Catching my breath

Last night as I was reading in my department building I heard a woman crying.  Not loudly, but the waves of unhappiness easily made their way down the hall.

Imagine my sense of relief when I realized that the crying was that of a woman in a movie and not a real, live, suffering person in my hall.

I like to hide out in library cafes and comfortably-chaired nooks around campus to do work when waiting to meet up with Sydney.  I’ll admit I’ve gotten soft: those hard-backed study chairs are just not for me for the next few months.  But in the course of my holing up I’ve caught snatches of conversations of all sorts.  Some are quite entertaining.  Some are amusing for me because they’re between two professors in my department, only one of whom realizes he and the other guy are talking shop in front of a department grad student.

Some, however, give off waves of unhappiness or bitterness.  With the campus a sea of young people, there’s a lot of drama.  And I can’t help being pulled away from my book.  It’s not that I can’t read without distraction; it’s that I can’t or won’t turn off the part of my brain that insists on paying attention to see when and where I might try to jump in and protect or comfort.

So I catch my breath when I hear a slightly hysterical outburst that does, eventually, settle into gigles rather than sobs.  Or I wait for the strain to go out of a guy’s mumbled sentences to his friend or girlfriend.

But often, because such incidences are so frequent and so troublesome, I work at home.


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