“I don’t know what it was. I stepped off of the train and looked over the railing on the side of the platform. People poured out of the stairs below me and into the lobby, but something about it didn’t make sense to me.”
The girls sat under a large sycamore tree, one of several on the campus but the largest by far. It’s branches reached out over the grass to the North like a bonsai tree carefully groomed. The shade it casted did little to cool the summer heat.
The girl adjusted her posture, folding her legs beneath her and repositioning her dress. She wore bright yellow, with small polka dots. You had to get close to see the dots were really flowers. Her brown hair was pinned out of her face. Her eyebrow curled upward at the edge, as graceful as a dancer. She took a sip of water.
“Easy for you to say, Ms. Trust Fund. Some of us have rent, you kn—”
The other girl, wearing dark jeans and a navy top, shook her head. “No, Ash, it’s not like that. Can you be serious with me, for once? This really freaked me out. It wasn’t about people going to work… It was like there was a disconnect in the actual image. Signal loss somewhere along the line.”
Ash took a deep drag of the cigarette in her hand. Alice hand’t even noticed her light it. That worried her more. Ash blew the smoke from her nose in a quick huff and looked up at the tree. The branches swayed slow in the breeze, and the golden Summer sun filtered down on her face. She felt the light hit her nose, and closed her eyes as it enveloped her. She looked back to Alice.
“I know what you mean. I’ve been getting it too. I’ve had it my whole life, but it’s been worse recently.”
“What is it?” Alice caught herself cocking her head to the side and kept it stationary.
“It’s the light-headedness you get when you stand too soon. It’s the weight of your atoms that you feel pulling you to one side in a moving car. It’s the dizzy feeling you get at your desk. It’s your vision when your brain can’t quite parse the perspective given.”
“Cut to the chase, Ashley. What the hell is going on.”
“Heidegger has a concept, that of the Dasein: a ‘Being in the world’. Someone who is aware of the experience of their own existence.”
“I thought you’d have answers! Everyone is aware of existence.”
“Are they?,” Ash squinted at Alice as she took another drag. She pointed at her with two fingers on her left hand, the cigarette still smoldering in their grasp. “Everything we do, everything we think is to hide this essential fact. To cover the anxiety inherent in being alive, in racing towards death. It’s all the mindless chatter on the street, the obsession with your cellphone. Some people are more aware of it than others?”
“But why us? What changed?”
“Don’t you remember? You were driving.” Ash threw her cigarette butt in the grass.
Alice put her hand on her stomach, feeling sick from something. She felt the sun on the back of her head and thought it might burst. The scar on her abdomen throbbed, and she prayed to forget.
Want to read an excerpt from Heidegger that inspired this text? Click here for the PDF.