Hallway by Timara Norman
The knot of anxiety that tightened for the past one hundred minutes of English class has made my stomach sore. Walking from my desk to the classroom door, I tremble as pure shame and regret shivers down my body. I avert my eyes to the beige floor with auburn diamonds and black squares to hide the embarrassment on my face. I approach the beginning of the hallway.
My embarrassment turns to rage.
Since last November, it has been more difficult for me to focus a long period of time to complete my work. Since last November, the assignments on my To-Be-Completed list has become unbearable.
“Grandma, may I turn off the TV?”
She turned from the rice and peas she was stirring on the stove. Her face stiff with a perplexed expression. “Why?”
“The noise from the TV is distracting. It’s hard for me to engage in my work.”
“Can’t you see I’m listening to the TV right now? Gwan to the guest bedroom. Cha mon!” She kissed her lips, her voice thick and accented.
She began to sing Biblical verses aloud, as if to give herself a sense of peace, to cope with the difficulty and stress I cause her life. “Jesus, keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain…”
Her hands were raised in the air.
The guest bedroom was adjacent to the kitchen. The TV blared World News. Aware I would still hear the noise of the TV if I moved, I did not stand up from my chair. I rolled my eyes, annoyed.
Hour after hour passed. My hands were frozen as they hovered over the keys of my laptop. My eyes stared at the artificial words I typed onto my computer screen, aware they would eventually be erased. I knew those words could only be erased at night. When everyone is asleep and the kitchen walls has stopped vibrating from piercing screams.
The smell of rice and peas lingered under my nose.
I thought I might as well have dinner since it would make better use of my time. From then on, I would wait till 10 PM. When I would have thirty minutes to finally work on four assignments in peace and quietness till I fell asleep on the kitchen table.
In the hallway, a gust of cold wind hurls past my shoulders. I think of the conflict at home. I embrace myself, hoping to provide warmth, but all I feel are my frozen hands.
My armpits are slightly damp.
I don’t understand why mom consistently forced me to go to the library. It never ended up working anyway.
Every night at grandma’s house, I ranted to Mom about the struggles of completing my assignments.
She picked me up from school.
“Why don’t I just drive you to the library if it’s so hard for you to focus over your grandma’s house?” she said.
There was an unexpected burst of volume in her voice.
I could feel the sudden jolt of the car as she unconsciously applied greater pressure to the gas pedal.
I fell quiet.
“How about I drop you off now because I am sick and tired of you complaining how your grandma does not act like your servant and provide you adequate space to get your work done!”
She made a U-turn, steering the wheel of her car less gently. She continued to mumble additional complaints under her breath until she braked in front of the library entrance.
I said nothing.
I slammed the car door shut behind me and ran in the drizzling rain to the front doors. I did not make eye contact with my mom.
I chose a rectangular table in the corner of the library.
A girl at the head of the table was completing what looked like Trig homework, while a man sitting on my side of the table, a few seats down, was reading and annotating an outdated newspaper.
I unpacked my items from my bookbag. The girl and the man did not say anything. I faced the window and watched the rain pour heavier.
It was quiet here. However, my mind could not help but to become bothered with their presence. Each minute slipped by my fingers and all I could think about was how much I wanted to be alone and occupy the space to myself. It reminded me of working in Grandma’s kitchen once the clock striked 10 PM and everyone was asleep. There was a sense of peace in being left alone in solitude.
Their presence made me itch. I could not focus.
The library started to close.
I looked at the man and girl getting up from their seats as I gathered my items into my bookbag. I thought of how they were probably able to get a lot of work completed during our time sitting down.
“Congratulations,” I mumbled and stormed out the front doors.
Mom was parked near the curb.
It was still pouring and I ran to the passenger seat of her car.
While sitting in grandma’s kitchen eating her dinner, Mom finally asked, “Did you get any work done, Andrea?”
Her mouth was full of food.
“No,” I said, eyes on the floor.
“Why the hell do I keep trying with you,” she yelled. “You’re just hurting yourself. Maybe you’d be happier if you stayed with your Dad.”
I rolled my eyes.
Grandma came in the kitchen and told us to quiet down. “The neighbors can hear and are going to want us to move!”
Near the end of the hallway, the floor is coated with a thin layer of dust.
Why do you have to be so sensitive? I wonder. Why can’t you get yourself together, like everyone else? You’ve set yourself up for failure and now look! You’re walking out the classroom like an idiot with a failing grade on your semester report card.
Tears well up from my eyes, stinging as they run against my cold cheeks.
I have reached the end.
I walk to the building front door and push against the handles. My body, numb from the coldness of the building, falls through.
Instantly, a new warmth wrapped itself at once around my brittle arms. It touched the top of my low-hanging forehead.
It comes from above. It is the sun.
It has been hidden from the sky since last November.
I lift my chin.
I close my eyes and allow the sun’s rays to absorb my ache.