The introductions trickle around the circle: the kid who’s already taken every class the professor has ever taught, the lone engineer, the person whose most thrilling fun fact is that they … own a cat. It’s the first day of your newest seminar, and it’s time for your first oral presentation. The topic? Yourself.
The professor smiles vaguely at each student in turn, and you wonder if they’re memorizing everyone’s names, because you sure aren’t. You’re too busy preparing yourself for your unfortunate fate, for the inescapable moment when you’ll have to introduce yourself, to sum up your being in a few innocuous sentences.
You recite the words over and over in your head, picturing how you will give a little wave, a nod of the head. How your fun fact will be just interesting enough to not be boring, but just boring enough to sound humble. How you’ll say “Hi!” instead of “Hey.” How could anyone find you annoying, intimidating, full of yourself, when your introduction is so perfectly calculated?
You skim through your reserve list of fun facts. You can curl your tongue. You’re double jointed. Eh, best to stay away from body stuff. You lived in Panama for a year. Nah, you don’t want people thinking that you think you’re all cultured and well traveled or whatever. You have a pet iguana? That other girl already did the cat thing…
You’re running out of time. The boy next to you has just opened his mouth to tell the class that he’s a history major, and you’ve just forgotten every single thing that makes you a real human person. Where are your memories? Did you exist before this moment? God, forget fun facts, do you even have a name?!
The room has gone silent. They’re all staring at you, and every slow, apathetic blink from the kid across the table is a hard, jolting slap to the face. You raise your hand, give a quick, awkward wave.
Goddamnit, it was supposed to be “Hi!”
“I’m, uh, Katherine.” You’re, uh, Katherine? “EEB major.” You sound curt. “And, uh…” You drift into silence, the space on your tongue where a fun fact should be horrifyingly empty. Every heartbeat is a lifetime. That kid across from you is still blinking. Your professor is still smiling. The world is waiting.
“I play the violin.”