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After our philosophy lecture, I waited for Professor Swope at the back window. He answered student questions one at a time, while I pressed oily fingerprints on the window’s condensation. Placing the back of my hand on my cheek, I could feel my heartbeat pulse quicker. Outside, a breeze lifted cotton scarves around girls’ necks like they were controlled by marionette strings, and the wind shook free a handful of leaves. I watched in envy as the leaves escaped the cement campus walls to flit about through open fields — wild and free.

Escaping my heavy pea coat, I let the fresh air wash over my chest, red and blotchy from a pounding heart. The triggers were everywhere. Thoughts dashed through my head like arrows. Jumbled words, darting eyes, the room temperature rising, breezy courtyards looking farther and farther away. Mental gymnastics are exhausting. Always on. Always hyper-aware. Eyes searching for the nearest exit, for an end seat, for a drinking fountain. Sometimes my water bottle was already full, but I still had to dart from the dinner table and pretend to fill it up when I felt a feverish flush coming on.

Bailey Gillespie

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