First Days Last

I’m already hating today.

I try to act like it’s just another day, but once I’m in Nuik campus’s Den Hall it all hits me at once.

Today is the last day.

Not the last day of my college life, but the last first-day.

The semester always flies by, I know that, but I always feel like time will stretch on for an eternity anyways, and I am condemned to living my life in a cycle of homework and stress.

This time things are different. I know time will fly by, and the familiar dread and stress will creep in again, but this time for new reasons. I no longer fear being in school forever, I fear leaving it.

‘Hello, I’m Professor Chey’ the lady at the front starts saying ‘Who’s excited for

Spanish II?’ The classroom is full of awkward laughs. Everything she is saying feels dull and rehearsed.

__

The kid on my right is on his phone, not mentally present in the

class. The guy to my left pulls out a planner, notebook and pen; looking as

attentive as ever. I can’t see her, but the girl behind me must have raised her hand since It seems like Chey is looking at me when she says, ‘Yes?’ .

‘Will we need the book for the first assignment?’ the impatient girl asks.

‘No, the assignment will just be to make sure you understand classroom

procedures and policies…’ she continues with the rehearsed sounding speech I’ve heard from a million professors before.

Nothing here is new, but I’m paying attention harder than I ever have before. When my professor starts her presentation, I, just like the guy to my left, have my paper and pens out ready to go. It feels ironic, but for the first time in my college life this all feels easy, even a little silly; I wonder if college senioritis is a different experience from the high school one. Where you finally step up your game instead of back off.

__

I was always the kid that showed up to class thirty minutes early on day one to make sure I wasn’t late, and I always felt a strong dread during the class period knowing it was only one of the million I’d sit through that semester. Then I’m usually more like the kid on the phone by week two.

This time though, as I sit in Chey’s class and listen to her lecture on academic integrity, I feel a strange confidence wash over me, but it’s interrupted by a touch of sadness as I realize I will never experience this again. It’s one thing that in six months I will no longer be living the way I have the last four years, well eighteen if we count pre-school on, but it is a whole other thing when I realize I have already lost something; I can’t even experience the same fear I used to, thanks to this new fear. Everything after this isn’t going to be rehearsed, it’s unknown.

__

I know that I’ll always remember every minute of that class period. Things were going to change and I knew it; they already have.

That still isn’t as strange as this; I have no idea where I am now.

It’s dark in here, I can feel a light breeze and it smells like… like… coffee?

I’m panicking. The first thing I do is stand up and feel around, I can’t see a damn thing. After patting around for a minute I realize I’m standing in a small rectangular room surrounded by four doors, one of which smells strongly of coffee. The only other thing I notice, as my eyes begin to adjust, is that one has a bright light seeping through the corners and another has an eye hole that is too tall for me to see through.

It doesn’t take long for me to realize my only way out is through one of the doors.

I decide to go with the coffee room, it’s aroma of espresso somehow feels new and familiar at the same time, and there is no telling what was behind the others. Just as I push through the door it’s shape changes, splitting in two, and suddenly I’m walking into a kitchen that seems to me the back of a coffee shop.

‘Leila, two espressos please.’A man said as he stares at me wide eyed, as if the matter were urgent.

‘On it,’ I say before I even realize what I’m saying. I still feels in control of my body, but something else is moving it right now. I ground some beans and then start operating a machine I don’t understand, but somehow can work. After making the two drinks I put them on the counter and yell out, ‘Two espressos for here,’ with a wide grin on my face that I didn’t put there.

I’m panicking again.

Before I can get called on to do more work out of my control I run back toward the kitchen doors I came through; engulfed in the dark again.

Of the three doors left I go with the one with the peep hole, hoping it will take me home, it looks enough like mine, maybe it is. Just as I get hopeful I walk through and see a bedroom with makeup everywhere, pink walls littered with beauty magazine covers, and clothes scattered on the floor; this is not my home. As if on cue I hear a girl’s voice say ‘Leila is that you?’.

Yes,I think, but who the fuck are you.

She pokes her head out from behind a door, again on cue, and says, ‘Can you get my Anna eye shadow pallet?’

Without responding, my body starts to move again. I go up to a drawer under the bed and open it to see the pallet she has requested, somehow knowing the exact location of a thing I had never heard of before, that belonged to some random girl who knew my name.

‘Are you alright?’ she says, noticing my look of confusion.

I don’t reply, just slowly back out of the room the way I came.

Again I’m in the dark room.

This time I put my hope in the room with the light peaking through. The unmarked one seems too ominous, I get nervous just looking at it.

This time after I push through the light door I know exactly where I am.

The radio station I’ve worked at for the last two years. I walk down the familiar hallway and see my manager Lilly. As I try to say hello she walks right by me; no, it’s more like through me.

I head toward my office and see myself sitting behind my desk, all black and covered in stickers. The room is tidier then usual, but there’s a lot more stuff surrounding me. I’m working, as normal, though I do look a little tired, and after a few minutes I stand up and walk out.

I follow myself. I’m curious as to why I seem to be invisible in this room.

‘Hey, thanks for coming in’ I, the other me, says as I shake someone’s hand.

‘Thanks for having me.’

‘This usually takes between half an hour and an hour, it’s really up to you,’ the other me says as they walk toward the larger station next to the stranger.

They go into a room full of recording equipment and each sit down in front of a pair of microphones. This isn’t the work I’m used to, but it makes a bit more sense than the coffee door.

‘You ready?’ I, still the other me, asks the girl in front of me.

She nods.

‘Hello this is the Get Psyched Podcast and I’m here with a special guest today…’ I start to say.

I stumble backwards.

What was going on? I don’t stop to think too hard as I make the choice to run back into the dark room for what I hope is the last time.

A familiar darkness again.

I only have one option left and I can only hope it is the door that is going to get me out. I waste no time in walking through, but to my dismay I’m greeted by only more darkness. Then the music starts.

We all know the tune to graduation, it’s one of those songs everyone knows. The whole ceremony is so cookie cutter I’m not the least bit shocked when I feel something on my head and realize I’m in full cap and gown.

‘Watch where you’re going,’ someone angrily whispers to me in the darkness. It doesn’t take long for me to realize I’m in line, probably behind a curtain, waiting to walk up on that stage.

‘John Darrell,’ someone announces on a microphone. I hear footsteps disappearing in front of me.

‘Leila Dayanara,’ Now I’m walking, instinctively moving though not at my own will again.

I can hardly understand where I am or how I got here but I did everything just the way I know I should. I walk up to the man holding a piece of paper, shake his hand while taking the paper, and turn toward a photographer who quickly snaps our picture. Then the moment is over.

Here it is, the moment I knew was coming. Whatever it was I thought I’d feel, I don’t, but maybe that’s just because it isn’t real.

Once I walk off stage I try to go back toward my entrance again, but I can’t find it.

‘LEILA!’ I hear my mom shout my name and turn around to be greeted by a fierce hug. ‘I’m so proud of you,’ she says as she hands me a bundle of flowers.

This is how the next hour went on, getting congratulated and taking pictures. The whole time I just wonder where the door is that will take me back.

After a little while everyone is too preoccupied trying to figure out where to eat to notice that I have slipped out. I head straight for the room behind the stage.

I again meet a familiar darkness. This time though I can’t see the other doors. I feel around but there is nothing. It is too dark behind here to be sure, but I don’t think the door to take me back is here anymore. I pull out my phone and turn the flashlight on to see if I can find something.

Nothing.

That is the moment reality struck me. There is no going back this time.

This is real; I am at the end already.

I am here now. There is no going back to the dark room. I found the exit. And I was right, it was almost like a blink of an eye and it was all over. It felt like a fever dream.

I would probably be more afraid if I had time to think about it, but it all happened to fast for that.

I walk back to where my family is waiting.

‘Where’d you go?’ my older brother asks.

‘Thought I left something behind the stage’.

‘You find it?’

‘Yeah, let’s go eat’.

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