Author: Allison

Black Friday, 2016.

By Allison.

It had gotten frigidly cold in the few hours since the sun had set. I was sitting on Ben’s bed while he swiveled around in his desk chair; we were both getting tired but neither of us wanted to stop hanging out. It was already midnight, but I had the keys to my mom’s car and it was Black Friday. We finally decided we should down some caffeine and head to the mall.

My mom was already in a comatose sleeping off the Thanksgiving meal we had eaten a few hours earlier, so Ben and I drove off to New Jersey without telling anyone. Though I had been driving for over a year, my hands were shaking as they grasped the wheel of the car: I was driving over the Goethals Bridge for the first time. The bridge was built in  1928 when cars were considerably smaller and the lanes of the bridge were accordingly thin. Notably, the bridge has since been replaced by a bridge equipped with lanes of an acceptable width. While driving over the Goethals was a normal experience for drivers in New York, having my first confrontation with the poorly sized structure at midnight while my mom didn’t know where I was felt particularly reckless.

I made it over the bridge without incident, but when we made it to the parking lot of the mall, we were met with madness. Ben and I weren’t, apparently, the only people who decided to go shopping. Perhaps it should’ve been apparent to us that other people would also frequent a mall on the busiest shopping day of the year, but the horde of cars creating a bottle neck of traffic into the parking lot entrance came as a surprise. It only felt compounded by my traumatizing escapade over the world’s slimmest bridge.

And then a car hit into hit the back of mine. It was a red sedan, and the driver didn’t brake quickly enough to stop his car from hitting into my bumper. My car lurched forward and then rocked backward. I looked at Ben in stunned silence.

My mom doesn’t even know I’m here.

Ben was silent, his eyes wide.

I slipped off my seat belt and put the car in park. Ben opened his door and followed me to look at the back of the car. The culpable driver sat behind his wheel with an expression that made it clear he was hoping I would be too timid to approach him.

Much to my relief, the bumper wasn’t dented.

Ben, do I just leave it? He nodded, convincing me that there was’t really anything I could do anyway.

I could already hear my mom’s voice in my head, telling me that I only made bad decisions like this because I was eighteen and my brain wasn’t fully formed.

So I looked back at the driver and put my hand up in a sign of peace. He was still cowering behind his closed window.

Ben and I got back into the car, and moved forward slowly, the traffic still crawling, the red sedan keeping a safe distance between our two cars as he trailed me.

I can’t ever tell my mom. I just crashed her car while on an escapade to another state in the middle of the night. Ben laughed in response, but it was lined with a nervous energy.

In the morning, after a night of shopping and spending too much money in the Nike store, I told my brother what had happened. There’s always a few things you need to keep from mom, he told me while smirking.

It’s been a year, I’ve since gone back to the same mall for Black Friday, this time telling my mom where I was going. So mom, this is my public confession, a year late. I’m sorry for crashing your car and never telling you. There’s a small scratch somewhere on the back of the car commemorating the event. Please forgive me.

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The Flu and Finals

By Allison.

I spent the weeks leading up to finals with one fervent prayer: could I not, just this once, be entirely stressed out during finals week? Could I take these tests in peace and keep them in perspective, could I please remember that they’re just tests and that they’re going to come and go?

I shared this with my boyfriend, who nodded his head in understanding. Being nineteen is just like that, he had said. There’s something about the hormones and the stress, but things will change over the next few years. Hang in there. 

I’m not sure why finals week was so bad in the past, why I couldn’t seem to just get through it like a rational human. But something about the flurry of too hard exams and too close grades teetering between minus and plus signs threatening to ruin my GPA just created the perfect storm.

And so I prepared to hunker down for another end of semester typhoon: struggling under hours of studying, spending more time rolling around in bed thinking about failing all of my classes and trying to recall calculus theorems than actually sleeping, and dragging my body to the library instead of the dining hall each morning.

But then on the first dead day, the beginning of a two day hiatus in which the university gifts students a full 48 hours to study before the onslaught, I woke up with the flu. At 8 am I staggered out of bed, telling my roommate I felt a little funny, but passed it off as nerves. At 9 am, I opened my online homework and tried to study. By 11, I was shivering uncontrollably. I think I’m gunna go back to bed. I staggered back to my dorm room and slithered under a pile of blankets. I woke up a few hours later considerably worse. My head was spinning and I was sure I was running a temperature. I tried to open up my calculus textbook, but I spent five minutes staring at the page before I accepted reality: I was in no position to study. I was too weak to feel guilty- normally I would feel a twinge of embarrassment over my apparently weak work ethic. A better student would be able to study through the pain. But when my roommate returned to the room that night and told me that I just needed to tell myself I wasn’t sick, I knew this was more than just the common cold that I could power through. I slept through the next two days, waking up to take the maximum recommended daily dose of acetamenophin, falling asleep, and waking back up to throw up the aforementioned medication.

By Thursday night, I revived myself from my fugue state long enough to compose coherent emails to my professors. “I’m not well enough to take your final, how do I handle this situation?”

Their replies were overwhelmingly unsatisfactory: It turns out handling having the flu during finals week means taking finals with the flu.

So I took exams, half shaking, half coughing, sitting in the classroom until I could circle an answer for every question on the test, leaving as soon as my Scantron had fifty penciled in bubbles. I was the first to leave the room. When I made it back to my dorm, I crawled into my bed and fell into uneasy sleep.

By Monday, I made it onto my flight home to New York in some semblance of order. My symptoms had largely dissipated other than an unrelenting, hacking cough. I had taken all of my finals but one, which had been pushed off until January by a merciful professor. And with vague feelings of uneasiness about the probability of the flu having just ruined grades which I had been working hard all semester to maintain, I realized with a weird feeling of satisfaction that during this whole ordeal, I hadn’t succumbed to unsurmountable anxiety. In fact, I had felt almost none.

I spent the week in bed, sweating and crying, and I hadn’t had the energy to really care about finals. I took my exams without studying, I did what I could, and I moved forward, because it was really the only option. So here I was, sitting on a plane, waiting to finally be back home, but feeling oddly satisfied, because, after all, we don’t get to choose how God answers prayer, but He will answer, and sometimes, in the weirdest of ways, getting the flu can feel like an answered prayer.

When My Home Was Not Also My Mother’s

By Allison.

When I return home now, I am part daughter, part guest. My bedroom is still filled with my furniture, but the drawers are empty and my favorite outfits are hanging in a closet across the country. I have to ask my mom where the dish towels are kept, because she has moved them since the last time I was home. The ice machine doesn’t work, but I don’t know this because when I was last home a few months ago, it was making ice just fine.

And I have learned this routine, half home in New York, half home in Texas. I have learned to live in this divided way; I have even learned to love it. But this summer my mom came to visit me in Austin, landing in my dorm room with a roller suitcase, Italian bread, and heat exhaustion. Suddenly, I wasn’t her guest, but she was mine.

It was the first time I’d ever had to invite my mother into my life, because our existences were not already shared. I had to show her how to turn on the shower, and where I kept my hairbrush, and how to swipe into my dorm room. I was host, now, and the role reversal was palpable.

I had created enough of a life separate from her that just by sharing the simplest parts of my routine, I was bringing her into a place she was unfamiliar. I had to welcome her into a world she had never seen before, only heard about over phone calls and glimpsed through snapchats.

Though she still played mom, buying me things for my dorm and taking me out to lunch, there was a distinct difference in the weekend spend with her. I have always been her navigator to aid her lacking sense of direction, but this weekend we were in a city she had never been to, one I had become comfortable within. Each street and building was new for her, while I waltzed around with familiarity and ease. The heat staggered her and kept her in bed while I slipped on jeans without thinking about the humidity.

And so, just for a weekend, we lived in a world that was more mine than hers, and I was able to show her a place where I had become myself. I was able to give her context for each of the moments she had commented, “But you’ve changed so much,” when I flew to New York to come home again.

My Current Headspace

Allison, your local list-maker extraordinaire.

Recently, I’ve been making lists of the things that I spend time thinking about, just to have a log of my daily experiences. Here’s an abbreviated list of my current headspace.

  1. Will I ever get over the fact that I am currently living the very life that I dreamed about when I was in high school? Will any of this ever feel real?
  2. There should probably be more dogs in my life.
  3. Happy crying scares people just as much as normal crying; I should probably stop doing that.
  4. That guy I saw on the ferry three years ago who had on a business suit but when he sat down his bright blue polka dot socks stuck out from under his pants. Does he wear zany socks on a regular basis or was he just running low on clean laundry that morning? Does he even still have the same job that makes him commute into Manhattan?
  5. I’m starting to like chocolate ice cream and this isn’t a character development I’m open to at this point in my life.
  6. How can I possibly ever learn all of the chemistry that the grad students I’m working with seem to know?
  7. I should probably go to a doctor.
  8. Yikes.
  9. How many dogs is too many dogs? (Probably about a hundred.)
  10. I never drink enough water.
  11. I could shave my head and get five tattoos, like, today.
  12. I know I’m the same person as when I was 14, so why is it so disorienting to see a photo of myself from that age and realize that the girl in the pictures looks just like me?
  13. When did I become the type of person who puts on pants when I check the high for the day and see that its “only 87”?
  14. How many times can I say “y’all” before it stops being ironic?
  15. I need to stop spending money.
  16. I’m bad at maintaining old friendships.
  17. I should probably read more books but also I just want to sleep constantly.

Coming Home.

By Allison, your local frequent flyer.

So, back to Texas again.

I am beginning to measure my life in airports and delayed flights and taxiing on a tarmac. There is energy in the crowds of people passing through an airport, all traveling somewhere new or returning somewhere familiar, moving with purpose yet dragging with a familiar weariness. I have flown a lot in the past year, between New York and Texas; I have learned the inside of the Dallas-Forth Worth airport, I know where to find the Starbucks with the shortest line in Newark.

The greatest moments of reflection in my life seem to find me precisely when an airplane picks up speed and its wheels leave the runway, pulling me away from a city that I love. At that very movement, in waves of excitement and fear, I realize how much I am always leaving behind, how much I am always coming home to. Because Texas has become home now, in a way. It houses eighteen year old me, and my nineteen year old self, containing all of the memories that I have formed in this past year, cradling my growth and maturity. It doesn’t know my childhood, it doesn’t store the endless memories that Staten Island always will. It is not New York, it is not the fullness of eighteen years of identity, but still, my life has taken root here and I have given away parts of me that New York can never claim as its own.

So, I fly between New York and Texas, Texas and New York, traveling ceaselessly and dividing my existence between such different places. Weeks and months pass but I find myself seated on another plane, spanning the two thousand miles in a few hours, and, yet no matter what direction I find myself traveling, I am always coming home, I am always leaving home.

How to Cry Gracefully in Public and Other Useful Tips

By Allison.

Sometimes it’s a Wednesday morning amidst a very difficult week and you wake up with bad hair and you can’t find clean socks and you have three exams before 1 pm. You are awake at 7 am to study for these exams and you open your backpack to discover that there is a smashed banana at the bottom of your bag, effectively coating every single one of your books in banana guts.

This is a reasonable time to cry in public. Perhaps it’s even the proper time to cry in public.

However, there are certain aspects of this experience which ought to be handled with proper conduct so as to make your public and inevitably embarrassing emotional breakdown less unpleasant, both for you and the innocent bystander.

  1. Do not wear liquid eyeliner if there is more than a 0.5% chance that you will cry that day. The Laws of Nature and Black Eyeliner ensure that you will cry should there be even the slightest opportunity for tear shed. Do not test this law, it will win.
  2. If you must cry in a public and humiliating fashion, bring a friend. The general public will feel less inclined to make awkward gestures of comfort if they believe you are already being aided by someone with more personal experience helping you cope with your emotions. If a friend is unavailable, do not seek a classmate whom you do not know well and may have to maintain contact with in the future; this interaction will scare them and make sitting together in CHE 3332 weird. Try to find a stranger, preferably one who is transferring to a different university next semester. Allow them to offer you uncomfortable words of solace; they may try to pat you on your back, be prepared.
  3. Under no circumstances should you wail. Cry silently.
  4. If a professor should approach you to ask what is wrong, do not tell them about the smashed banana incident. It will seem like a normal story in your mind; it will not seem like a normal story when you begin to share the experience aloud. Well adjusted people do not wind up with smashed bananas in their backpacks. Be a well adjusted person.
  5. If you can manage to make it appear as though your tears are caused by allergies, or perhaps overwhelming joy, do this. Be prepared to tell someone you have the flu or are sensitive to sunlight.
  6. Call someone on the phone. Strangers will be less inclined to become involved in your personal disaster if you are occupied by a phone call. If you do not have a reliable friend who will pick up the phone, pretend to be speaking to your mother.
  7. Seek a private area immediately. Avoid bathroom stalls, as your cries will echo.