So my roommate was in a scary situation today. After my first class I had come back to the house and I was sitting at the kitchen table doing some homework when she came in. Almost immediately I could tell something was wrong; she was very quiet as she walked in the door and responded to my greeting as if in shock.
"What's up?" I asked.
She proceeded to tell me about the guy in her class who, during their test, had pulled out two knives, stabbed himself in the gut, and cut his hands. I sat there in shock; stuff like that doesn't happen around here, I thought. Well, that was my initial reaction, but of course stuff like that happens everywhere. It's like saying you're going to win at roulette because you deserve the money. I got up and hugged her, asked her if she was okay, but that was all I could think to do. What do you say? "I'm sorry?" For what? I didn't do anything. I didn't not do anything I could have. But I am sorry.
What's the root of that feeling? Why should I feel guilt for something I have no control over? It seems like a human thing to regret things we have no control over. We feel like we could have—I don't know—wished harder. Prayed harder, if you want to put it that way. But in the end, we have as much control as we started out with: none at all.
I continued to watch her as she gradually decompressed. There were the fragmented statements, said as things came to mind and she filed them away. She didn't cry, but she was close. I asked her again if she was okay, and she said yeah, she was fine. I wouldn't call myself a hypochondriac, but I know more than a lot of people about disease and I'm quite morbid (I also think it has something to do with my non-belief in a "higher power" that'd pull my ass out of the fire), so as I was watching her I looked for signs of PTS. Post-traumatic stress is unavoidable, but it can be a harbinger of terrible things.
Later, as I walked to class, I looked differently at the people I was passing. Any one of them could be carrying a knife or even a sharp pencil. They could have a ball bearing full of ricin for all I know! Scary thing: the guy with the knife probably wasn't planning on maiming himself this morning in his chemistry test. Or maybe he was. In all likelihood I'll never know.
It's worthy of contemplation (ie interesting) how something like this folds ripples into our little ponds. I didn't see him do it, yet it has me pondering things in a new light. That kid that just passed me, the one with his head bowed: was stressed about tonight's math homework? Was he thinking about calling his friends to go out for a beer? Is he going to come to class tomorrow with a Bowie knife and a death wish?
My other roommate, on hearing about the kid with the knives, mentioned this story she'd heard about a kid who was in a test and didn't know anything. So he impaled his hand on his pencil. You know, to get out of the test and maybe take it at another time or something. I know how they feel. I've thought about it.