The door finally closes, and I exhale deeply, letting my chin droop to my chest. My neck is sore, as it is most days. I don’t know if it’s the stress or the fact that I’m just at “that age,” but 33 seems too young to complain of achy joints.
I roll my head up slowly, the way they tell you to do it in yoga class.
“Oh shoot!” I mutter, looking at the plain school-issue clock on the wall. 5:47. I’m going to miss yoga again. It’s been weeks since I’ve been able to make it. That’s probably why my neck is hurting so bad.
I stand slowly and pack my things into my bag. Laptop. Paperwork. Phone. A student file.
Here, I pause.
He seemed like every other teenager to walk through my office door. Sweet and lost and sad. That’s the reason they come to me. They need someone to hear them – really hear them – and tell them what to do.
I find myself sitting again, looking at the boy’s picture on the inside of the folder. His chestnut hair is styled carefully, and his smile is charming. His skin is a golden brown, fresh from the long days of summer.
I can feel my mind start to wander, thinking over my own teenaged summers, too long ago, when my own black skin glistened with sweat in the sunshine. When I was on top of the world and ready to face the possibilities of life.
But just behind the smiling eyes in the picture before me, I sensed a glint of uncertainty. I knew it well. It turns out that navigating the oh-so-many possibilities of life is more than just a tad challenging, and I feel that even now I’m a child lost at sea.
“Ok, that’s enough,” I tell myself aloud. “Just go home.”
I slip the folder into my bag and heave it onto my back. I know it’s silly that I use a backpack, and my small stature doesn’t help. I guess it’s good that I leave after all the students are gone; it’s no fun being mistaken for a school-aged student and scolded for loitering around campus.
I wheel my bicycle – another mistake, I know – out of my office and into the hallway. I turn to lock the door. It’s decorated with a name plate: “Dr. Rose.” I cringe. I don’t feel like a doctor. I don’t feel like I know enough to have that title, despite the years of study and dissertations and theses. I feel like an imposter.
I turn away quickly and head to the exit, saying goodbye to the last of the stragglers – band students leaving practice, a couple of football players, two weary English teachers.
Halfway home, I make a last-second turn into the park, a sprawling hilly forest surrounding a lily-padded pond. I coast down the first hill and up the next, slowing to a stop at the wooden bench under the magnolia tree. Flipping the kickstand down, I dismount and sink onto the bench, dropping my bag next to me.
I’m too young to be this tired.
To distract myself from, well, myself, I turn my gaze to the pond below, where ducks are swimming lazily. I spot a turtle sunning itself on a log. A fish ripples the water’s surface.
I chuckle. I’ve been teaching anxious students grounding techniques for six years now, and they come to me subconsciously, I guess. I decide to continue with the 5-4-3-2-1 method. It’s a classic.
Ok, five things you can see. Duck, turtle, fish. Two more.
Suddenly it’s like I’m blind. Or my brain is broken. Like I’m seeing everything all at once but can’t pick out a single thing. Or name it.
I take a breath and release it.
Good, now four things you can feel.
Hair on my neck. Wood. The inside of my shoes. Bracelet.
Three you can hear. Easy.
Rustling leaves. A crow. Distant traffic.
It was easier now. It was working.
Magnolia flowers. Dirt.
One thing you can taste.
I reach down, happy that my spot comes complete with a small blackberry bramble. I look for the familiar deep purple hue, but it’s still too early in the season.
One unripe berry.
I take another breath and hold it, feeling light and calm. Funny, I hadn’t realized I was that stressed out.
I exhale deeply and let my shoulders sink down. The turtle is gone from the log, and I realize the sun is setting.
Series – Evanescent
January: If Something Can Go Wrong…It Will – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)
February: The Planet of Pleasure – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)
March: Evening with Jackie Chan – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)
April: Vuvuzelas, Walkie-Talkies and Madiba Magic – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)
May: Remembering – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)
June: 5-4-3-2-1 – Talia Stotts (America)
July: Getting Ready for Newborns – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)
August: Regrets – Kate Korneeva (Russia)
September: A Hollow Pursuit – Diana Haidar (Syria)
October: The Test – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)
November: A Life Rekindled – Lauren Voaden (United Kingdom)
December: Translation Perfect – Zhang Lu (China)
Special: Catching Water III – Javier Gomez (Argentina)
Background – Context
Transadaptation Volume 2: Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)
Transadaptation Volume 1: In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Texas, America – Back to School – Nathan Dumlao (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed