There’s a pretty girl, prettier than me, who has the same birthday as me. Sometimes I find that threatening, and other times comforting. I follow her on twitter, and on the 11th I saw her tweet that her 22nd birthday was the 22nd of this month. I thought, oh yeah, mine too. Somehow, I had forgotten, or at least completely de-prioritized my birthday, a birthday that I have been looking forward to since I turned 16 and realized it was the same as 15 except with a driver’s license. Eleven days until I am finally 22, which is like 21, only better because it’s an even number. I don’t have any plans, and it doesn’t seem to bother me at all, which bothers me.
I expect my birthday to be ruined, like it always really is, (other than my 21st in LA, which couldn’t possibly have gone wrong, since it was in LA) but this year, not because of rain, like my birthdays all the way up through high school. The Pitt Bomber will ruin my birthday. He or she hates me. I know because the only classes I end up missing due to evacuations are the ones I really like. Worst of all, police escorted me out of my morning class in Frick, and nothing makes my skin crawl more than following the orders of or being touched by a police officer. I got both of those tragedies in by 10 am that day. The Pitt Bomber hates me, me specifically.
Every year that I have attended this university, I have said out loud, before witnesses that I would burn the Cathedral to the ground, which written on paper loses its’ hilarity, especially in the wake of the bomb threats. So, should anything happen to the Cathedral, considering the large reward Pitt is offering, I expect some previous witness to turn my name in. The paranoid three fourths of me suspects that situation to become a bag over the head, V for Vendetta style kidnapping and torture session in which my inability to respect the uniform forces me to remain in the University’s version of Guantanamo Bay for years at least, while my respective debts pile up in the outside world. When I am released, I will owe Pitt 4 times the amount I do now, and they will come to collect immediately. Or the third party, who I actually owe, will. Either way, I will wind up back behind bars, or bankrupt, and shit out of luck for a joke that really was funny every time I said it.
At first I suspected everyone. The skinny little things who never worked a day in their lives, prancing about in short-shorts and ripped tights and fake beat up, imitation army boots as if the bomb threats had given them freedom were number one on my list. People who don’t pay for school, who have trust funds, who leave their atm receipts featuring balances in the tens of thousands hanging from the machines in towers as if to remind me that even my parents don’t have that much money in their savings, have to be responsible. They don’t value their education, because the first thing they do is get drunk out of their minds and join some greek organization where they can meet others like them and talk about the extravagant amounts they spend on various meaningless accessories, tickets to Girl Talk and cologne that smells like the inside of stores where jeans cost more than my paychecks, and they don’t go to class and they claim that it’s all part of finding themselves and learning who they want to be. Those people, that group of students was always my enemy number one, since I tried to fight the entire Pitt baseball team at once when one of them called me “black bitch” like it was a joke and nothing but funny.
So I was biased, but feeling like a personal victim, I figured the enemy must be mine, and there was no other enemy of mine among the university crowd. Twitter was set ablaze one night when a post on reddit came to light, complaining of the unjust policies of the University. Everyone retweeted it (like copy and paste then re-sending under their name) as if this was the answer, as if one dissatisfied person on the internet explained everything. But I, as a student of the internet, was not convinced. The internet is nothing but a huge forum of anonymous hatred and dissatisfaction with any and everything, although I’ve found more racism and sexism and outright hatred of women than anything else. It wasn’t even as if the anonymous redditer was completely wrong about the issues they discussed either.
Time has been passing; I don’t know what I will do when it is august. In August, I have to move out of my apartment and to somewhere else, and even though I know where I’d like to be, in LA, it has suddenly hit me that perhaps the path I am now on, I could have found without coming all the way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and without taking out loans to get a degree that only really gets me a job offer after at least 4 more years of school, providing I am dedicated and well-published in that time. Perhaps I could have just stayed in Oklahoma, realized I just wanted to write everything, and maybe direct films and maybe act if it was fun and worth the trouble of endless rejection, and moved to LA without debt and responsibility and 4 years younger than I will be on the 22nd, with less desperation and fear and heartbreak.
Graduation matters so much. It is the final push to go out in the world and develop myself as a person separate from other names and obligations. It’s a freedom and a celebration of something I finished, even though I rarely finish things, especially things I write and edit and delete and never let anyone see unless it’s being picked up for a grade, (and then I tell myself it isn’t my best work anyways just in case they hate it, even though no one has ever said they hated anything I wrote) and I finished something here. I breezed through undergrad as if bitter that it wasn’t, for the most part, any more difficult than high school and blaming my boredom for my refusal to try hard. But I finished, and when I went to pick up my cap and gown last Tuesday and I realized I got to wear an honor cord, that I was graduating with honor, somehow I wanted to cry a little, because people never seem to believe I actually care, and it means so much to me to be recognized for so little.
I called my mother the last time the big five were evacuated. I was kicked out of Frick, again, and alarms from Posvar, the Cathedral, David Lawrence and Towers were ringing out like echoes in Schenley Plaza. I was mad, and scared. I didn’t think anyone would bomb these buildings, because that wouldn’t be cruel enough, not yet at least. This person, the Pitt Bomber, wants to hurt me, I thought, or us, or all of us students who are just trying to survive so we can pay off the debts we already have and don’t understand the weight of yet, the weight that bears on me more the closer we get to graduation. My mother reminds me of my birthday and I realize I have forgotten it again. I almost cry, shaking with anger at the realization that this person is going to ruin my graduation.
When I was too young to go to school, my dad, a full time musician and stay at home father, let me be his shadow, and he was impressed by my apparent need to learn. I wanted to know everything. Then I wanted to tell everyone else what I had learned. He called me “Miss Information” and “Professor” even when I was just learning to read from him in our kitchen and I tried to pass words on to my little brother even though he was mostly more into chasing our chocolate lab around our one bedroom apartment. It didn’t feel small then, and my parents gave me big dreams. When I entered kindergarten I had already laid out a plan to attend Harvard, and play soccer professionally while I put myself through law school until I eventually rose to be a Supreme Court Justice. I could see myself holding my diploma, smiling with my long blonde-tipped dreadlocks and my family all around me, and nothing was more important to 6 year old me than graduation. That was where I would meet the President so that he could appoint me to the lifelong position on the bench. That was where I would meet my NBA star husband, who would help me give birth to smart athletic children who would change the way our country worked and we would make everything better in America all at once.
I am graduating regardless, I understand this logically. I will receive my diploma in the mail sometime in this coming summer and I will be able to tell anyone who asks that I have a college degree after finals week ends. I will still have a cap and gown and an honors cord, and papers that remind me of my stint on the Dean’s List, and all the memories from being here and doing it, and finishing it even when I have gotten the feeling lately that it may have all been a long expensive mistake after all. I will still get what I paid for. But not what I want. The Pitt Bomber is watching and waiting to snatch away the little piece of my 6 year old fantasy that I still can capture, that I still want to capture. Maybe the President would have attended for some odd reason had it not turned into a security nightmare. Maybe the man of my dreams would have shown up too if his sister, my classmate, hadn’t decided to go home instead of living under this stress.
I don’t know for sure that the Bomber won’t be captured before the 29th, or even better before the 22nd, and I don’t know for sure that they hold a personal grudge against me. I certainly have no control in the situation and sometimes I sit in silence and accomplish that Buddhist meditation I learned from yoga where I just empty out, but when it ends I realize I am in bed and sweating and really I have just finished a dream and I don’t know what it was but I am still tired and my phone has been vibrating beside my head all night reminding me that there is no peace here. I am constantly tired, I feel like I am standing on the edge of something, and I want to jump but I have to wait and I have no idea when I will be allowed to jump, or to run away or move and I am not sure that I want either but my body is sore and my mind is blank.
I go to campus and I look around. I don’t know even 1/10th of the people in my own graduating class. I probably know the names of even less of them. I hardly look anyone in the eyes anymore, unless I mean to challenge them like a wolf does when it’s alpha dog and is checking everyone around for their respect. I was curious, even desperate to know, previously who was responsible, and why they hated me so much, why they wanted to take so much from me. Now I am solemn. I have run out of words to say, threats to make out loud in hopes that the person responsible will fear me, the alpha dog, and just stop, roll over and show their belly and look off into the distance. I am too empty, too tired. Nothing feels important. I remember my birthday again and wonder if anyone is even going to care, even my friends, even the people who have long since graduated and adore me. I realize it is me who does not care. I don’t care about the only birthday I have looked forward to since 16, and I hate that. I hate this person, this nameless force who steals my control and pushes me around like a lab rat in a maze, sniffing out cheese and running from zaps on the floor when I turn to rush back into Art of China to retrieve my umbrella that I will never see again.