"A man who won't die for something is not fit to live."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Of every second of every day, I hide my individuality.
Become invisible, unnoticeable.
A Specter in the morning light.
I sink into the crowd; blend in like a common sheep, in a herd of similar conformist people. At the age of nineteen I’m at the peek of perfection. I’ve become the social norm, the acceptable, only in appearance of course. My facial structure, figure and hair all meet the standards that make me human, yet my personality would be considered of the insane variety.
I keep to myself, I find my own company to be the best person I can feel comfortable with. After all, only I can relate to myself. I may get a few keen looks from both sexes, pouted lips, the sly eyes squinted with lust and want, but I pay no interest in relationships of that kind.
I take the train from the east of Regois to the west where the main town resides, towards the University of the same name, towards the tall forest of concrete, glass and steel. I’m late of course, like I always am. Even though I have the excuse, because I live on the other side of town, my lecturers still show the disapproval of my absence very regularly, It’s become clockwork.
t’s not a perfect city, though the most perfect city has no place on earth, or my earth for that matter. It’s just where the cattle gather, pass each other and communicate with words of greeting and general socialism.
My heavy inner-woolen rain jacket hangs from my thin and pale shoulders. I hold tightly to the passenger handle. Its black plastic is cracked and worn with age, but I pay little attention to its faults. My chestnut brown hair is tied up roughly, from my rush out the door from the late morning. Hanging carelessly to my neck is my oversized pair of head phones, with the soothing pieces of classical symphony art booming quietly through them with its constant tempo.
To be brief, I hate perfection, because it is unattainable, unthinkable, and impossible to achieve.
The train I wait patiently to come to its halt has its usual familiar faces. To my right is the same old man with pale green Wellingtons, and the dirty, once yellow, brown rain coat lays drenched on his aging shoulders. His stone grey turtle neck jersey and woolen beanie hold no barrier to his wrinkled and decomposed features of his skin and silver and tips of red in his hair. His eyes are the same steel blue as they were the day before. There is no change.
To my left, there is the same middle aged woman, her hair filled with uncared for splinters, no attempt at foundation or any kind of modern make-up over her cheek bones. Her pitch black glasses cling desperately to her hooked nose. Her deep blue cardigan soaked with the smell of mud-ridden water and hot asphalt is tied over her neck. And her same black Labrador with its metal brace around its waist and back is securely in her forever still hand. Again, there is no change, only perhaps an old crinkled newspaper and a handful of plastic bags are tucked under her unused arm. My only assumption is that they are not for the blind woman, but are for the dog in his moments of relief.
To have no eyes is a burden ten fold. How I envy her.
Yes, the same people on this train, day in and day out. Even as I leave the train station, I don’t let their distant moods affect me in the slightest. If they did, the results would be dire.
I glance at my digital watch.
Shit. The battery has stalled and it still reads 4:00 am from this morning.
I do have to admit, I did feel a force of relief for a brief moment, but my common sense came over me and hit my gut with double its force.
The strength of my motivation caused me to sprint down the wet streets of Regois, completely ignorant of the puddles of mud and motor oil seeping through my Purple Doc Martians. My jacket and brown hair streaming behind me as I ran, holding desperately to my shoulders bag so its contents would not collide with the dripping gravel. My papers of my blue philosophy lecture book are getting crinkled in between my clenched and sweating fingers, but I care little for the suffering of the parchment. I’m glad the down pour didn’t catch me hours before, but the dark and tired clouds and soaked earth do not make my day any pleasing if it did.
A few blocks away from the train station and I reach my destination with blood and metal lingering in my mouth, my throat desperate for water or some sort of lubricant. The Regois University sign next to the main road is the first object I see, with its angel as its infinite symbol of peace and prosperity for the future hangs nailed and broken with graffiti and a handful of bullet holes through its sculpture. I give it an acknowledging nod, showing my respect for a piece of wooden symbolism.
As big and expansive as the University is, the familiar clamping of peoples feet against the pavement and rush of people in desperate search of their class rooms is absent. The grounds are empty, the car park full of teachers and students forms of transportation, and the several lecture room buildings lights are on, glowing through the enclosed curtains. I’m grateful for that. At least the other students and teachers around the university won’t get to see my moment of embarrassment, yet bear in mind that it’s not me who will feel this way, but my lecturers more so.
Slowing down my pace, I am fully aware that I can’t be any later, so there is no immediate last minute rush equipping my feet. Despite my exhausted state, I still have the brain power to remember what class it is I’m late for.
My feet against the tiled floor of the Religious studies hall echo through its hollowed shell, with the last of my known strength I climb the stairs, consciously aware of the buckling knees holding me upright. Reaching the top, I become face to face with the silver plaque against the wooden doors that I notice every day for the past year, I suddenly find it very interesting as I regain my breath:
[Room 3, Philosophy Studies, Lecturer: Doctor Cohen]
I chuckle a little to myself and find that it’s my reflection that has seized my attention. The flush in my cheeks, though understandable, show my desperation. My messy hair tied into a ponytail has several hairs pinging out from different directions.
I never felt such a need to breathe in my life, so I flex my weakened muscles to gain hold of the last of my juices and put them to good use, because I can visualize to looks of anger and frustration from my Philosophy teacher Doctor Cohen’s face, and I’m not too sure if I should shudder at the thought or squeal in delight at his misfortunes.
With one final breath to enjoy, I push open the doors quietly. Even though I take pleasure in my lecturer’s struggles, I still show him respect for interrupting his class, like any decent human, treading with delicate caution...
"Ms Kay Lee Engel, your late."