And then the panic set it.
"Please don't tell me I..." I reached into my bag and grabbed out my notebook. I funbeled through the unorganized mess of handouts and papers creating a snow storm of white paper on my desk and eventually pulled out my syllabus. I read the day's assignments:
10/26 Teaching Strategies
"Remedial Writing Courses" Rose (SacCT)
"Writing and Reading as Collaborative Social Acts" Bruffee (SacCT)
Teaching Developmental Writing - Chapter 4
"Chapter 4? No. No, no, no... I read chapter 14!" My inner voice was now shrieking with such terror you'd think Norman Bates was plunging a knife into it. The class had read chapter 13 last week and in my exhaustion I misread the syllabus.
Then, like a bomb went off in my head, I realized what this meant. "I wrote my paper on the wrong chapter."
My body shuddered. The first domino in a long line had been flicked over and now my emotional and mental barrier began to reel apart. Tears welled and my I felt myself hyperventilating. I immediately crammed it all back down into the pit of my stomach making it feel dull and shocked like it had been sucker punched with a brass knuckled fist. I was going to have to try and hold back a total breakdown right then in the middle of class in front of nineteen of my peers for the next 75 minutes while simultaneously acting like a coherent human being making salient observations about the two correct readings I did finish.
I felt hollow, like a porcelain doll containing an maelstrom whose turbulent winds would at any second crack and shatter me. I noticed through my blurry vision that everyone began to move into small groups. I lifted my desk and did the same, my physical body and mind in some ambulatory fugue state. Moving without awareness, my body was powered by a sense of utter defeat.
"Are you okay?" asked my classmate, Manpreet. She was one of the people in my class who I admired; charming and intelligent, one of those naturally effervescent people who always seems to have the right words. Yet at the moment these were not the words I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear the words "chapter 14". "Are you okay?" simply pointed out a hole in the emotional brick wall I was trying to lay.
"No." I breathed. At that instant my porcelain shield cracked. "No. I'm not. I wrote on the wrong chapter. I wrote on chapter 14, and not chapter 4. I've already cut way back on all my side jobs and other sources of income and from that have willingly taken a pay cut just to try and keep up with class this semester and after that I still make a giant mess of things?! I don't do that kind of thing. I never make mistakes like these. I can't." My breathing became erratic and my voice pitched high with panic.
"It's okay. Don't freak. Someone else did the same thing last week," her eyes caught me like a snake charmer's pipe.
"Wha... what? Really?" I stuttered.
"Yes. Just talk to the professor. It'll be okay," she said in a tone so clam that it I could only assume it was a universal and unquestionable truth.
I paused, then asked, "Is anyone else feeling seriously against the wall this semester? I'm barely keeping up."
"Yes," Manpreet and the other people in our small group pronounced in unison.
After class I went up to the professor and explained my situation. After an hour and some joking the storm had abated. Now calm I was able to articulately explain my innocent mishap.
"Don't worry," said my professor, "you can turn in the right one on Wednesday. But you know your paper was supposed to be on last week's discussions right?"
"So wait, you mean had I done chapter 4 I would have done the wrong one anyways?"
It's a little known fact that on October 26th at roughly 5:50 PM time stopped for one second. I know. I felt it. Because when time stops, even for one second, it feels like years.
One no-second later time resumed, "Oh God, I did all of the responses wrong then? I did them all on the current week's reading and not the previous!" The maelstrom returned.
"No, just the last one or two. But don't worry. I only took about half a point and I noted it on the one I'll return to you next. The point is you were still thinking about the texts and engaging them and that was what was most important." She smiled at me and then turned to gather her things and was on her way out.
I went home defeated. When I walked in the door I dropped my messenger bag to the floor and made my way to the kitchen. I pulled out the persimmon bread I made the day before. Apparently, the only thing I did do right that day. As I pulled back the cling wrap I breathed in deep, the air now made heavy and sweet.
I began to cut off a piece and smear it with butter. The bread was amazing though it wasn't going to fix any of the mistakes I made or ones I was still going to make. Food can't always do that. It did however fill my empty stomach a bit and calmed some of those clouds. I no longer felt like I would shatter. I took another bite of bread letting my tongue feel out the textures of the dense bread, nibby pumpkin seeds, and chewy cranberries. I let it taste the spike of ginger, the coy cardamom, and the creamy waft of vanilla. I slumped on the couch and exhaled.
"Damn good bread," I sighed to myself.
Persimmon Bread for Your Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Day
Makes one loaf, can be doubled for two - adapted from zucchini bread recipe at Simply Recipes
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups grated fresh fuyu or cinnamon persimmon
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in the grated persimmon and then the melted butter.
2. Sprinkle baking soda, salt, and spices over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour and fold in. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.
3. Divide the batter equally between 2 buttered 5 by 9 inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour (check for doneness at 50 minutes) or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.