The Autumnal Path
I always take tea, catnip or strawberry chamomile depending on the mood I am on any given day, in the afternoon—2pm to be exact—as I sit in my office with the door wide open. Usually boiling water in my handy electric tea pot is relaxing from a long day of teaching classes and dealing with faculty. This tea break also gets me ready for students—hence why my door is wide open—who are in bad relationships, which mostly includes violence of some sort, and looking for constructive ways of handling it, which usually involves them getting out of such a relationship if possible. Some tenured faculty believes that this a good fit for me, as a thirty-year-old and one of the youngest professors here.
So, tea time is my relaxation time and the classical music I softly play on the radio helps ease my mind—
“Excuse me,” a meek voice calls into the office. I look up; a young woman—19, a freshman most likely—with long blonde hair stares into my barely decorated office.
“Yes, come in and please shut the door,” I reply to the girl. I notice as she walks in that blonde isn’t her natural colour and that it is badly dyed—her black roots are showing and some spots of her hair weren’t dyed at all. She closes the door too forcefully and knocks off the calendar with SEPTEMBER only showing.
“How may I help you, miss?” I inquire after the reverberations of the slamming door hums to a forceful silence.
“Well,” she replies nervously, “I am having problems with my boyfriend…”
“Go on, you’ve come to the right place, everything we talk about is confidential,” I say in hopes that she becomes comfortable enough to open up to me.
“We have been dating for six months—“ she begins to trail off again. I say nothing; I know damn well how hard it can be to open up to an adult about any type of problems. I give her a look, or I hope I exude this look, of compassion.
“Well, I really do like him, but I dunno…” she begins trailing off again; I am starting to get annoyed, I know I shouldn’t be because this young lady came to me for help, but her inability to keep a thought going irritated me. I try not to let it show. But, I never met anyone who was so reluctant to talk, even I wasn’t that bad in my 20s. I decide to take another approach.
“What’s your name?” I ask her.
“Why do you need to know?”
“Since we’re talking, we should get to know one another.”
“Oh, well my friends call me Micky Finn.”
“Wait, what? How did you get a name like that?”
She shrugs and doesn’t answer. I proceed to ask, “What year are you in?”
“I don’t know, second I guess.”
“Oh. What is your favorite subject?”
“I don’t know.”
She was beginning to irritate me again. How could you not know what your favorite school subject is? So, I ask the question out of spite; “is your boyfriend causing issues with you in completing your classes? Is he influencing what used to be a favorite class of yours and he doesn’t like it?”
She blinks at me, with what I notice to be beautiful light brown eyes. They begin to mist and she whispers “it’s just really hard to talk about—“
“Look,” I snap at her, “I can’t read your mind, but you really need to put words to your feelings,” I hiss. I didn’t mean to, but god damn, she is annoying me.
“I knew you wouldn’t understand,” she begins to cry and abruptly gets up out of the black lounge chair she was sitting in. Before I can apologize for not knowing what came over me and to beg her to sit back down, she is out the door.
Although she annoys me, I get off my chair with my favorite quilt on the back and run out into the hallway leaving my hot herbal tea behind. The pulsating voices; the reverberations of a myriad of conversations flood my ears. But, out of the corner of my right ear, I hear sobs—my eyes that are fixated on the girls gossiping next to me, I gaze up and see the bobbing of the poorly dyed hair.
I run so fast, probably faster than I used to run when I was trying out for the football team and faster than when I ran in order not to miss my flight to Green Bay to see the Packers game, to catch the elevator with her. Out of breath I arrive at the elevator despite the hustle and bustle of students happily getting out and loudly talking to best buds about getting drunk. In the cacophony of confusion and rushing, I hear,
“What was that? I’m sorry I can’t hear you.” Her voice sounds strained and I could tell she was nervous in the way her voice creaked. I spot the girl with the poorly dyed hair, which I found to be a better nick name for her than Micky Finn, who would nick name someone like that? Anyway, she is chattering on her phone.
“Fine, I’ll meet you—“ her voice fades and I can’t catch where she is meeting whom she is talking to, although it sounds like she barks into the phone. She is too much in a daze to notice me following her onto the elevator.
I follow her down onto the first floor. Looking at her on the trip down the elevator, I didn’t realize how tired she looked. She is gaunt and thin. I don’t know why she didn’t notice me at that point, but I could tell she had too much on her mind. Still, it annoyed me more that she didn’t notice me. What if I was a crazy stalker getting ready to kill her?
The elevator stops and she quickly steps out; I almost lose her, but I follow the tint of her hair bobbing down the three stairs to the door and it reminds me of the one year I dyed my hair that colour.
The sun blinds me for a moment. As I get my sight back, I notice the beautiful bright leaves that decorate the trees. I haven’t noticed this before today and I notice how cold it is as the wind violently blows against my bare arms.
I see the girl again. She is rushing to the old building—I remember it used to be the sociology building; I think it still is from what I overhear.
She stops in front of the sociology building where a guy—her boyfriend I am assuming—is waiting. I move a little closer and I face her boyfriend. He looks familiar, he looks to be a body builder with how muscular he is, with a tan and is dressed like a punk; yet, I can’t place where I have seen him before.
“You’re psychotic,” I hear him say. His voice is loud, yet it doesn’t look like he has moved his mouth at all. Then the gaping black hole opens, gnashing his blood fangs, “I regret ever meeting you. I hate you,” the coldness in his voice freezes over me and the callousness tears at the bottom of my stomach, “we’re through.”
The sun shines, and with her blonde hair, it reflects the sun light on to me. It reminds me of someone sitting in interrogation with the light on them waiting for their confession. She begins to cry and through the sobs like the perpetrator in the hot seat with that light shining down upon him, I hear the desperation “but please stay. I can change! Please!”
“You’re pathetic, you know that? You’re crying like the little girl you are. It’s over and nothing can change my mind!” I could feel the sting in that comment, it is pathetic that she pleading and begging this jerk to stay with her as if she is his pet. He walks away. She turns around to call him back and to my surprise, she is my mirror image. He is gone into the distance now; I want to grab her and apologize for how annoyed I was with her and of course to comfort her.
As soon as I walk to her, the sun disappears into the now blackened sky. The sky opens in a downpour of cold tears, leaves blow in the cacophony of gray bluster and she is gone. As cars pass me, I think it was a car or was it a jogger running by me with his tape deck cranked up; I stand there in confusion—
Scar tissue that I wish you saw, sarcastic mister know it all, close your eyes and I’ll kiss you—
I hear the cell phone snap shut.
“Good afternoon,” a professor’s loud voice that comes from the hall startles me from my deep thoughts, my hands fly up and down in the excitement and my tea spills. Grabbing napkins next to me to clean up, I notice the picture of me when I was 19 with badly dyed blonde hair, dark heavy eyes of my once depressed self. How clumsy of me to spill the tea as I was pathetically startled by the ringtone playing my favorite song and the loud voice coming at me from the outside hall. Yet, I am happy that my favorite herbal tea spilled all over this picture.