2012 v. 2016 in Bon Iver Lyrics

[Someway, baby, it’s part of me, apart from me]

The paint on the library walls still lingers in my nose. My chair is new with a Saarinen flair, and I sit alone at a square table. Hidden in the alcove on the -0.5th floor, I can stare blankly up at students coming in and out of the college gate in the darkness. I am doing this now.

“Hi,” says Q.

“Oh, you’re back,” I say.

He smiles halfway, pointing a long finger at the space between my hands. “Lot of chemistry you’re doing.”

Suddenly made aware of the poetry journal overtaking my chemistry notes, I push it away. The textbook, my notes — the lab report filters through my brain like particles too fine for the sieve my attention has created.

Q sits across from me. “How’s it going?” he asks in a library voice.

I shrug. “Need M’s help, I think. Need to see what he got.”

“Let me see.”

I feel the familiar sensation drag its feet in my gut. “No,” I say, biting my lip. “I don’t get it.”

He takes my notebook anyway, eyebrows creasing his forehead in a way that always makes him look like a confused puppy.

“What don’t you understand? It’s a molar conversion.”

Except he is never confused.

“Look,” he says, launching into explanation. “It’s…one of the simplest conversions you do.” He says the word “grams” a lot, I notice. His hands are very wrinkled for someone his age, I notice, though I have noticed this before, when he holds my hand.

“Okay, but — ” I begin, and I sputter along into the chaos my sentence becomes. “I just don’t see why it’s limiting, okay? How did you know to divide that?”

“I read the problem.”

“So did I!” My breath is quickening; I am jealous of the girls drifting through the gate with their Nike shorts in Connecticut October—bear in mind that I cannot afford Nike shorts and eat cookies and do not go to the gym.

“Look, it’s one step, how can you not see it?”

“I just don’t!”

“Stop being so angry!” he quips, standing up.

“Stop making me feel so stupid!” I hiss, feeling my muscles twitching uncontrollably, throwing Saarinen’s fake chair under the table, the table whose wood has not yet been scratched by 310 years of angry sophomore chemistry books.

“You’re the one who makes yourself feel stupid.” He shakes his head, crosses his arms, and sits back down, opening Classical Mechanics, the highest level of introductory physics at Yale. His problem set writing is tight, thin, perfect.

“Don’t help me anymore,” I snap.

My eyes are blurred, my iPhone 4 a dead weight in my sweatshirt pocket. I could call M, but M lives in Q’s suite. Q thinks M is stupid too. But I forgot — stupidity is my own creation. I quit advanced chemistry in high school, I remember, as the tears release. I realize the college fountain is flowing too. It’s October, though; soon it will dry up, frozen, until the spring. And as Q comes outside, I know what he will say, and I realize I am freezing too.

[And at once I knew I was not magnificent]

[Within our eyes there lies a scission]

I take a walk at 3 PM, because the sun is warm and because I can. I usually complain about the heat — I have thawed for two years now, and I miss the scarves and sweaters that have accumulated in my closet for six years.

My sandaled feet are getting dirty from the street dust. This happens in New York, when I visit now, but I don’t remember it happening in New Haven. I was frozen then.

I am getting a vanilla soy latte with lavender extract because my intern introduced me to them and now I am hooked. I think about how strange those words feel in my mouth, in my brain, as I gaze down the train tracks at the Sunrail lights blinking in the distance. I have an intern now.

I like the quiet of the afternoon by the Church Street Exchange, just like I like the thick, round glasses of the black-haired woman who never flinches at my obnoxious order. There are other startups in the shared workspace where I get my coffee from the antique bronze press. They are full of the kind of men I call “trying-to-be-stylish-developers” that stare at me through the same Warby Parker frames as I pass them by. I wonder who they think I am, dressed in my casual agency clothes and my hair in a topknot I just learned how to make. Waitress? Bartender? Marketing analyst? The latter unlikely, I think. Maybe they design in their spare time, but they don’t look like unicorns to me.

I make my way back upstairs, pleased that someone kept the elevator open for me, pleased that I only had to stop once on the way up to the twentieth floor. My desktop monitors greet me with spreadsheets and an Overwatch background.

“Sup,” says F behind me. “Coffee time?”

“Yep. I had a headache,” I say, smiling. We both know it is a fair-trade excuse.

I put on my headphones. The shared playlist is still playing Elton John. Flakes of black from the peeling earpads drift into my lap. Q gave me these, many winters ago, before the ice hardened the cord, before the sleepless nights, before the MBA, before and after Florida.

The wires are still exposed from where the ice detached the 1/8th inch from the cord. K taped it up for me, but it never stays quite right, and I imagine he will continue to patch it when I see him next. Sometimes I wonder why he bothers with this, and with everything else.

I tab into the next sheet, creating tables. I am telling stories; I am manipulating numbers. I know what to divide.

[It might be over soon (two, do, two)]

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