The Question, The Answer

BY: KRYSTAL HAN

The Question:

It was two hours before the biology final and there was nowhere to cram.

Mara stood outside Pimentel, her arms cradled around several textbooks. She had left the bible study early, thinking that she could cram before the exam. Each of the benches was, however, crowded with students. As Mara looked around for an open spot, several pieces of trash blew past her. Forcing a smile, she shifted her books to one arm and opened the door. It was almost pitch black outside anyways, Mara thought as she went inside. It was probably better to study inside.

Her classmates apparently had the same idea.

Students with notecards, open laptops, and textbooks in their arms were scattered about the hallway. The classroom was still closed. Miffed, Mara walked past the line of students. She went up and down the hall, hoping that an open space would miraculously appear. Her heart began to sink, before she spotted a staircase leading underground. Mara’s spirits rose. Surely there would be a perfect place to study below, one with plenty of peace and quiet.

Mara bounded down the steps, a prayer of thanks on her lips

When Mara reached the bottom of the steps, she found two unmarked doors separated by a square foot of floor tiling. These must be the infamous Pimentel bathrooms, Mara realized with a start. She paced uneasily between the two doors. All was not lost, she convinced herself. Perhaps she could study in the bathroom.

After identifying the girl’s bathroom door, she opened it with determined grit. It was pitch dark inside. The first that assaulted her was the stench. Mara fumbled around for the light switch, gagging on the fumes while she searched.

The bathroom light revealed a huge avalanche of paper towels and other debris on the floor. Exasperated, she forced her way into one of the stalls. After gingerly closing the lid, and the placing several layers of toilet paper on top of that, Mara finally sat down and opened her textbook.

But before she began, a string of graffiti written in bold, black letters on the stall door caught her attention. It read:

“Don’t know what to do. Don’t have control. Can’t tell anyone. I wish I was—“

The last word was illegible. Mara leaned forward. Although the message was disturbing, what were equally involving were the messages that surrounded it. Contrary to the shallow, crude comments that she usually saw written on the desks, walls, and stalls of the school, many rallied to this person’s confession. “It’s okay, you can always find someone to talk to”; “Don’t give up, don’t ever lose hope”; “You can get through this”; and the like. Mara was moved by this rousing display of compassion for a stranger. She unearthed a pen from her pocket and lifted it up, ready to join the chorus.

Then a small doubt crossed her mind. Was this person’s plea for help real? She lowered the pen, leaving a smudged black line.

Mara didn’t know this person. Furthermore, didn’t she witness individuals spin similar fabrications online and in real life in order to gain such a reaction? These people took advantage of other’s kindness. Surely they didn’t deserve it.

Flushed, Mara dropped the pen. She had a final to take. She simply couldn’t.

But as she ascended the staircase, another fleeting thought crossed her mind. What if this person was sincere?

 

The Answer:

Ruth ran into the Pimentel bathroom, sobbing. Her frame wracked with sobs, she slammed the door and collapsed onto the floor. She cried.

The graffiti on the stalls distracted her. Ruth began to read. She was struck by the love demonstrated to a total stranger.

Smiling through tears, Ruth picked up the pen on the floor and wrote “thank you” under a black smudge left on the stall door. She walked out the door with peace in her heart.

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