the night before

The night before exams, tonight, I am a bundle of emotions. One moment strangely calm, the next biting my lower lip in worry. My mother sends me an email: "I will be thinking of you tomorrow and know you will do well." My father leaves a voice mail, "It is incredible to see the intellectual work you've been doing. Push yourself. Go beyond what you think you can do. It will be worth it. Oh and I love you." I attend a poetry reading, which makes me nostalgic for the nights my friends and I spent arguing over words, convinced what we were doing meant something, nights that now seem like an illusion. I have dinner with friends. We laugh about people taking things so seriously and some not seriously enough. We share ourselves, stories, jokes. I become the teller of stories. I am on stage, only I don't realize it until much later when alone in the bathroom I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

I think about tomorrow, try hard not to overthink. I re-read my advisor's email from a few weeks ago attempting to soak in her advice, encouragement and kind words. I read interviews with Cixous and a portion where she talks about a photo album stops me. "I was born so far from my beginnings." My breath leaves me suddenly and I think of the narrative I've been working on about my family. And it is this exact feeling to which I return when I think of my childhood. When I think of home.

I write this. I consider flipping through Maya Angelou's cookbook, or re reading a passage from one of the novels I've been reading.

I set my alarm. I think of Scarlet O'Hara and say aloud, "Tomorrow is not just another day. Nor is it the only day." I remind myself to breathe.

And I sleep.