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To the Roommate Who Sat Beside Me as We Studied and Saved My Night

To my roommate,

Tonight I performed a ritual I have done countless times. I stood up from my spot in the living room where everyone was studying for their exams, abandoning my half-completed notes. I made my way for the stairs, throwing an “I’ll be back in a minute” over my shoulder. I laughed at myself as I tripped on my way up the stairs and kept smiling as I reached the door to my third-floor attic room.

I closed the door softly behind me and headed straight for my bed. There, removed from everyone, I let my smile and my composure fall away. I couldn’t fight my panic anymore. I was going to fail all of my exams, I was just sure of it. I couldn’t breathe. I was searching desperately for a way out of my own head, believing I would never find it. I spiraled out of control, lost track of everything except the hands tightening around my chest, making breathing a challenge. The thoughts were swirling around my head like fog, and my heart was pounding rapidly, trying to escape my chest. My hands were freezing-cold and numb. I curled into a ball to protect myself from the attack and waited and waited and waited.

Eventually my panic did not subside, but it lessened. It became bearable again. I got up, went to my bathroom mirror and washed my face free of tears. I fixed my makeup to hide any evidence of distress, and I dried my eyes. Then I clenched my fists and made my way back down the stairs, back to the living room, back to my housemates and my incomplete notes.

I tried to put my brain back into study mode. I couldn’t read the words on the page; I could feel tears trying to force their way out. Then I finally looked at you sitting beside me, something I had been avoiding for the past few minutes. I saw it in your eyes as you took in my pink cheeks, my lips pressed together, my tear-filled eyes. I saw the instantaneous understanding in your eyes. You held my gaze for a few seconds and then offered me a small smile and a wink. I smiled, for real this time, and it was quickly followed by giggling. Our housemates looked around at us in confusion, inquiring as to what was going on. Without missing a beat, you offered the rest of the room a shrug and a smile and said, “I just needed to make Hannah laugh.”

Thank you for your understanding. You saved my night.

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