It was Thursday, and the week was a blur.  I barely remembered going to class, but now it was dinner in the cafeteria.  My friend Angelina was talking to me about our professor’s lecture like I had been there.  I shook my head, trying to clear the fog.

            I walked over to the pizza corner, trying to decide on toppings.  I blanked; did I want plain cheese, pepperoni, or deluxe with mushrooms and peppers?

            Angelina touched my shoulder and I almost screamed I was so startled.  Usually I knew whenever someone was close.  My friends often called me ‘bubble-boy’ because I’m so sensitive about personal space.  Only a select number of people were ever able to hug me. 

Angelina stared at me with eyes wide with concern.

            “Ethan, I called your name three times.  Didn’t you hear me?”

            I shook my head.  “I guess I’m just tired.”

            “I’ll say.  You’re never here.”

            I grimaced.  And wondered where I really was.



I could hardly stand by Saturday morning.  My uncle pulled up to my parents’ farmhouse, but turned to me before I exited the truck.

            “Are you doing okay?” He asked.

            “I’m fine.”

            “I don’t think so.  You haven’t been to church.” He noted.

            Despite working the late shift, my uncle never missed church.  He was a deeply faithful man.  He believed in hard work, and honesty.  He spoke little, but was always there when needed.  My lack of attendance at church automatically concerned him.  I took it as a sign of respect for my ability to solve my own problems that he had waited almost three months before mentioning it.

            “I’m just tired.”  I told him.

            He looked at me.  It was a look that said he trusted me, and that he knew I’d figure out whatever was bothering me.  Because it was a look that also said that he knew I wasn’t telling him everything.

            “You’ll go when you’re ready.”  He said finally.

            I nodded and got out of the truck, wishing I had his faith.


By the time I got back to school, Evan had bad news.

            “There’s a strike, starting tomorrow!”

            “What?” I asked, incredulous.  He had come to my room at the time I always got back.  I was just taking off my jacket when he burst in.

            “The teaching assistants are picketing tomorrow.”  He said.  “They’ve been talking about the contracts being up all semester.  Part-time teachers, too.  Haven’t you been paying attention?”

            I shrugged, groggy from lack of sleep.

            “Most of the profs won’t cross the picket line.  Some will hold classes off campus, but our whole semester might be at risk!”

            I stared at the floor in silence, holding very still.  My fists clenched, and so did my jaw.  My chest felt like it was being squeezed.

            “Ethan?  Are you okay?”

            I snapped out of it and looked at him with the same flat effect I seemed to show everyone lately. 

            “I’m fine.” I said.  I just worked all summer and all semester for nothing, is what I thought.  Just been isolated from friends and family for no good reason. 

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