cw: slight strong language
My heart is roasting on a spit, but in your defense, you weren't there to see it.
I wish I was dead.
Your computer shut down in the middle of the sociology essay; 3000 words on some ideology that juddered our wallets out of every penny that was there. It was a kernel panic, the face of the MacBook screen glaring a simple, "Your computer restarted because of a problem. Press a key or wait a few seconds to continue starting up." The child-like frustration and tears that streamed down your cheeks when you realized it wouldn't save. I was bringing you a breakfast muffin and tea when I saw you bawling your eyes out, forehead pressed against the bedframe. A quick suppression for a future unsolicited laugh and I paced towards you.
"For jackshit." Gazing briefly for the morality in the computer, if it had any, you slammed the computer shut and wordlessly took the failure, pouring a cup of earl grey tea that seemed to scorch your tongue thoroughly. I wouldn't dare suggest you 'take it easy,' because it wouldn't mean anything. Somehow flooding over my fingers in a stinging passion as you tossed the cup back into the sink. I could feel your anger, trickling through my sleeve.
You didn't care anymore. It could incinerate your fucking throat, but you'd remain stoic. At least partially.
You would not risk asking the college professor if you could have an extension. You knew he was going to shout, sticking a bony finger, "This assignment was out for a month! How could you not fix it in that time?" I could imagine it, standing and seeing how you wanted to stick your index as far as up to his retina. I was only a bystander, and this was your world.
The paroxysm of agitation intensified into your eyes so much, I would gaze up at you as you contemplated back down at your laptop, your furtive feet pacing back and forth in your room, weighing the pros and cons if you were to throw the MacBook through the window. You had no target from there, yet you'd still miss. I watched you step and weep, step and weep until you realized I was there in the doorway. You swerved your head and stared at me, alarmed, like a toddler getting caught in something they weren't supposed to be doing.
Tears clean glasses surprisingly well.
Late fall to earlier winter had not much effect on California, not really. San Francisco kept its temperate to slight crispness, with brief but multiple intervals of rainfall. The shop owners and vendors from shorts and t-shirts morphed into those with loosely fitting sports jackets and full-length trousers. You went there once, once to order a coffee that was so overpriced that we needed to add that one to the list of stuff that was poorly chosen - right next to crème brûlée from that restaurant and college.
"It's for the hell of it. Plus the coffee doesn't taste half bad," you'd say, comedic intent laced within your tone. I knew you were fed up with it, but I said nothing to your justification, sampling my lukewarm coffee modestly.
Your parents would call me. Not you, as they automatically assumed you were off with some study trio, sitting at a lecture hall, or cowering back into your bedroom, mind bulging with ideas that just seemed to slip away.
"How are you, Jamie?"
"I'm doing fine," I mumbled, a half-hearted response drifting from my lips, "You?" The slight static ruptured my ear by how close it was. I didn't like the ritual of speaking to the parents of my mate every Tuesday; two people of different generations, one most likely hungover, grappling with the operation of laborious prating.
I brought it up once. You said the same about my parents as I opened up about my experience with yours, in a passive-aggressive excuse to prove a point. It was rude to even start a discussion with such, but I hated the silence that hung in the air as you studied that evening, head mounting over the textbook at the console table. The television was at the lowest volume possible for one to concentrate, for another to hardly grasp. You kept glaring at me frequently, trying to execute the gesture of, "Shut it off or mute it." But I ignored you.
I didn't even like what was on but I convinced myself that I was occupied with something that I could scarcely comprehend.
You turned your head back towards whatever you were reading. Brows furrowed, knuckles turning white from how much you gripped the edge of the table. Grounding yourself in an attempt to gain composure, just in case you'd start to cry again. Over the fact that you didn't understand whatever shit was listed in these pages.
That was all you ever did. Study. Study. Fucking study. I had great grades, I maintained them; so did you. But it was never enough.
In all honesty, I didn't have any confidence in you. You'd fail, and I wanted you to. Just to prove my own point. I want to see you look back on your past successes and realize it means not a damn thing. A bitter nostalgia fits for a pungent tasting pill just as well as a pleasurable one.
Assuming you'd even make it, just look as you fall back once more. It would tear you apart, which I couldn't piece together why, but you'd keep going, shadows of tears from past failures marking lines across your face. You'd keep it up, try the same "technique" over and over to no avail, but you wouldn't realize it. You lose, but you'll reiterate and drop down without any idea that what you keep doing will get you the same result. This was the methodical game of student burnout. Each nerve in the brain vibrates at the speed it goes and links together this pathetic hope, "I can do it."
You aim at nothing practical. And even if you did aim at something, you'll miss it and I wouldn't care because I'll be too busy watching my television at the max volume, eating my own breakfast muffins, and overlooking calls from your dense family.
It's selfish, but at least I know that you'll be fine on your own. Seeping through the cracks in the streets of San Francisco.