Paper handed back upside down. Protocol, but for some reason this time a pit forms in my belly. Perhaps it was the way the professor seemed to nervously, deliberately scamper away before I had the chance to flip it over. Maybe this was in my mind. Regardless, my intuition prevailed. For some reason this talent only rears its head to sock me in the gut, never the bearer of good news. Never a hintuition, always a shituition.
Flipped it and flipped out. Is that uh… that has to be an “8.” No way that’s a “5.” Skim to the bottom, definitely a 5. Did I really just get a 50 on something? Pit turns to sea sickness. The class churns. Good news is there are probably plenty of lifeboats, since I seem to be the only one going over.
Sweaty, fretty, racing thoughts. Hustling and bustling and laughing around me, but I am disconnected. I am simply an observer right now, not a participant. I am a visitor to the museum of People Who Don’t Wish They Were Dead Right This Second. I might just puke.
Another professor enters, announces the simulation procedure due today. Normally I’d be freaking out that I didn’t look over the material for it, but I’m already upside down and can barely breathe, what’s another drop in this pool I’m drowning in. I need to get out. Need to leave. None of this matters anymore. But still in a daze, faze, haze, maze I absent-mindedly raise my hand when she asks who hasn’t participated in the “primary” nurse role yet. For some reason I am the only one who raises her hand, although 28 out of these 30 girls should have done so as well. Inevitably, I am chosen to play in this role today, pretending to be nurse in front of the entire class. Although today more than ever, I truly feel as if I am pretending, playing dress-up, just making a mess of things I shouldn’t be touching.
My heart might as well just drop right out of my chest and into my toes, smashing with each step I take as I flee from this crushing, seething cave. But I sit there, nod idly, knowing full well there is absolutely no way I can stand up and function as a human, nonetheless a fake nurse to a fake patient. I can barely maintain my posture in my chair, I am hunched and grimacing and must keep remining myself to breathe.
The room is shuffling as the break isn’t quite over yet, so I take this opportunity to make my escape. I take the godforsaken paper and beeline it to the only place I can be alone, a single stall in the ancient bathroom across the hall. I climb onto the toilet seat, crouching and balancing, steadying myself in an attempt to hide my feet. I stare at the paper and still can’t make out her comments. “Not what is expected of a second semester junior student” … “confusing” … “inappropriate diagnoses” … “essentially a 0!” … “fuck you” … “quit now” … “what are you doing here?” … I mean, basically. As soon as I hear the other person exit the bathroom, I lose it.
Sob sob sob, inhale inhale, sob, sigh. Shut my eyes as tight as human evolution can allow and wish I could press so hard my face would implode and take me into some other time zone inside myself. I can’t. I try again. The door swings open, I hold my breath and cease it all.. “hello? is the student who is supposed to be playing primary nurse in here?” You’ve got. To be. Fucking. Kidding me. I am silent, she doesn’t leave. God damn lingers. I may be a loser and a failure but I am no liar.. “Yes, I am.. I just.. I don’t feel so good right now. I’m sorry.” “Oh! Oh don’t worry about it, it’s ok.. it’s not because of this simulation is it?”
It’s at this point I can’t take how ridiculous and childish I am appearing hiding behind a toilet door, so I come out. “No, I just found out I failed this paper…” In a flash, a blip, no idea how or why it happened but suddenly the Dean of Nursing has emerged from her office across the hall and is also standing in the bathroom doorway. No no no no no no. Not only is she the Dean, she also happens to teach the sophomore class I tutor for. No no no no no. She guides me to her office, no no I don’t want to be here. I blubber “thisissoembarassingIfeellikeI’minmiddleschoolIcan’tbelievethisI’msosorryIcan’tstopcryingButreallyI’mfine-”
She makes me sit. We talk. And talk. I’m not sure how long passes, but she has me laughing, sobbing, breaking down, feeling confident, hating my life, ripping and rolling tissues into tiny balls, venting, admitting weaknesses and fears I had repressed all semester, maybe even for the entire program thus far. Her office is the safest place I’ve been in years. The exact words exchanged will remain between her and I, but in the end I am breathing normally and the tears have mostly subsided, no more baby animal noises and snots being expelled from my being.
I get up. I thank her. I walk out, and I start to tear up a little once I am alone again in this hallway, no quiet little safe place with an understanding ear sitting across from me. I feel I might collapse, but I do make it back to class and wiggle into my desk in the back. I surprise myself and stay for the entire remainder of the lecture. I surprise myself and do not cry again. I surprise myself, and even participate in the discussion.
I surprise myself, and I stay.