Intermittent Signals

Elizabeth pulled her hat lower on her head to cover her ears and pressed her gloved hands against her cheeks, but she was no match for the snowstorm outside–her teeth wouldn’t stop chattering and she knew without looking that her face was a much brighter shade of red than usual. Walking as quickly as she could against the wind without slipping on the thin layer of ice covering the streets, she breathed a sigh of relief as the door of her dorm building became visible.

Her backpack hit the floor as soon as she reached her room and her shoes, scarf, and hat were quick to foll0w. She collapsed into bed in a matter of seconds, and curled up in a thick, patterned blanket as she slowly regained warmth in her fingers and toes. It was nice to lay there in silence–her roommate was gone for the weekend visiting family, and she had forgotten how comforting it was to hear only the sound of her own breath in the room after a long day.

She was only able to enjoy the calmness of her surroundings for a moment– her thoughts remained chaotic and noisy. Now the light, pounding sensation in her head that had gone barely noticed all day was fully felt. The heaviness of her eyelids became more apparent. And it only took one attempt to finger through her hair to discover that it was a tangled, disheveled mess. She hadn’t felt this tired in weeks.

After remaining motionless for a few moments, Elizabeth pulled her phone out of the pocket of her jeans and glanced at the screen only to see the two missed calls from her mom that had remained unreturned all week. She knew she should have called her back ages ago–but her own life on campus had been so chaotic and tumultuous that she simply didn’t have time to deal with whatever storm was brewing at home.

It was selfish of her, even presumptuous; Elizabeth had no concrete proof that she wasn’t being told about something. But even without paying close attention, it was clear to her that something was amiss at home. Her mom’s voice on the phone sounded perpetually preoccupied, and she called frequently even though she usually had nothing to say. Her dad–who never calls to get anything but a quick update on how her classes are–had left her a voicemail asking if her mom had mentioned anything important recently. Her home was thousands of miles away, but she felt whatever tension that was looming there as physically present.

She knew she would have to face it sooner or later, but for now it was easier to be selfish–to avoid calls that lasted longer than a couple of minutes until she felt ready to deal with what was to come. Her solution was temporary, but it would have to do for now.

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