The next morning, Marci wakes up while it’s still dark out to the sound of Rascal scratching at her dorm door; she unlocks it, opens the entranceway enough for him to enter and she immediately lets the latch lock as it normally does without impediment.
“Oh Rascal,” Marci begins as she sniffs. “I had the worst night last night; I cried myself to sleep.”
She turns on her computer and sees the time: 4:23 am. As she waits for the processor to boot up she looks Rascal in the eye. “Guess you have new video to upload, huh?”
Rascal is wagging his tail because he’s so happy; has he got something to show her.
“If I can stand to watch it,” she comments once her program is ready for connection.
Caught between two impossibilities—to watch or not to watch—Marci instead thinks back to an assignment she had for school in the tenth grade. It was a Holocaust class, being taught by a bored, going-by-the-numbers teacher to a classroom full of blasé teenagers who were taking the requirement only because it was mandatory for a high school diploma. The task was to write an essay on the following prompt: Anne Frank wrote in her diary that she thought that people were basically good, despite all that she and her family had gone through. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
And Marci had had so much trouble even formulating a response that she went to her parents and presented her dilemma. Her father had said, “Suppose by some twist of fate Anne had survived the Nazis and made it to New York City after the war. And further conjecture she had been targeted, for whatever reason, by a serial killer in that large city. If that person made it his or her business to kill Anne, no matter what, she would have been just as dead as if the big impersonal killing machine that the Final Solution contrived had done the same job.” And her mother chimed in with, “So the tragedy wasn’t that she died so young; the miracle was that she ever lived at all.”
So Marci wrote it up and got her A+, which was all she was concerned about at the time, but she never really thought about the implications of what her mother had said until just now. She realizes with a start that her grief is beside the point; a broken heart would heal, however long it took. She could either learn from this experience or it would mark her for the rest of her life. She’s known plenty of women who hated men with a passion; now she knows why.
Is that what I want to turn into? Marci asks herself, not rhetorically. No, it isn’t, she thinks as she shuts down her computer. “No upload for now, Rascal,” she instructs her pet. “Go to sleep for a while, under my bed, while I get ready for class.”
So she heads to the bathroom for a shower, hoping to avoid her roommate altogether. It’s so early there is very little activity in the dorm besides her. When she does quietly close the door to the common area behind her, all her books and school supplies that she’ll need for the entire day with her, the sun is just now coming up over the horizon. She breathes a sigh of relief; no Julie, thank goodness.
When she gets to the library, where she’s hanging until her first class at 8 am, she tries to imagine what Rascal was so eager to show her; she attempts to gauge how she will feel if she actually watches what she supposes transpired last night. The tears well up in her eyes simply remembering how devastated she had felt when Paul disengaged from her—how casually his attention had turned from her to her roommate as he breathed out her name with such vehemence and determination, “Julie.”
I can’t watch it, she decides as she wipes away her tears with her fingers and pulls out her assignments that are due today, to give them one last review before turning them in. After that, she opens a textbook, to read something, anything, that will take her mind off how awful she feels.
Instead of thinking about Paul, she ponders Marty in antithesis. She remembers what Julie had told her about him; she isolates the small details and attempts to extrapolate how things might have gone if they had paired up differently. Should she try to turn the tables on her roommate and seduce her boyfriend? What would that make her—an even bigger wench than she currently sizes up Julie as?
Or if she hadn’t gotten involved with either one—would she now be a desperate, lonely first-year college girl with no boyfriend and no social life because she was so caught up in her studies? Next she considers last night—how much she had been anticipating spending time with Paul. How would she have entertained herself without him the previous evening? She glances around the library; there are plenty of plain young women she sees that could very well fit that description, now that she’s been unceremoniously dumped.
Crimes of omission and crimes of commission—she decides as she returns to her textbook, letting herself off the hook for at least the time being. Or in terms of literature—better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. She recalls the first time she read that, again in high school, and how trite that had seemed. Now however was a different story.
But had she really loved Paul? Had she even gotten to know him? Was she even infatuated with him? Or was she confusing sex with love? Or simply relieved at not being a virgin anymore?
Too much to think about this early in the morning, she decides. Maybe if she can just get through her day; put one foot in front of another. Go to class prepared, raise her hand when the instructor asks a question and she thinks she knows the answer and say hello to everyone—except Paul, Marty and Julie. Those three she doesn’t feel as if she can face yet.
Marci stands and walks toward the water fountain; there’s a Japanese girl there in a hurry, anxiously cupping her hands under the water and washing her armpits. She watches the other girl in perplexity until it finally dawns on her what the latter is doing—the other student woke up late too late to take a proper shower and is attempting to make herself even moderately presentable. Marci casually checks the time to see that it is four minutes before seven; she knows many classes begin at that forbidding hour. Well, she relaxes as she contrasts herself and her own morning routine and continues, at least Rascal got me up early enough so that I didn’t have to rush.