I’m sitting at a round table in a shuttered office. The door is closed; The Professors sit on either side of me, fingers folded, bolstering my upright shoulders. They wait in a comically tense way, like you would imagine black-clad, muscled bouncers to do—one eye on me, the other eye on the small, settled woman facing us, ready for action. Their twin perched bodies exude a detectable, apprehensive scent—the scent of the future.
The room is too small for us. Rather, the room is too small for The Professors. Their lanky, extended legs reach out and knock the bookcase, which is yards in front of them. Their extra-broad shoulders crowd out my peripheral vision and clamp my head in a face-forward position. If I could turn my head and tilt it upward slightly, I would see their heads, like hoisted boulders, jammed against the ceiling. I could have sworn they weren’t this big yesterday.
“So.” Our attention is swiftly brought back to the small woman. She holds a small black machine, which makes small noises. Her icicle eyes look past us as she concentrates. The Professors shift; the room creaks.
“What do you see yourself doing after college?”
My cheeks are pushed together at this point, smashed together by the great masses that flank me; two fleshy, expectant walls. They breathe audibly. I can hear their hearts drumming in their massive, expanding chests. A chair breaks, but The Professors aren’t sitting anymore. The only thing I can see now is a small, unseeing pair of eyes and a small black machine, no farther away than before.
“Definitely graduate school,” I burble. The squeezing, crowding bulk immediately dissipates with a whoosh, like a quickly deflating balloon. I sit there in the strange, bright place, unsure whether the emptiness I suddenly feel is anything more than a dream.
“Good answer,” says Ms. Ross, sitting across the table. “Do you two have any more questions?”
“No. Anna’s doing a fine job figuring out things on her own,” replies my mom, smiling. She glances across me, locking eyes briefly with my dad. My head pulses slightly; I think I feel a bruise forming.
There is no end to it.