The most interesting tidbit of information that you can remember from your earliest years of schooling is the scientific concept of matter. The definition was ingrained into your brain, along with the parts of speech, your multiplication tables, and the phrase ‘the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell’. You can remember your first grade science teacher reciting the two factors that encompass the concept of matter:
Matter is anything that (1) is made of mass and (2) takes up space.
It was simple enough. It was merely 12 words, easily filed into your mind as ‘stuff you need to remember’. It was likely going to be on the test, and surely it was something that you would need in future classes.
The concept of matter – easy to memorize. Now, though, there are times you don’t recognize the concept of matter at all.
Self-affirmation theory is a psychological theory that focuses on how individuals adapt to information or experiences that are threatening to their self-concept.
Self-affirmation theory contends that if individuals reflect on values that are personally relevant to them, they are less likely to experience distress and react defensively when confronted with information that contradicts or threatens their sense of self.
You are looking in a mirror. Brown eyes stare back at you. You do not move. You do not blink. You do not breathe.
It is 4:45 in the morning. In thirty minutes, your cell phone’s alarm will ring, signifying the start of the day. Along with it will come the impatient chirps from your cats, and the press of a wet snout on your thigh from your dog, begging for food, treats, maybe even a bathroom break.
In 11 hours, school will be over, and you will be walking in the sweltering heat of Downtown Miami, making your way to the train station, accompanied by no one.
In 13 hours, you will be home. Staring at yourself through the mirror again.
There is an ant that catches your eye. It crawls up the wooden frame of the mirror you’re looking into. You watch as it almost effortlessly climbs up against the heavy push of gravity. It looks easy, but you know there four different laws of science going on there for the ant to be able to squirm its way up.
Your hand reaches out – you squish the ant underneath your pointer finger.
It’s all fast paced, heavy breathing. It’s like that dream everyone has where you’re all fine one second, but then you’re rolling down a hill or a mountain or just falling down down down down down down down down do
and you would usually wake up but here, now, you don’t. You just keep falling and falling and then you feel dizzy all over and it hurts, but not because there’s any real pain. Because you feel numb, you feel the absence of everything, the absence of pain –
and you’re crying and crying and heaving and gasping and you’re thinking this should hurt but it doesn’t. You feel nothing except your heart pounding pounding pounding pounding pounding pounding pounding
And its scary, its so scary until you remember to breathe, in and out and in and out and in and out so that you can feel something again –
and just as quickly as it’s happened, it’s gone. Those five minutes that felt like a lifetime has passed and has left you with fatigue and a weird ominous feeling telling you “watch yourself. Know yourself. Don’t push yourself too hard. This is waiting for you.”
You know, rationally, they didn’t mean it.
Whatever they said that was biting or insulting was playful, you know. You’re friends. You spill eachother secrets at three in the morning and laugh over pictures of small dogs in suits. You can trust them.
But you’re sensitive. And it’s late at night, and you know it was flippant on their part, but you’re not completely sure. It’s late at night, and the suffocating feeling is about to lay it’s hands on you and you’re frozen can’t move can’t see can’t breathe it’s late at night and everything is moving fast fast fast so fast so insane you can’t move see breathe everything is going going going going going going going
The blood rushes to your head from this position. Your head slightly aches with the pressure of placing it on the ground, your body elevated on the bed.
You briefly wonder what would happen if suddenly, the world turned upside down. Would the furniture go with it? What would it be like, walking on ceilings and clouds rather than the Earth underneath our feet?
You feel silly; clouds are nothing more than condensation and if the world turned upside down, surely, the repercussions would be numerous, and there would be more than one old lady stuck underneath her grand piano and expensive crystal chandelier.
But for the moment – just for now – you wonder with the flowing ends of your hair pooled around your head like the moat of a castle. You think it would be nice to feel the clouds like a puffy fur carpet underneath your toes.
The pressure on your head becomes too much, and you lift yourself with the muscles in your core to a sitting position. The world moves in waves through your eyes as blood rushes down in circulation and your ears feel stuffed with cotton. Little blue, pink, black, orange dots line your vision.
Sometimes, you think, it would be nice if everything just stopped.
The concept of time travel is a regularly discussed one, but you’re ambivalent towards it. You’re more interested in the manipulation of time.
In second grade, you thought that it would be way cool to stop time, and just wander the Earth. Write funny things on the board with chalk, take all the glitter crayons for yourself, step outside of the stuffy classroom and feel the sunlight warm on your arms, the air sweet and humid against your cheeks.
Now, it would be nice if time stopped to let you catch a breath.
You check your phone again. It reads 15:38. Military time because it makes you feel useful. Different.
Your leg is bouncing frantically and your mind is moving a hundred miles a second so you know what’s coming soom, you know its warnings, it’s marks like an omen.
You check again. 15:39.
Maybe she’ll let you go early?
It’s one of those days where nothing that comes out of you is useful. Everything is bad, from the words in your mouth to the movements that you make. You’re physically sick to your stomach and your eyes are heavy and you just wanna go home, goddammit and before you know it, she’s letting you out early and you’re free, you’re free and you run into the girls bathroom, nearly hyperventilating now, and you shut youself in a stall and sit fully clothed on the toilet.
And you wait.
Fifteen minutes later, you’re on the elevator going down. It stops on every floor, but you don’t seem to mind. Your mind is clearer than it’s been in ages, and the metal walls of the elevator don’t feel as suffocating as they usually do. You’re not in a rush; you’ve got time.
It gets easier.
You’re pretty caustic about these kinds of things, but you know that these things get easier. There are bad days, but those just make the good days all the sweeter.
The clouds are a beautiful pinkish blue. You pull your phone out from your back pocket and take a picture of the sky. Your dog runs circles around you, your legs getting tangled in his leash, but you don’t seem to care how silly you look.
It’s a beautiful evening.
Really, sometimes you think about it, and you smile – because, let’s face it, life is short. And that’s what makes it so funny.