I have hair to my waist, in a knot, in a braid, in a long tail trailing behind me. It gets caught in wicker chairs, car windows, cat claws. I try to turn my head while driving. I shift, I strain my neck.
I am in English class in tenth grade. This is the year for American lit, and we are into Edwin Arlington Robinson. We read The Mill and hear announcements of a suicide on the intercom in the morning, sit through geometry white hot angry at the teacher, the teacher who obviously doesn't know what has happened although he was here this morning just like the rest of us. And I am in English class one morning, bell ringing, at my desk like a good scholar. This is Catholic school and you took an entrance test to get in. You are here every day feeling stupid and silent and Krista and Dave answer questions and become salutatorians or valedictorians or go to Stanford in two years.
You are taking a test of which you had not been previously aware, sitting behind Mary Beth and gasping quietly, as quietly as possible. You have the goody brand hairband wrapped around your wrist, cutting off your circulation, and the pen desperate in your hand.
This is ridiculous in retrospect. You are taking a test on Edwin Arlington Robinson in tenth grade English, taught by Mr. Kane, who loves you, who loved your story, who loves your five paragraph essays you write in study hall and type at lunch. You are taking a test on Edwin Arlington Robinson of which you had not been previously aware. You are still breathing.
You are breathing and breathing and breathing for half the class. This is a test period and you are behind a curtain of hair, inhaling through sheer force of will. You can barely read and your eyelashes tangle in your hair and your tears and you shudder and shudder and hope no one is watching.
You are in control you are in control you are.
If you breathe enough you can get enough air to breathe. You can open your eyes and open your eyes and look at the page, just look at it, it can't be that hard. You are a smart kid, you are. You know you are smart and you are still sitting here, convulsive and silent. You are almost within your own grasp. You can get a hold of yourself. It can't be that hard. It can't be that hard but it still is.
No one is looking at you no one is looking.
You are writing. You are writing the test and reading the questions and writing and answering questions. You are in recovery and swinging into logic mode. You can interpret these things. There are no millers anymore, but you are here, with your pen and your hand and your paper and desk. You are watching yourself, careful as a mouse.
You get up at the end of the period, put your finished paper in the pile on the desk, file out quietly like a good student.