blinking / by laurel

Sometimes I feel as though I have just woken up and stepped, yawning and half-lidded, into the forehead-tightening brightness of the sun. In times of transition, the “before” appears as though in a dream, hazy and forgetful, with no trace of history preceding it. It’s like when the phenomenon of being awake—receptive, senses firing, nerve endings buzzing—comes as a shock after an especially deep sleep.

College felt like a dream—no, all of life felt like a dream. Cloudy, covered in a thin film that prevented me from recognizing reality. But now that comfort-cloak is gone, and I find myself sensing everything: I wake up from a dead sleep to the faintest thud of a door closing somewhere, and I am convinced—convinced—that finally the world is ending. I suppose I’d been waiting for the end of the world forever.

I equate post-collegiate reality to the curt, shallow sting of eyedrops invading the warm, squishy balanced ecosystem of an eye. It isn’t a question of whether or not this equation is normal so much as whether or not someone, somewhere has realized this very same thought. It’s a matter of the vulnerable, bashful way we quickly avert our eyes when our soul collides with another soul begging the same questions. Suddenly vulnerability doesn’t seem brave anymore. Now instead it retracts with anemone-quickness, disbelieving that anyone, anywhere could be feeling or thinking the same thing at the same time. Alienation is an ironic companion.

And now I sit, watching the leaf of a table plant quiver to the pulsing rhythm of a DVD humming in the distant, distant living room. For the briefest of nanoseconds, I toss around the possibility that the quivering is really a pithy precursor to the earthquake that will swallow California whole—instead of a houseplant shivering to the music like a hipster hopped up on vodka-and-Redbull. Why the sudden panic?

In post-collegiate life, I am suddenly aware of my own responsibility—and subsequently, my frailty. Fragility. Humanness. The porcelain-ed way I’ve constructed my life, and the quickness with which any little bump could shatter the dream. These days, instead of cruising around donning the armor of invincibility, I busy myself trying to build thicker skin. Perhaps one day I will become calloused like so many other not-quite-young young adults who set out to protect themselves when they woke up one day to that bright, hot sunlight. Perhaps not. Is callousness a negative thing? Or is it simply the wizened, indestructible fortress within which a soul is cowering, still asking those same questions, still looking for answers.

The above was posed as a question, but like so many questions, ended before its completion. A self-refuting inquiry.

Now I am wide awake, blinking into the white-hot brightness of the sun. And I stumble into post-collegiate life, buzzing with the prickly sense of my raw-nerved existence. Is the end of the world truly immanent? Perhaps. But until then, the quivering houseplant isn’t the precursor to impending doom. It is simply colliding with the sonic waves of the DVD player, and so I collide with life, blinking hard, hoping. Hoping.