When I rummaged through the fridge for my first meal yesterday afternoon, the last of the chipotle chicken chowder, I found something more than lunch. This final bowl was a treasure map that has led me to something I long forgot and long neglected to use.

Unbeknownst to me, there were, and still are, eggs in my fridge. The carton has been a tenant since September of last year. Its four residents are well past their expiration date of October 2011. There they sit, denying that they are nothing more than myth, asserting their existence in their feeble Styrofoam package.

I dislike eggs. They taste like wasted potential. The only reason they are on the shelf at all is because I bought a half-dozen to bake something, then simply forgot about the remaining four. If I had not inured them once again before taking out the trash, if they had not hidden like mischievous children in a small corner where I can’t find them, they would have gone out with the rest of the rubbish because I have no use for them. They are perfectly camouflaged in their white carton; they match the interior of the fridge perfectly and escape notice every time.

I opened the carton this morning and stared at them. Their blank shells charm me, smooth jazz that is undoubtedly rancid at its core.

I have done nothing but onlines since the third week in January. The only things I have to interact with are my Grooveshark playlist,the paper in question, the cup of coffee I bought in a desperate attempt to keep myself conscious, and a stray orange candy amidst a less desirable sea of peppermints. Aside from that, I captain the front desk, telling visitors where to sign in, what information to include… and I also get the occasional interruption to answer an APA or grammar question.

Quintessential Onlines

My companions in labor. Long may they serve me!

On Wednesday, I worked with a human being face-to-face for the first time in about four weeks, excluding my regular appointments on Tuesdays. He had a glazed look as if the concept of “Writing Center” were too much for him to handle. There at his instructor’s bequest and with a paper that I have seen in the hands of other students countless times in the past, I completed the session without diverging from my task or his requests. Neither of us acted conscious of the other consultant’s eyes while she observed the session, but I was conscious of her gaze and the scratching of her pencil, drowned out by the dialogue of other sessions.

After the session ended, the consultant and I withdrew into the director’s office, empty and dimly lit by the light filtering in through the window. It’s almost like I’m in a consulting session, sitting in the student’s seat with my adrenaline thudding in my ears and my hands shaking… a year and a half ago, this would be me, but this time, I was calm and ready to face the heat.

“Well, overall, I think you did a really good job,” she explained to me. “You seemed like you were really positive, and I liked how you tied everything back to what the student asked for at the end.”

“To be honest, that’s why I wrote it down. I lose this information sometimes when I’m working, so I need to keep it where I can see it.”

“Yeah, that’s a really good idea. In fact, I think I’m going to have to start doing that.”

As she departed and left be alone with my observation form, a neat collection of words  legible enough to be deciphered lined up straight like gray rows of eggs,I prepare myself to return to the computer.

I couldn’t tell her that I had forgotten how gratifying it was to work with a student face-to-face, how amazing it was to see not an inert computer screen but a face that goes from anxious to easy in one fraction of the time it took for me to do the same when I first came to the Writing Center.

It took me six weeks to acclimate to work I had already been doing as an undergraduate, and during that time, I was trained to complete onlines.

Sometimes, when students walk in for their appointments and I turn away from the screen, their faces look foreign. Only then do I realize I have forgotten and been forgotten. I am imprisoned by eggshell white pages that exist somewhere beyond touch. I feel the keys beneath my fingers, too smooth to be natural.

They tap out a waltz worthy of working by, and the hours pass by on a conveyer belt of text. My text in the comment boxes shaded with Easter egg pastels. The writer’s text on the screen, immaculate if not for the clarity and APA issues.

I try to see gratitude situated between the lines. All I can see is the phantom i-beam, whose metronome flash reminds me to keep moving.

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