College days are the times of finding oneself and uncovering new advances to one’s knowledge. It’s also the place for crazy teenagers in or reckless 20-something year olds to create huge complications and party hard. They say teenage years are messy but it's arguable to quote that early adulthood is even messier, especially for those who have started the race late.
People like Mattew Dambe.
The University library was bathed in the amber hues of the sunset. The autumn colored trees silhouetted on the sides of the building, creating an ominous entrance. Even with the bright lights painting them, it didn’t look inviting or friendly. Matthew felt out of place for sure. He was nearly 30 when he started college back up again and his age was evident to everyone around him. Students often mistook him for a professor.
He supposed it didn’t help that he dressed the part--wearing slacks and a button down every day. Mat liked looking presentable even if he was exhausted from his coursework.
On this particular late afternoon, Mat was entering his school’s library. As soon as he entered, the other students darted their judgmental gaze onto him. He didn’t care all that much. I’m too old to pay these kids any mind. He sighed under his breath with a snarky smirk. Mat rarely acknowledged their puzzled looks. Not only was he older, he was also one of the few that was a person of color.
Mat weaved his way through the small hoard of college students and reached the library desk. He was there to pick up the book he reserved online. While waiting he observed two students running the show. He overhears them complaining about another student who usually runs the counter. The older male assumed that they were called in to cover based on their scrunched up expressions and sharp tongues. The person in question remains nameless but Mat grows annoyed at the bickering between the students.
One of the students, named Mary on her tag, starts to babble on about how this nameless student is overly nice all the time and it creeps her out. The male student named which Mat can’t make out because he’s not wearing a name tag, says she’s being overly pompous and that she’s being stupid.
A whole minute has passed before his patience dries thin. Mat clears his throat to regain the attention of the students and Mary glares at him not even subtly before asking what he needs. His patience was already thinner than a pencil stroke so he rolled his eyes while he spoke. “Dambe. I’m here to pick up a textbook.”
Without saying another word, she rose from the chair and stepped to the reserved book section behind the counter. It didn’t take her long to snatch it and aggressively drop it on the counter in front of him.
He already had his ID out to be scanned to minimize any verbiage towards each other. Less than a minute later she handed me the book with a grimace and Mat just took it and walked away.
Wow, what an asshole. I wouldn’t want to work alongside that girl on any day.
Shaking off his bitter interaction, he glances down at his textbook for his psychology course. It’s very worn and he’s surprised that they're still letting the book get checked out.
This book has seen it’s better days, but haven’t we all?
The sun was deepening its way into the crevasse of the horizon when he walked outside. The fall air was chilled and thin. It could almost be like winter already. Mat hastily takes the book to his apartment to evade the cool night.
When he unlocked the door to his apartment he’s greeted with the emptiness of the place. It’s dark and lonely. As much as he despised the eyes on him at the University, he still felt noticed in a positive way. Here, he felt truly isolated. Mat flicked on his lights with a half faked smile.
“This is my life,” he whispered to himself as he walked into his bedroom to his desk.
The older man sighs and picks at his fingers, he’s anxious for no reason besides that. Trying to resolve this feeling, he flipped his textbook open only to find an envelope inside
He hesitated, inspecting it for any indication it was someone’s mail. It was blank. It wasn’t even sealed, only the flap was inserted inside the envelope to make sure the contents didn’t fall out.
Mat felt weird opening it but curiosity peaked him and he couldn’t just not look.
Afterthought though, maybe he shouldn’t have opened the door that was hinged shut.
Hi random stranger,
I know this seems stupid to write and even dumber for me to think someone would give a shit. We’re all struggling college students who don’t have self esteem or self respect. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. God, I’ve made so many and if you’re reading this then thanks I guess. I’m really tired. I’m exhausted. I hate waking up every day and pretending to be someone I’m not. I hate who I am but I can’t stop it.
I can’t make the world stop but I want to. This noise inside my head and the people in my life telling me I’ll do great things, I’m fucking sick of it. I don’t even know why I’m writing this. It’s ironic isn't it? Beautiful poetry. My useless note going into this psych textbook talking about how depressed I am and how much I hate living.
Hey stranger, have you ever felt like the weight is on your chest all the time even when you’re smiling? Even when you’re around people who love you? Do you ever have to pretend to be in love with the wrong person so you can try to desperately feel normal? “Maybe you’ll get married and have babies!” As if I’d want that. This stupid note is getting really long but somehow it feels nice to write this out. I might just throw it away.
Or I’ll just get it all off my chest. Would you mind shouldering it for me? It’s not like you’ll ever figure it out at this university.
I like men and I hate that I can’t say it to anyone else. I wish I could be out and open like so many others at this University but I can’t. I’d lose everything. I’m envious.
I’ll just keep going and pretend that I’m ok and that I’m happy. It’s easier for everyone that way.
Thank you for reading. Happy trails stranger.
That’s some burden you’re carrying kid. He kept thinking how similar his life had been to this mystery man. His parents disowned him for being gay and it took him years to get back to where he was now. It was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with and to think there’s many more like me is just heartbreaking.
Mat decided to keep the note because he felt guilty for throwing away something that clearly took a lot of mental capacity to write down. The letter had thrown him off his focus to start his psychology reading, so he opted to put it off until tomorrow.
The dark skinned man decided to take a nap and sleep off this uneasy feeling inside his chest. It was easy to ignore someone who was suffering if you had no idea, but now the burden was there. He knew there was some poor closeted gay kid living a lie to make everyone but himself happy.
I need some rest. He thought before crashing on his queen sized bed.