Our bus passes the traffic light like it has so many times before: back and forth, campus to Prambanan to campus. Like so many times before, half the people on the bus stand up, excited to see the waria on the side of the road. Comments are exchanged and, like so many times before, I don’t understand them. I don’t even try to understand.
I glance up from the novel I’m reading on my iPod and—as the bus pulls through the now-green light—I recognize the person on the side of the road.
Four days before, we’d been at a meeting together, talking about how to deal with a murder that had just occurred. Or, rather, other people had been talking and I’d been listening. Later, she’d come over and sat with me for a while and practiced her English.
I slumped down a little further in my seat and didn’t think anything at all.
Actually, no. That’s not accurate. I slumped down in my seat and thought about how I should be thinking something, how I should be feeling something, but how I wasn’t , how I haven’t been for a while. I sat there and tried to figure out what a good Oberlin student would say about this situation and I couldn’t. I felt my life fragmenting, breaking into sharp little pieces.
* * *
I wrote this in my favorite vegan restaurant, in between bites of broccoli and green beans, trying to get enough vitamin C in my system to combat little sleep on bad floors and sharing food with sick friends. As I scrawled the last few words on the page, someone walked into the restaurant, singing. I looked up and I recognized her, not because I’d seen her before on the street, but because I’d gone to meetings with her, talked to her.
And now, suddenly, everything was different and I had no idea what to do.
So I went home and Googled privilege and read about Oberlin’s current issues and remembered conversations with my lab partner while I stared at a rotovap and we blasted bad French pop and I still wasn’t thinking anything at all.