You're sitting in the front row, listening raptly, when the author mentions a tattoo and suddenly, you are no longer there. There are tears threatening the corners of your eyes; you'd thought those days were over. The word has transported you back into a hallway, your hallway. You're wearing this same lacy dress and facing the wall as it's unzipped, flapping open, the air rushing in. You'd changed out of the dress with the scoop neck and scoop back you bought during cherry blossom season at the last minute, wanting to make the night special.
You are there in your heels and you are close, so close you can almost taste it, to going farther. You don't have time to wonder what will happen if you do, plus you've already spent more than enough time picturing that. You are suspended there, waiting to see what you will do, wanting to both rewind and fast forward. Instead you burst into tears, ones you can't hide like the ones you did earlier, wiping them away with the sleeve of your arm. They are there between you and the one promise you'd made to yourself is gone. You wish you were better at hiding.
Actually, no; it's not the only promise, just the only one you've betrayed. You'd promised yourself there'd be no difficult conversations, so instead, there were tepid, tiptoeing ones. You get your wish only to find that maybe you should've been more careful. This promise you manage to keep into infinity, as if difficult conversations, not silence, equaled death. You hate that you cannot control yourself perhaps more than you hate anything else about yourself, and yet after, when you turn around, your face betraying you, is, perversely, a moment you wish you could return to.
You think about another hallway, one where you stood in a magenta blouse and leather skirt and bare legs and you did hold it together, meeting icy chilly calm with your own brand of precise hollow neutrality. That is not a difficult conversation; it is barely a conversation at all. You were so proud then, to be able to stand and smile and nod like a stranger, and you wonder if you will again, if that's what you are now, strangers, and if not, how you can get there.
And then you are back, as best you can be, startled into the now, longing to leap far, far into the future, into a better brain, a smarter heart. For those moments, you forget about the names that have haunted you for weeks, the genius you know you will never possess, all the ways you wish you could compete, but will never be able to. You've tried to push that girl in those hallways into a corner, store her away in a box like all the rest of your discarded belongings. You hate dragging her around inside you like a naïve ghost waiting to reveal herself at only the most inopportune moments. You hope she will die a quick death, and fast. You wonder about the best way to make her expire, wish you could hold her up to a flame and burn her before your eyes, watch as she vanishes into smoke. Masochistic, perhaps, but satisfying. You know, though, that she will move at her own pace, and you must simply be prepared as you sit, legs crossed, head up, and wait.