I want to catch my breath. But it seems locked inside my lungs. Breathing. It's something so natural that we forget it's even there until it's gone.
I have mood shifts. Different places, different circumstances make me act a certain way, think a certain way, feel a certain way. I've often felt like my head is full of truthful contradictory thoughts. I'm on my way to school like any normal day. I've parred down my travelling time now to exactly the length necessary for me to walk outside of my front door to arrive in my seat in class. But I still hurry along. I still beat past people in a whirlwind. Eyes, my walking, even my breathing seems focused at the task at hand. I relax myself on the bus or the subway. I try not to check my watch because on a bus or the subway train, I cannot control the speed. I cannot control the direction. But walking. I'm in control when I'm walking. So I walk fast.
From the bus to the subway cart, I weave and dodge through the crowd. I quicken my pace accordingly and I sometimes feel like I'm jumping ahead, skipping ahead. I sometimes catch the eye of a stranger walking toward me but for the most part, I couldn't possibly care less. I'm only concerned about my destination, about what I'm in control of - getting to that subway cart.
"Shit," I say with disdain. I squeeze through the doors past a meandering young woman just as the bell chimes. I swear a lot these days. I'm trying to cut down but it's so easy to lapse into profanities when my mind seems to be racing and no one seems to notice how intense everything is inside. I stalk through the cart to the end and plop down in a seat. I'm ready to relax, read my Chatelaine and forget the world. But my eyes flicker up. Even if I want to forget the world, it still exists so I scan it anyway. And a shock goes through me. Actually, it's more like a sudden pinch. Quick and stinging but innocent and playful. It's my cheeky friend Mike. Mike is definitely like a pinch.
He's sitting across the aisle from me. I realize it's him in a second but it feels so sudden and unexpected, like I've tumbled into a fairy tale. I get up and plop myself into the seat next to him.
"What's wrong?" he sincerely asks. I exhale loudly, take off my hat and tousle my hair.
"I guess it's just one of those days where everything's wrong," he answers his own question.
"No! No, that's not it. I'm just...Nothing's wrong," I rush to reply. I don't like it when people make up my thoughts in their head. At least, not when the thoughts are wrong. I think I want to say exasperated but words aren't exactly forming in my mind. I'm still trying to catch my breath.
"Actually, you know what, it does feel like things have been going wrong this morning. I completely wiped out on my stairs," I explain. My voice is coming alive. I feel my lungs expanding. "I need to leave my house at 9:15 the latest to get to class in time and it was 9:11 when I was coming down the stairs. I was rushing and I just completely wiped out. And now I think I have a bruise on my arm that will go along perfectly with the huge bruise I have on my knee when I wiped out on Friday night in a parking lot because I was tipsy and wearing 3-inch-heels."
"Ohh. That sucks. That really sucks. I can't remember the last time I wiped out but I think girls do more than guys because girls are just generally more clumsy," Mike responds casually. I know he means nothing by it but I feel the need to defend women against this callous generalization. Instead I shift the focus back to me.
"I don't know about most girls, but I know I'm really, really clumsy."
We arrive at Dundas station and I glance at my watch. It's 10:07 a.m. Ryerson standard time is every class starts 10 minutes after the hour. "I should have known I was going to be slightly late because you're always slightly late and if I'm with you then I'm going to be slightly late," I comment to Mike as we walk out of the darkness of the subway and up into the snowy darkness of downtown Toronto.
"And you're going to be even more late because I bet you walk fast and I walk slow," he retorts. We round the corner of the stairs on to the street and I'm at least already eight paces ahead of him. I glance back, grab him by the arm and drag him across the street.
"It's almost a yellow light! You're not on the pedestrian walk! Ah! And you're going the other way!" he yells at me. "I'm serious about the last one, you know? Don't you think this way takes longer?"
I'm breathing quickly again. I'm in control of my walk again and I refuse to let Mike slow me down.
There is something about breathing that seems so mysterious to me, particularly during the times when my breath is escaping me. Not when I'm exhaling. No; it's when I'm gasping, panting, trying to arrive somewhere, be somewhere, go to a place to feel settled.
"See? We're not late," Mike remarks as we walk through the classroom doors.
I'm still at a loss. I'm still feeling out of control because I'm unsure where I'm supposed to sit. Where do I anchor myself? I realize I should sit with Mike even though we both know enough people in the class of all 3rd-year journalism students. I find a few empty seats, tell Mike to sit with me but still, I'm scattered. I may seem like an extroverted character. I chat fairly easily with most people. I love to laugh. I'm good with names and I try my best to be cordial to everyone I meet. I have a few good friends in journalism who I really get along with but journalism students are funny. We all seem to run in overlapping circles. And sometimes you fit in and sometimes you don't, and sometimes all it takes is one additional person to be thrown into the mix for you to feel thrown out. I inhale and exhale but everything still feels slightly out of place. Something is missing and I know exactly what it is.
My best friend Jessica walks through the door. As Jessica smiles and sits in the empty seat next to me, I finally catch my breath.