boarding school do-over

I keep trying to go back to boarding school for a do-over– I show up early in a room with five beds and take a top bunk. it’s a big room, and I’m thinking, this is going to be just fine— and then I’m imagining it with all the girls for each bed there and realize just how full it’s going to be.

I’m trying to watch or listen to a really ancient tv or radio that squats in the middle of the room, barely getting npr or pbs, when the roommates begin to show up. one of them starts fiddling with the wires at the back, trying to get something she thinks is better, and it stops receiving altogether.

we go out en masse to our first day’s meal in the dining hall, and, walking there, I’m trying to explain, briefly, what I’m doing there, so much older– but they don’t really care, and I realize I’m making an issue where there was none before. at the same time I feel this strong need to explain myself. it’s a gorgeous bright late summer day as we walk across the campus to the dining hall, and I’m kind of amazed by how pristine it all is and how taken-for-granted.

in the dining hall I’m avoiding any teachers who might know me from before and ask me what I’m doing back. I can see them at their table across the way, talking about adult things. I’m at a table with my roommates, and it’s all going okay until I slip up– twice– and correct somebody’s use of a word– not only being an irritating know-it-all but, what seems to really matter, revealing myself suddenly and undeniably as not belonging– I have too much knowledge, acquired through years and years of school and reading– just what am I doing here? I jump ut and offer to get something for the roommate I’ve just corrected– at first she says, no, it’s okay, I can get it myself— but I insist, take her precise order for coffee, and dash off.

I run into a tangle trying to figure out which cups people use for coffee to-go– I keep picking up different things and finding them inappropriate: wax-soaked or seamed with gaps– finally I see some tupperware cafe au lait bowls and am trying to get two with fitting lids, only I can’t find any clean ones– there are some inside the institutional dishwasher, but I don’t want to wait for its whole cycle to run, so I try to sneak a dirty one under its jets of hot water– only it gets caught up and spun around and momentarily jammed up inside– and I can just imagine breaking the whole thing and drawing all that unwanted attention to myself.

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