The Gray World

Few things make one feel so alone as seeing the world through a gray veil. As she put down the book she’d been grazing through, she came to realize, surprising herself, that the words on the page hadn’t been successful in capturing her attention, much less her heart.

The room was quiet. Her mind drifted back to the events of yesterday. The conversation she’d shared with Adam lived in her mind as being distant and dull. As he’d been talking to her, she’d found his words ever so difficult to relate to or even comprehend. Had he changed? Had he gradually become someone who was dull? Then why, she wondered, had they been friends to begin with?

She remembered how his eyes looked, focusing on her. Like they expected to see a response that simply never came. People couldn’t expect her to be interested in their own problems, she thought nonchalantly.

Truthfully, though, indifference seemed to have been her only companion recently. Slowly she had become numb to the world around her, and distant, so distant from everything she once fiercly loved. Nothing ever permeated the gray veil surrounding her entire being, affecting her neither for good nor for bad. Her heart remained as still as a lake’s water on a windless day. No rising or falling. She wanted so intensely to feel again, even if that meant being distraught.

She herself could not be blamed for feeling this way. Nothing would in fact please her more than finding a way to escape this feeling, after all. No, she had not brought this upon herself. The feeling had simply descended, over time, when she was least expecting it to.

A noise sounded in the hall. She remembered that she was going somewhere that day. Someone was coming to tell her it was time to leave. Without a warning, the cloud of murky grayness looming over her mind dispersed. She noticed that sunlight was flooding the room. She smiled, and felt again.

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Atmosphere of Hiding

As a kid, one of my favorite things in the entire world was finding the perfect spot to curl up out of view and read. A feeling so comforting, yet elusive, visited me when I came upon a superb reading corner. Some days the ideal space would be found perfectly situated behind the living room chair in the corner. I spent countless hours in that particular spot, traveling the world, the pages of the book as my sails.

Other times I would climb my favorite tree out back and haul my book up after me by way of a basket tied to a branch with a jump rope. A purely ingenious invention, I thought. The sounds of nature around me as I sprawled out among the branches and the fresh inspiration that my childhood home’s backyard contained for me made reading out there like therapy.

If the Christmas season happened to be present, I could often be found on the far side of the Christmas tree, reading, where no one could happen upon me unnoticed. The holidays spread such magic in my young mind, and I felt the desire to still be a part of the spirit while enjoying my own little space for reading. Of course, the Christmas tree provided just that.

No matter where exactly the nook was, I knew I had found a good one when I couldn’t wait to get back to it and further immerse myself in worlds that I could visit only through reading.Though my teenage years differed greatly from those of my childhood, I still had my bed at an angle that created a perfect little crevice next to it for talking on the phone or simply laying there in thought. Even though disappearing behind a chair became less feasible, I still had a hideaway of my own.

These little spaces were my hideouts. They were spots where I ran when I felt overrun with emotion or when the world became too much to handle. They were places I could call my own and find some level of comfort that none of the places that contained other people offered. I found safety and comfort in those secluded spaces and moments.

Reading itself creates a crevice of its own, so it was only natural for the child version of myself to find a location conducive to this idea as I sailed momentarily away from my own world and into someone else’s.

Catrina

A foreigner to her homeland, she tingles with anticipation over the fact that she stands seconds away from her first step into the culture that she always believed she would love. Today, she will finally touch the country that her parents call home—her home that she has never known. Having spend the entirety of her eighteen years buried deep in the heart of Eastern Europe, she has grown up having traditions without roots, foods her mother prepares that have no place in the culture around her, and a sense of wonder at why her parents would remove her from the home that they constantly speak of and seem to love. Her birthplace no longer remembers her; it has been sixteen years since she left, and she spent her childhood never knowing why it has be so. Her life has left her suffocating under the weight of dueling worlds under one roof.

Clutching a small, black carry-on by the handles, she steps gently over the plane’s threshold into the jet way, taking care that her long, tan winter coat is properly aligned with her coordinating dress. She pulls her shoulders back, adding height to her naturally tall and slender build, and raises her head with the confidence that proceeds her every step. Her short, butterscotch hair falls at a flawless angle around her collar as she gets closer and closer to stepping out into the chilly embrace of a wintry New York City.

She inhales, prepared and determined to make this place her own, having thought about the arrival and upcoming adjustment for months. Though change had always been her enemy, she was convinced that the timing reigns ideal for what she believes will be the anecdote—a life brimming with answers, which is the only way her parched questions may be quenched.

L i s a

She has convinced herself over the years that this is her life, her passion, her destiny, and there is little she can do to change this fact. She swings back and forth between being disheartened and zealous about what she knows she will continue to do for the rest of her life—teaching lecture after lecture, grading pile after pile of papers. Papers that require her to provide comments and feedback to students whom she is convinced care nothing for the topic she has been taught to love.

Every morning at promptly 7:35 she trudges into her workplace, greeting her colleagues with the friendly smile upon which she has grown to be dependent. Her manner of speech is slow and well-meditated, and the lectures where she tosses in fragments of stories or comments that were nowhere to be found in her daily lecture notes were uncomfortable days indeed. Times like these are when she relies heavily on her class to support her by filling in with stories of their own; when no one volunteers, she erratically asks if anything similar has happened to any of them.

After greeting her fellow instructors with all the warmth she could gather, she sifts her key out of her book bag and walks calmly into her window office. After all, she has been a faculty member for twenty-five years now, and this personal space has morphed into a reflection of her—without dynamic, yet colorful as a field of flowers when the need arises. She takes pride in the confidence that this job was cut out for her, and she for this job, which requires a certain amount of love for the topic that she and her colleagues are expected to adore unreservedly. While she finds enjoyment in privately studying the subject of her degree, she is at a loss to find what higher good she is serving while teaching at this prestige university for students who care nothing for her style or her expression. She is well-versed in every area of her expertise, yet she feels it is all for naught, just a wasted mound of knowledge.