Knock, knock, am I there?

I hear two, sharp raps on my office door. I count ten, slow breaths and pretend that I don’t exist. I am weeping over my lunch of rice and bitter gourd, the sautéed green vegetable evidently not salty enough. I am trying to make this, my life, taste better. I am trying. Why can’t anybody see this? Last night my friend told me I don’t connect with people as much as I should, this just after I spent six hours with them singing and eating and making small talk, though I’d hardly slept the night before, and I wouldn’t be sleeping after that, because there is such a huge pile of work to do. The other day my landlady asked me out to coffee so she could talk about her ill-fated love affair, and though I was drowning in papers to mark, I said, Sure Tita, and I listened to her tell the games she played on the poor man, how she insulted him, how they fought, how he was a mere delivery boy, thoroughly dispensable, and after three hours of this, she said, You know, sometimes you ought to have a sense of humor. I cannot find funny what I do not think right. But I am trying. I read news about Rohingya Muslims driven out of Rahkine State, in their ragged clothes and makeshift rafts floating on the ocean, looking for a nation that would take them in, and think about what adventures I would have when I travel to Myanmar, how I would walk, anonymous, through temples, through the streets, and listen to the chatter of crowds and not understand a word. But that is weeks from now. Now I painstakingly write down to-do lists and soldier through tasks to strike through. I attend meetings, I teach my classes, I read books, I read my students’ works, I record grades, I write essays, I write reports, I make posters, I answer emails, I reply to messages on text, Twitter, and FB, I plan itineraries, I send Couchsurfing requests, I go to the bank, I pay the rent, I buy groceries, I take out the trash, I get the laundry, I wash the dishes, I clean my mat, I sweep my room as if I were sweeping all chaos out of my life. I listen to other people’s woes and take care of my own. I read poems and practice yoga to keep my sanity. I am trying to stay here, I am trying to stay awake, when all I want to do is to burrow twelve feet underground in the cool, damp soil and sleep through summer. But every morning, sunlight sears through the curtains, suffusing my room with heat and light, and my heart with the horror of another day. The alarms ring, in five-minute intervals, on and on and on, like a cacophony of mad birds. I cannot shut my ears, nor my eyes, nor pretend that I do not feel the insistent thud-thud-thud of my phone against the floor, hear the heavy footfalls on the stairs, my housemate’s tentative knock on the door, the shrill voice asking, Are you there? Well, am I?

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