Aaand done! It only took two and a half hours, but I’m out!
Crab walking out the row of busy students working on their history final, I flag down my T.A., at the front of the lecture hall. My loose bracelets slide down my arm and then back in place with one swift motion.
“I.D.?” he whispers. I pull out my wallet, showing him my sweaty, oily face, taken on a very hot day for freshman orientation. He nods, taking my essays. “Have a good winter break.”
“Thanks, you too,” I whisper back. Several heads rise from desks as I pass by them on my way to freedom. Their red rimmed eyes bleed with envy and exhaustion, bags hanging low underneath.
This class was a doozy.
My phone goes off, alerting me of a message just as I open the door, the sun burning my sight as my eyes adjust the light change.
“Probably the group chat,” I murmur, unlocking my phone.
Cat: Woohoo! Who else is done with finals?
Jim: Been done since yesterday
Andy: Finished an hour ago
Me: Just got out!
Cat: Hell yeah! Let’s go get drinks and celebrate freedom.
Jim: Sooo down
Hmm that does sound fun…
Each step towards my campus apartment feels like a heavy weight is attached to my feet. Pulsing tension build like lego blocks deep in my shoulders from hunching over for two hours. My eyelids are barely staying open.
Then again, maybe not.
Jim: Suarez? U down?
Me: Nah, I’ll pass. Really need some me time.
Cat: Aw okay Melly, see ya later then?
Me: Yeah, tomorrow for breakfast at Jerry’s. 10am sharp
Sliding my phone into the back pocket of my jeans, I continue the walk back to my apartment. Ditching my friends is rare for me. I am always down to go somewhere, talk, or watch movies in someone’s apartment. Today though, a weight has snuggled between my shoulders, making a home there. It’s not just the history final, but stuff going on at home. My little brother’s dog ran away three days ago and no one has seen him. Kaden doesn’t want to go to school and refuses to eat sometimes. He’s only six, and at that age, losing a pet is devastating. On top of that, my dad lost his job is currently unemployed. He worked as a financial analyst at a company and once they put in a new CEO, they started gutting out people.
My mom is a middle school teacher and they make decent pay, but not enough to handle a huge mortgage. I insisted on giving them the money I made from my campus job, but they want me to keep that for myself.
“No mija, we are responsible for you, not the other way around… not yet.”
I know they don’t want me to worry, but I can’t help it. That’s my family.
“Hey Mel!” My roommate says, as I open the door. She’s sitting at the couch, books piled around her, and a blanket over her lap.
“Hey Daisy.” I release my feet from my sneakers, walking on the soft carpet to our room, second door to the right. Our apartment is bland until you see the bedroom. We put curtains around our beds and there are photos and white lights above each bed. The color scheme is turquoise and silver. I have a silver lamp on my bedside table that my brother found at a garage sale. He and my mom spray painted it for the room.
I plop down on my bed, staring at the turquoise fluffy rug in the middle.
I want to take a nap…. Or should I go swimming? Heck yes!
The Santa Monica beach is a pretty place to relax. Sometimes on busy days there are crowds.
It’s four thirty on Wednesday though.
I scramble around the room, gathering my things into a swim bag. It’s just what I need to chill.
The warm sun graces my exposed skin. I set a blanket down, jabbing the umbrella into the sand. My palms grip the stick, tilting it for a better angle.
“There we go.” Several people -mostly college-aged- roam around the area playing frisbee, tanning, or reading. The waves roll onto shore, calling out to me. Sprinkles of sand dig in between my toes, the crusty feeling sending shivers up my legs, as I walk towards the water. The closer I get to the water; the harder sand becomes. Now there’s wet sand sticking to my toes.
Yuck. I hate this part.
My heart thumps hard against my ribs. My belly button disappears underneath the waves rocking me back and forth. I lay on my back, allow it to carry me away. Spreading my arms, my heart rate slows to a steady rhythm. Sounds of chatter and yelling fade, replaced with a calm rush of the ocean.
I’m not sure how long I was floating like that or how far I went, but once my eyes open, something in me feels off.
The sun is hiding behind a big white cloud, a seeping chill invading my body, as I swim back to shore.
This… this is not the Santa Monica Pier.
Part 2 coming next Tuesday.
**Original photo credit goes to Mike Wilson from Unsplash.com