I was failing my anthropology Ph.D.
My supervisor, Dr. Arnold, would’ve understood, he would’ve secured additional funding and petitioned the department for extra time, but I didn’t explain or ask for help. It’s been nearly a year since I’d sent work, so when we finally met one overcast November afternoon, he suggested that I quit.
“It’s okay Jessie. The thing itself is exceptionally demanding,” he said.
I left full of fury at myself, went to the library, and gathered books deemed useful. Which I lugged to my room and arranged on my desk, but they’d soon found a place on my bed, propping my laptop while I binge Friends.
That Christmas, my brother confronted our father. He talked to mom first, making sure she was “on our side,” that it was time for him to face his demons. That it was time to set us free.
My phone rang two days later, and I pause Friends to answer it. It was Jimmy. The whole thing exploded in his face. Dad’s gone physical on him, and six stitches later he said he loved him, classic. My brother’s stutter became aggressive as he choked the words out of a bruised neck. I listened to his story while staring at a frozen Jennifer Aniston. He talked, lingered in a wasteland of rationalization and self-recrimination. Dad must’ve misunderstood, he said. It’s a miscommunication, maybe his fault. He had done this, and he could repair it.
I told the therapist about it. And about my recent hallucination; a figure in a suit with its face shrouded by white cloth, following me everywhere. “Is it here?” she asked, “yeah,” I smiled at the invisible seriocomic figure standing next to her, “wish my hallucinations were… provocative.”
The dissertation’s deadline was approaching, but all I could think about was my “family”. You know the saying, you always hurt the ones you love, well it goes both ways. I had to confront them, get some closure, or else their voices would drown my sanity.
Driving back to my hometown, the figure appeared every mile like a regulatory road sign. And my heart beats faster each time I pass by it. It waves at me.
And when it appeared in the middle of the road, my car came to a squeaking halt. I stepped out and faced the figure. It’s my height. I asked what it wanted, nothing, it just stood there. Reaching my hand to its face, I slowly removed its white cloth, and beneath it was a face like mine. It’s my short brown hair, my hazel eyes, the freckles across my nose, and… and no mouth. Just smooth skin, like an incomplete painting staring back.
She held my hands, closed her eyes like she’s praying, and when her eyes finally met mine I heard her speak, “fear what may come.” I tried to ask why, but I couldn’t. As her mouth materialized beneath her nose, mine was gone.
submitted by /u/MohSilas