The first day anywhere is usually one filled with horrific presumptions for someone like me. There’s the staring and the second-guessing and the need to belong to people who you have just met for the first time. There is the stark awareness that you are in fact, alone, and a running fear that everyone is staring at you wondering, “Are those really the clothes you chose to wear on the first day?” You try to walk like you know where you’re going and then seeing that you’re getting nowhere, sit at a corner where you hope no one will see that you are alone, maybe because in this spot that you’ve chosen, you’re not the only one. There are others around you, trying to tune out their loneliness with earphones and Wi-Fi and memes that they had already seen last night.
So many people… so many people who either do not notice that you exist, or even worse, notice that you do. Your eyes dart back and forth, trying to take in the new environment, a bin there, a broom here, white tiles beneath your feet, people smiling at each other, old faces meeting in new places and you shut it all out. You turn to your bag and remove your laptop just to look like you’re doing something; like you haven’t been swallowed by the magnitude of this new experience. “Hi, my name is Robert. What’s yours?” This brazen stranger has the audacity to ask me to re-wire my scrambled nerves in an attempt to fart out a response to him. He’s in a dull green sweater hiding a white shirt that is held in place by a brown tie. The rest of his body is engulfed in a many-sizes-too-large grey corduroy pants and he walks as if he is rebelling from his clothes; but why is he interrupting my awkwardness?
“Hi, I’m Hillary.” I respond, reaching to shake his hand and hoping to only make contact with the green sweater that covers half his palm with its magnitude. We shake hands, and say nothing else; it’s like he’s doing this to me on purpose. He doesn’t know that I’m dangerous, that I can actually tell him that I know he was dressed by his mother today; let him keep testing my awkwardness and he will find out… swiftly. “Isn’t that a girl’s name?” It has been barely a minute of introduction and he is already testing my wires- what is it with people and my name? Maybe I’m fighting innocent bystanders when this was actually all my mother’s fault. Why would she look at her son, with a prospective penis and with all the love in her eyes call him Hillary? Then justify it with, “Well a boy’s Hillary has a “double L”, but a girl’s has only one “L” see? You’re safe.” Mother mother mother. “Well”, I replied, “A boy’s Hillary has a “double L” while a girl’s has a “single L” so I’m safe.”
“Ooookaay!” he says, trying to stop himself from laughing. Dammit. Why do people do that? They stop themselves from doing the things they mean to do and in the middle of not doing it, they do it a bit and end up screwing it all up. The result? Offence. The way this idiot was trying to offend me here; he should have just laughed so that we get it over and done with. At least that way it seems like I was actually making a joke and not being awkward. “What have you come to study here?” Oh Lord, now I have to start explaining the whole history of why I made the decision to do Medicine and why here and I wonder, is he just making small talk or does he actually want to know? “Well I’m here studying medicine, or at least that’s what I hope I’ll end up doing-“Wait, hol’up, is he really not paying attention to what I’m saying after asking the question? What is this that he’s staring at that has captured him so much that- “Dude, look…”
There were two girls coming up the stairs next to where we were seated. One in a yellow college-jacket and tight black pants and I could see her eyes, only because they were accentuated by black mascara and her lips jumped out from her face in purple lipstick and I was almost certain they could talk without her permission. Pretty, but not worth all the attention she was being given. Oh, wait, I think he meant her friend who was in fitting black pants and a purple top and a black leather jacket. Her hair was all over the place, like mountains of cotton wool plastered neatly on her head and intermittently put in place with different pins; she had aquiline features (whatever those are) and everything on her face seemed like it was exactly where it needed to be. She was actually quite attractive, maybe even beautiful, if anyone ever came up with an acceptable definition for that derogatory word. I couldn’t tell why exactly she was beautiful though, if you were to ask me “What makes that girl beautiful?” my brain would be hard-pressed to come up with an answer; it’s one of those questions like “Why do people like chocolate?”; or “What is an orgasm?”; or “Are you in love?” Those questions that you can feel the answer coming to you (no pun intended) but you really can’t say it to someone else because you know they won’t get it and because the answer is just for you.
She probably knew that she was beautiful, but to who? Maybe she was one of those types that said she knew she was beautiful to and for herself and that was enough; but was that really enough? If it was, Instagram would not be so full of selfies and make-up would really not be a thing. Maybe what made her beautiful was that we were giving her attention; or that her features pleased everyone’s eyes; or that her eyes smiled more than her lips; or that she laughed looking at the sky as if she was sharing the joke with angels; or that her friends were not as beautiful as she was; or maybe I’m just over-thinking the whole thing and it’s probably her phat-ass that was skewing my description of her beauty. Who knew. One thing was for sure though, it was not out of desire that I was looking, or out of wishing she were mine (okay maybe a bit) but out of fear probably. I was scared for her; scared that maybe she thought that her beauty made her worth more than others out of some effort of her own rather than good genes; scared for her friends who must suffer a constant physical and mental juxtaposition; scared for her father that this reckless beauty could indeed be reckless and scared for myself, that she will pass where I am sitting in approximately five seconds without noting my existence, yet I have probably analyzed her entire life. Sigh. The first day and its horrific presumptions.