Reality Meets Fall Break

8 mins read
Tree in front of Parrish

Act 1: Back to the Start

[The pathways through Swarthmore College’s lush grounds empty out with the sound of luggage wheels all combining in a cacophony of oscillating friction against the unrefined stone. The dark moon says its prayers for a relaxing Fall Break above the emptying land. Amongst all the shady auras of farewell and dark windows, one dim light on the fourth floor of Parrish contrasts against the jet black night.] 

(Don, wrapped in a cloak of black and white blankets, noticeably worried while furiously typing on his laptop. The bed creaks with every stamp of the space bar, a frequent refrain in the chorus of perpetual typing.)

Don: “I’m staying here while most people are dipping, tired of how far they have to walk to fulfill their dietary and sleeping functions. I understand that. Anyways, should I get ahead on homework or determine how best to indulge in my time-honored skill of avoiding hard work?”

(His mind becomes the world; the shadows become outlines morphing into human figures all around the room. Perhaps unconsciously, one becomes solid enough for him to be able to groan, “Sue, not you, ugh.”)

Sue Sylvester: “Best excuse in the book, I use it all the time. Don, let me break it down for you. Although I am reasonably confident that you will no doubt add making excuses to the long list of things you’re no good at next to work experience, public speaking, and let’s face it, direct message networking on Linkedin, there’s a point zero one chance that you can avoid your absolutely shameless resume topper by doing your readings a bit per day this week rather than Sunday and Monday at midnight.”

(A grimace forms on Don’s face, and his jet black laptop’s screen dims seemingly on its own accord. He closes his laptop and puts it on top of his adjacent cabinet. Don subsequently drops down on his back in bed, while Sue is giving him the stink eye throughout. 

Don: “I must agree with the way you see it, as much as I’d rather not comment on a word of the self-deprecating advice you’ve given me.” (Sue is not letting her absolute domination of the room go unnoticed with a sunburn-inducing glare straight at Don.) “Okay, Sue? You’re ruining my self-pitying state of mind … Good point, Sue! Now that I think about it, your passive-aggressive stare is completely silent, the same silence I’m going to be hearing wherever I go, from the bathroom to the Parrish Parlors. Oh, the sheer beauty of living in the wild!”

Sue: “As deliciously selfish as you’re sounding right now, not unlike a young Sue Sylvester, I’ll remind you that sleeping early is vital to … PUT THAT PHONE DOWN!! I’m beginning to think that the reason you’re so adept at excusing yourself from doing work is because all this post-lights out screen time is getting in the way of you actually giving your only two, already oven-roasted eyes a rest.”

Don: (He sighs into the darkness. His face is not visible, with a new moon ensuring no light comes in through the window) “That’s probably why. I don’t even derive joy from doing this, but it’s like I enjoy punishing myself. I always look through other people’s happy lives in the pitch-dark of the cube known as my room. I’ve set limits for myself on this meaningless browsing, but it always comes back to how I’m never happy with my own life. What accomplishments do I have to achieve to be satisfied with where I am in life, finally feeling like I’m winning for longer than one fleeting moment over the pit of self-doubt that my life will end up meaning nothing?”

Sue: “Oh, I didn’t expect all this at all. At any rate, and I’m genuinely sorry to say this, but there’s nothing I can do. Sue Sylvester herself deals with these same musings and overall clouds of hopelessness as well sometimes. All I can say is that you should let yourself accept more credit for your efforts to be good at something. I can’t promise you will never feel empty again once you do it, but ironically, the fact that I’m here means that you still believe you can make those absurd dreams flowing around in that mess of a noggin into accomplishments that you can finally be proud of yourself for. I wouldn’t even be surprised if I come back in a week and you’re looping that god-awful rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’  by those professionally backward glee clubbers, annoying the crap out of your entire floor.”

Don: (His face is still invisible, but the bed creaks as he shifts more comfortably into the night sky beneath consciousness and unconsciousness.) “Oh, Sue, you’re bringing me to total self-tearstruction. I keep forgetting that you have that side of you, no matter how many times I’ve heard your lines. Seriously, let me give you a hug although you’re not physically there. Hey, don’t glare at me like that; this is just like the time you decided to marry yourself, which I can sorta understand now is a clever allegory for self-love. Also, I think we should hang out more often *yawn* and even…”

Sue: “Okay, I’ve had enough. Good luck with your troubles, and I’ll make it a habit not to be your personal journal (which you’re obviously too lazy to realistically keep track of writing everyday) because this has been a colossal waste of my time.”

(Sue stands there for a bit, expecting a response. When she gets none, she makes her leave in classic Sue Sylvester fashion, ranting about how people always somehow find a way into the soft spot she keeps locked up inside against her aggressive outside demeanor. Still, she unexpectedly enjoyed this particular fool tonight and even sports the beginning of a smile as she dissipates into the mind of the guy too beat to stay up past midnight.)

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