale, hold, exhale. The smoke dances around me, floating away in a chaotic cloud, highlighted by the front door light. Spotlight on my activities. The foreman is probably wondering why I'm up so early. Just smoking, sir. De-stressing a bit. Lord knows I'll need it.
Footsteps and a flashing red light. A townie is out for an early morning jog. She's not all that different from me--it's all neurotransmitters we're after. We chase the chemical release. I nod in her direction and she nods in mine. Solidarity.
The ashes are piling up on the top surface of the brick wall I'm leaning on. In the distance--the Metrolink pulls into the Claremont train station, waiting to whisk all the good people to their jobs in the City of Angels. Shoot me if I ever become one of them.
Still cold, still shivering, still inhaling, holding, exhaling. The ember is nearing the filter tip and the slight hint of vanilla becomes a bit stronger as it burns closer to my nose. I sniff and I sniffle. My toes are completely numb. I decide to submit myself to the fates. I drop my Djarum Vanilla into an empty Heineken bottle standing up against the wall from this weekend. When will this ever happen again, beyond this year?
I re-enter my room and look around. My laptop is still on my bed and is still waiting for me to use it. Alright, you'll get your wish. I have deadlines to meet and people to please. This is the stripped down essence of college. Take away the ritualistic partying and procrastinating, and you're left with the inevitable truth: all you do is meet deadlines and please others.
But you have fun while doing it. Which makes it seem at least a little better.
Enjoy it while it lasts.