The other day I was walking to an event on Princeton campus.
It was an event I had been looking forward to attending. Still, that familiar dread was spreading across my body, radiating out from my heart.
Still, I put one foot in front of the other along my way.
In my mind's eye, I began to see a scene from Out of Africa. It is near the end of the movie. Karen is sitting in her living room on a suitcase. Around her all the possessions she has not sold are in various states of packing. It is a huge room, and she seems small in it. She has the phonograph that Denys gave her, and it is playing something. She is eating dinner or drinking tea. Denys enters the room, and we swoon, hoping he will save her even though he isn't that kind of guy. Instead, she saves herself (again). She asks him if he wants to help her play a game. When she thinks she can't go on, she does one more thing (to make it worse we almost hear her say). And so she asks Denys to dance. She puts on a record, and they dance, first in the room and then outside onto the lawn with whatever was not sold.
I am not getting the words right.
But it is that sentiment ... I can't go through one more trauma/emotion/setback, and then I take a breath, and I do.
So, here I was breathing and getting ready to plunge into a room full of rah rah alumni. Black and orange would be sported by all in some fashion (except me... only black and white and a rust jacket I never put on, that was as close to orange and black I could go).
Being on campus is like walking through a graveyard for me. Unlike my love for visiting cemeteries, walking a graveyard is not a pleasurable sensation. I think of it more like a place where the bones are exposed, not of neat rows of ornate or simple or tender remembrances of beloved people.
The graveyard is like a junkyard of discarded wrecks, you never know what horrifying sight will be around the corner, jolting you back to some memory of trauma. Even if they are not your memories, they sting. The crumpled car, like the one the mothers put out before prom, meant to remind teens that some decisions have irreversible consequence. Worst of all, the trauma may be contained within sweet memories that turned out to be rotten at their core.
Even though I am the only one who appears to catch glimpses of these wrecks or exposed skeletons, my sense is that they demand to be seen.
I hear whispers from every corner, reminding me of my time there, but I suspect that there are other whispers, too, that clamor for attention. "If she can hear the whispers of her own trauma, perhaps she can hear mine, too," they seem to wonder. The pain is palpable, and it can be overwhelming.
Some days I have the strength to listen to the whispers, to let them transport me back to that day or days, to envelope me in the memory whether sweet or sour. Other days, I skirt the university, purposely walk through a newer area (less chance for there to be a memory lingering there) or go out of my way not to touch campus at all, even if it means an extra mile.
Some days, even though I know I will tempt the ghosts, I walk on to campus to something that has been given a chance at new life, like West College now called Morrison Hall. I touch the plaque, take photos of it, try to fit a new memory into that space. Try to give myself some safe spaces to mark my way across campus in future.
Tail Is Back!
8 hours ago