Dead week of spring term finds me on the third floor of the library, sitting on a toilet at 1 AM on the brink of Friday, silently cursing the person three stalls from me and myself for eating that mac n’ cheese.
An hour earlier, I strayed across the lawn under the orange-lit watchtower, a crescent moon, and the big dipper, to reach the hippy vegetarian café across the street from campus twenty minutes to close, passing its crowd of tangly-haired night tokers crooning to guitar outside. Disoriented from six hours at a desk, I spent five minutes selecting a hot beverage and settled on gunpowder green tea that fired a cannon into my cranium when I saw the specials board: $3.00 iced lemonade. Double fisting hot and cold, I passed the security guards in the lobby with those cups in hand for the first of four times that night.
The fact, for anyone unfamiliar with academic Olympics, is that a person’s body or mind or body and mind shuts down during “dead week,” the last week of university classes before a week of finals: examinations of how well students spend one or two hours chained to desks scratching or frantically tapping pencils across pages. I lost my mind for a spell earlier in the week—realized Tuesday afternoon that I worked in the wrong residence hall Sunday night, needlessly subjecting myself to two hours of the Bachelorette.
I thought I was making it through the week fine, just a casual panther pacing in my part of the library, padding through hours and pages of a term paper, but here I am perched on a toilet lamenting there is another person here when I have to shit. I consider how in developed countries, we are either privileged to know privacy or are sorry bastards to feel shame for our bodily functions, but that insight does not help me. My bathroom mate doesn’t get to hear my gas because it won’t happen. With the silent lamb in her own stall, probably anxious or also cursing, “flush the damn toilet already and leave me in peace”, I shake my head, knowing I should have visited the sixth floor again.
While I dejectedly blot my urethra with TP, I realize the string dangling from my body leads to a swollen tampon that is overdue for release. Toxic shock syndrome wasn’t on my schedule but I’ve gone longer and this cotton’s organic.
Dead week is whispering, “Operation: Tampon Extraction” to your friend then darting away at 2 AM in the library.
Dead week is exiting the library long after you are the last person on the floor.
Dead week is air erupting into bird songs and flight patterns when you pass the security guards for the last time and step outside at 4:30 to dawn painting itself viridian.
Dead week is my climbing into bed at 5 AM not knowing I will stir at 6:30, ignoring an uncomfortable bladder until jolted by charley horses in both calves. At 8:10, I pull myself out of somnolence to register the sporadic beep of my phone: a housemate enquiring about this month’s rent that hasn’t been seen from me. I blink and strain brain cells figuring out what month and day I am in and what check I wrote recently. Eyes glazed, I wander downstairs in boxers and a mesh running shirt, smelling of last night’s acrid session. My stomach still rumbles from that mac n’ cheese.
This ends Wednesday.