The clock ticked painfully slowly in the classroom. I willed it to speed up before my palms grew sweatier and tears spilled over my eyelids.

We were learning about trauma in Professor Luck’s Undergraduate Studies of the American Gothic. It was my favorite English class during that winter in 2014.

I sat at the front and contributed whenever I felt like I had something worth voicing, which was more often in that course than any other.

This particular lecture, however, changed me forever.

The professor was writing on the whiteboard and speaking of memory in one of the works of fiction we were reading. He was saying how the psyche was sensitive to stimuli after a traumatic event occurred to someone.

The students contributed to the lecture, but their words grew muffled. I couldn’t hear them anymore, yet their voices pierced my ears.

Every stroke of his marker on the board felt like an electric shock to my bones. My jaw clenched so tightly, that I thought my teeth would break.

How was I going to survive another 20 minutes without anyone noticing?

He addressed the class and looked towards my direction, possibly thinking that I would have something to say.

I immediately looked down at my shaking, interlaced fingers, too embarrassed that he might’ve seen me suffering silently.

Class was almost over. If I excused myself to the restroom, I thought that I would’ve appeared too rude to hear the end of his lesson.

Professor Luck wrapped up his final point and looked towards the clock which finally read 6 p.m. He uttered words of homework and tomorrow’s agenda. Students closed their books, and I threw mine in my backpack.

I was the first out the door.

The cold San Bernardino air dried my eyes as I power-walked down the stairs to the parking lot to my 2008 Toyota Yaris. I was thankful that it was dark outside. Classmates that I befriended couldn’t see my wet, frightened face.

In my car, I wept. I hadn’t cried – I hadn’t sobbed – so hard in years.

I called my mom and told her that I was going to wait to drive home.

“I think it’s finally happening,” I wept over the phone.

What’s happening?” she asked worriedly.

“The robbery,” I responded.

She knew exactly what I was talking about, and urged me to take my time getting back on the freeway.

When I made it home safely, we talked about the incident that occurred two years before when another Starbucks barista and I were robbed at gunpoint.

It sounded stupid to say that I had PTSD, because the event didn’t sound as traumatic as it could’ve been. No one was hurt. The robber was caught. I simply walked away shaken up with a stiff neck after he had hit me over the head with his weapon.

My mom listened to me as I told her about the irony of studying trauma while possibly experiencing it.

I tucked the assault away in the back of my subconscious, and allowed the stimuli to haunt me in the most unexpected way, in the most unexpected place.

That class unveiled the scar that I didn’t know that I had.

It was a trigger that had finally been pulled.






3 thoughts on “Trigger

  1. Great last line. I think the first line could be a metaphor like “The clock ticked like a gun being cocked.”

    Here’s a similar highly regarded autobiographical story by Amy Hempel that covers a car accident she was in where she had to get 400 stitches.

    Here are Chuck Palahniuk’s writer’s workshop essays also in case you don’t have access to one at the moment. He has a lot of good stuff for writing about trauma. He uses a lot of medical jargon in his books to ‘establish authority’ as he calls it in the first essay. There’s a lot of good stuff in them. The one called submerging the I really changed writing for me.

    Keep it up. Glad you are safe. Hope you are well.


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