Between the bus stop and her apartment building, a tremendous gust of wind blows Dr. Vicente’s umbrella inside out and breaks the spokes, leaving her open to be drenched. When she gets home, she takes a hot shower then goes to the kitchen, cooking penne and heating up some amatriciana sauce. She eats standing by the sink. When she finishes, she mixes herself a strong drink and pours it into a coffee mug.
The students’ term papers are piled in four neat stacks on her desk. There is no rush to mark them now. Dr. Dimaano had drawn her aside and recommended a mandatory week off. Someone else could substitute for your classes, he had said. You take a break and get back in touch with yourself.
She knows she won’t be able to stand this.
You pick up any stranger’s thought as readily as you’d pick up a pretty shell by the beach side because all of them, even the most banal ones, catch your eye and you can’t help it. Sometimes a thought is brilliant and hard as a diamond, or edged and serrated like a dagger, or full of intent as a snake is of venom. Sometimes it seems bottomless, smooth and pure like silk, shedding its endless layers the moment you pick it up.
So you compartmentalize. That’s always been the ticket. Keep boundaries. Focus on the color of his pants, the bit of spinach between his teeth, the flashing lights of his cellphone.
If you’re still picking up a thought when you don’t want to, then you’ll just have to read the damn thing and move on.