When I approach the doors of his bedroom, I find myself ripping my mind from my body, allowing my muscles to act out of routine instead of will. If I let my head be in control of my body, I’ll hesitate for eternity, not allowing my fist to knock and awaken my father. And despite my wish to stay here and never face what’s about to come, I have to wake him up, because I need him to take me to school, and I can’t be late. I’ve learned from the past three years of these uniform mornings that this one wasn’t going to be good. However, my body moves swiftly and I don’t try to stop it, because even though I want more than anything else to not go through this, I need to be on time.
I hear the echo of my knocks, and the echo of my thoughts along with it. POUND. You need to wake him up at 8:47. POUND. It’s thirty seconds past. If he doesn’t get out of his mattress the first time your routine will be ruined. POUND. He needs to be out of bed in the next twenty seconds or you will be late!
Three consecutive knocks. That should do it.
“WHAT?” I hear him roar at me. I reply in calculated words. “It’s time to take me to school.”
And then comes the dreaded phrase, the one I hoped and dreamed and prayed not to hear. The phrase that dresses in innocence yet sabotages my schedule. Groggily, I hear him yell- “Five more minutes!”
I feel a numb pain in my stomach. “We really don’t have five more minutes,” I say as sweetly as I can, my tone contrasting my panic to try and appeal to him.
“SHUT YOUR MOUTH OR IT WILL BE TEN!”
My thoughts swallow me.
He’s going back to sleep. You’re going to be late.
It’s just five minutes.
You’re going to be late.
LATE LATE LATE!
I want to scream and yell and cry, but I have to be quiet, or nothing will work. I force myself to retreat to the couch, my eyes not leaving the analog clock. Four more minutes, three more minutes, two more minutes, one more minute- he bursts out of the doors angrily, clearly bothered by my persistence.
He’s five minutes late
At least he’s up
He’s five minutes late
But he got up-
HE IS FIVE MINUTES LATE AND YOUR ROUTINE IS RUINED.
No it’s not!
YES IT IS!!!
I face a conflict between the fear of him and my fear of lateness. In his morning attire, I am repulsed by every part of him- the ungroomed hair, the sheer amount of space he took up, the way he sniffles and the way I can hear every single system in his body gurgling. I want nothing more than to be miles away, but also nothing more than to be a car seat closer. My anxiety stomps on my instinct, and I walk towards the door.
“I’m not ready to go yet,” he snaps. He’s pouring a glass of orange juice, he probably wants to drink that first. “Sit down.”
He’s not ready.
My stomach twists, churns, and hardens until I gasp from the chest pain. “Please, can we go?”
“God! I’ll wait even longer if you keep complaining!”
You don’t even have a time frame. You don’t know how long he’s going to wait to take you. Not only are you unable to calculate your schedule, you’re also unable to calculate how far you’re going to stray from it.
Please. It doesn’t matter.
You’re going to be late and your routine is ruined!
You don’t have control over your routine! You don’t have control over anything!
Please stop. Please shut up.
I won’t shut up! You don’t get to have me shut up. That’s why your life sucks. You should go die. You’re better off dead than stuck with me and LATE!
My stomach is throbbing with pain. I feel tears brim at my cheeks. I want to wail but I need to stay under control. Please. Stop.
YOU WILL NEVER BE FREE FROM THIS! I’M GOING TO STAY HERE FOREVER!
I can’t take it anymore. I begin to sob. He looks at me with fury in lieu of sympathy.
“Oh my god. Why are you crying? Shut up! You’re so selfish. We’re not going until you get under control.”
I’m being strangled. My chest is in full on pain, my body not only tormenting me in words but also feeling. It’s like all of my organs have been choreographed into pirouttes until every tube is entangled. It’s like every beat of my heart is a punch. I clutch my stomach and grit my teeth.
YOU’RE LATE! THAT’S IT. ALL YOU WANTED IN YOUR LIFE WAS TO BE ON TIME AND THAT WON’T EVEN WORK OUT. EVERYTHING SUCKS. YOU SHOULD JUST GO DIE. YOUR LIFE IS TERRIBLE AND YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY AS LONG AS YOU KEEP GOING THROUGH THIS. YOU’RE LATE!
He scoffs at me, oblivious to the rave going on in my thoughts. I shriek in agony. It’s not me who controls my vocal chords.
“Oh my god. You know what, just get in the goddamn car.”
I practically run to the vehicle. My legs shake. I don’t care. We arrive at the school seven minutes later. The school lets us in at 9:00, and the first bell rings at 9:30. We arrive at 9:07, and we’re not the first in line.
The truth is, nothing bad would happen if I was five to ten minutes late. I doubt anyone would even notice. Getting at school at 9:00 just means sitting in the courtyard alone for ten minutes, but not actually alone, because with my thoughts I never truly am. It’s honestly more convenient to get there at 9:10, by every single layer of logic. And yet being a few minutes late on the unchangeable schedule that exists only in my head is the worst disaster I could fathom.
I walk into school, than breeze through it. It doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter how great my life gets- with this monster in my mind, I will always be in agony. Ever when it lurks and not attacks. Even if it just dozes, because like my father, the impending doom of it eventually waking up is enough to keep me in constant fear.
I’ll be here. Forever.
You will never get out of this.