For a moment, we held our foreheads one against the other. It was not a comfortable position but it was the one we somehow needed to hold for a moment. I felt his breathing near me and even his heart pumping blood all over his body. I could see his pores and even smell the chicken and egg sandwich he had eaten for lunch. His eyes were shut but mine were open, looking at him and him only, wondering if that moment was really happening or if I had been transported to another strange dimension.
But it was not one thing or the other. It was just one of those moments in drawing class when the teacher asks two students to come forward and pose for the rest. Of course, we would all be having actual models later in our careers and in college, but for the time being it was best to use ourselves as pieces of art. My partner in the exercise, Alex, was a kid that never spoke too much and that used to carry a huge block all over the place. He would always draw when there was no class to go to.
What I did in those empty spaces of time between classes was to hang out with other students or go to the library and try to pass the time reading magazines or sitting in one of the many computers available for investigation. I would invent something to do for myself and then spend the rest of the afternoon there. I had never been a very social person, which might have made Alex and me really close but we were still two very different people. He was, and always had been an artist. I wasn’t.
My family was made up by my father who was an engineer, my mother who was an architect and a sister that had recently left to pursue her career as a publicist. She would write to my mother almost daily about all the exciting things she was doing for herself and I would have to listen to my mom talk about it over and over again, during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister too but sometimes it was a bit too much of the same damn subject. But then again, there wasn’t another.
My decision to become an artist had been subject of the most passive resistance I had ever witnessed for my parents. Thank God, that had happened only for a month, the time between the first payment and the first actual day of college. And had decided that to be my route in the blink of an eye after coming out of high school. My parents were not only against the decision because of the career being Arts but because I had never really shown an interest in it or, to be fair, an actual talent for anything that someone might consider an art form.
Nevertheless, I assured them I was certain that it was the career I needed to achieve my dreams and goals. So they paid for it. My parents would never be the kind of parents that would say “no” to their children. Not that we were spoiled or anything like that, but they always knew when was the moment to say “yes” and they had to intervene. Apparently, this life choice had to be respected, so I entered my first year with the goal to make it all work and make them see that I was right.
However, my second year had begun and I still had no idea why I was there. To be honest, being weird and not social wasn’t the only reason why people wouldn’t really talk to me. You see, artist love to have other artists to talk about… Well, arts. They don’t really care that much for people with other interests. Just look at any tabloid: most actors or actresses marry other actors or actresses or maybe someone in the business anyway. Yes, they might be exceptions but that seems to be the rule.
And in my second year, it was quite obvious. Some of my fellow classmates, most of them to be honest, had already discovered what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. The first year had been an introduction to the whole things, so after that, it was kind of expected by the teachers that every single person would have an interest that was more of a goal than any of the other things they would learn about. And the cool thing is that they could start choosing classes that suited those interests.
That was the reason why my schedule for the year was all over the place. Contrary to most people, I was having a little bit of everything. I had music and pottery and then photography and drawing and writing. There was even a women studies class that I included solely because it gave me necessary credits to graduate. But I had no idea what people were discussing most of the times, except when the discussions got very heated. Then, I loved to see people fight for their causes, even if they were clearly wrong.
The point is, I had no interests and I wasn’t good at anything. Yeah, my grades were fine. Not excellent or dreadful, just fine. I didn’t excel in anything and I wasn’t a total disaster either. I was one of those students, which always got asked their name, even if I had said it out loud in at least twenty different classrooms. I was sometimes tempted to lie about it but then all these issues and problems came to mind and I just decided either not to raise my hand ever in class or simple say my name always before answering any questions or stating my personal opinion.
The second year drew to a close fast. There were two more years and then we would have to choose what we would do for our finals. We didn’t really have many exams, like in other careers. We had to build a project and then just do it. I think that was the worst part of it all. I had no idea what to do and I started worrying about it the day that second year ended. Those holidays were not really relaxing at all. My back would hurt every single day and the number of nightmares was growing exponentially.
It was so bad, that I decided to go to the shrink that the university had in campus to help students. Of course, he helped people with bigger issues than mine but I went there anyway because I actually thought he could be able to help me. The moment I saw the amount of people waiting for their slot of time, I was baffled at either how many people had so many issued in college or how bad this doctor was at what he did. You’re supposed to not go back if your problems were solved, right? Isn’t that the deal?
I went there for about two weeks and then never came back because I had no idea why I was going at all. I realized the problems I had were becoming worse because that damn shrink wasn’t helping at all. He was actually trying to get to my deepest insecurities and private pains, and that would have been a box that I didn’t need to have open. The weirdest thing was, a month later, when I ran into him in an elevator and he looked at me the whole ride, clearly wanted some sort of an excuse from me.
Surprisingly, I came up with my project’s idea one day, when Alex came into the library and just started talking about what he was going to with his own project. I listened to him for a while and then we had to leave because the librarian thought we were being too loud. He finished telling me his story sitting on a bench near the cafeteria. I remained silent until he asked me for my opinion and I had to be honest with him: I had no opinion because how would I dare to criticize someone who had already thought it all through?
And then it hit me: I was going to be the subject of my own project. I would do something like a collage of various forms of art in which I would always be at the center. My struggle to know who I was would be my theme and the subject would be me.
I had fun making it all, coming up with the ideas and telling all the professors about it. Yeah, they didn’t really get as excited as I was but at least I got a nice grade and Alex became some sort of friend. We even talk nowadays, when he’s not looking up at the ceiling. Oh, and I still don’t know who I am.