A Stranger Side of Me

my pic, revolution graffiti, downtown Beirut

When I woke up this morning, it was still dark outside. I had stayed up late studying for finals. It was close to 2am when I went to bed. I felt as though I hardly slept at all. Mom was in the kitchen preparing coffee, and making a lot of noise doing it. I pushed the kitchen door open and found mom, in her robe and slippers, talking to a stranger in baggy pajamas. The stranger was emptying a sachet of Nescafé 3 in 1 into my hot chocolate mug. My first thought was about the mug. Why would mom let this stranger use my mug? On second thought, I wondered who was this person, and what was she doing in our kitchen at 6am.

She was about my age. She had shoulder length hair, like mine, but her face was paler than mine. She had dark deep set eyes that looked too scary to stare at for more than two seconds. She wouldn’t answer me when I said, “Who the hell are you?” Mom didn’t answer when I said, “Who on earth is this creepy person?” She didn’t even reprimand me for speaking so rudely.

I made a cup of hot cocoa with an impersonal, nondescript, coffee stained mug. I went to the living room, and watched The Amazing Adventures of Gumball with my younger sister. The strange girl sat next to me. Only, she didn’t sit near me, nor beside me; she sat so close that our legs were touching. She was practically on top of me. When I tried to squirm away, moving my legs millimeters away from hers, she moved in closer.

“Lizzy, who is this wierdo?” I begged my six year old sister for an explanation. Lizzy looked at me and laughed. Her mouth was full of Cheerios. She laughed so hard that some of the Cheerios fell onto the carpet.

That was too much for me. I felt claustrophobic. I chugged my hot cocoa, which had only slightly cooled off, then ran to the bathroom. I washed my face with cold water. I looked at myself in the mirror. I had dark rings around my eyes, and my nose and cheeks were bright red. I brushed my teeth and fixed my hair into a bun. When I open the bathroom door, the strange girl was standing in the way. “Get away from me!” I screamed in her face, and shoved her out of the way. I grabbed my backpack and ran out the door.

The ride to school was subdued. I sat in the passenger seat, next to mom. Lizzy sat in back playing talking in a low voice to her rainbow cat-unicorn doll. I was too upset to review my notes. I watched as the rain hit the window, and listened to the windshield wipers squeaking across the glass. I was entranced by its simple automation: wipers clearing the rainwater as it continued to rain. No matter how fast the wipers worked there was always water in the way.

When we got to school, I noticed that the crazy girl was sitting in the back seat next to Lizzy. “Nooooo!” She was wearing the same school uniform as me. As mom helped Lizzy out of the car seat, I ran off to the exam hall. “Sorry, can you take Lizzy to class, I’m going to be late,” I yelled into the wind. I wasn’t late, but I wanted to run away from that strange girl who’d been haunting me all morning.

I was the first one in the exam hall. I took my assigned seat, and looked over my notes. I had memorized every mark and scribble on those pages. It was useless looking at formulas imprinted on my mind. I needed to calm down. I needed to focus. I needed to do well. Another cup of cocoa would’ve been nice.

“Rough night?” mumbled Carlos as he sat down at the desk next to mine. I lifted my head. The exam hall was full. On the other side of me was the strange girl from the kitchen. I turned away from her. No one seemed to notice her obtrusive presence except me. Had she been around this whole time, but I never noticed? As a way to inoculate my anxiety, I counted all the shoes in view. The proctor handed out the exams. Suddenly, I felt the urge to pee, but I couldn’t leave. It was too late. I felt like I was going to be sick to my stomach. There was no turning back. Everyone turned over their papers and picked up their pencils. I did too. I didn’t look up until I had finished. Nothing impeded my thoughts on quadratic equations, polynomials and coefficients. I forgot about the girl from the kitchen, and she seemed to have forgotten about me. She must’ve finished her exam and ducked out early, and thankfully, I haven’t seen her since.

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