forty-four

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"I'm gonna go over there," mumbled Dina as she walked around the two men, giving them their privacy. 

Nicholas wanted to beg for her to stay, but he knew it was a private conversation. His depression did not revolve around Dina, nor did it worship the ground that she walked on or follow her like a helpless puppy. Depression had no boundaries, no limits, no restraints. It was a blade of misfortune that swiped at his neck at every chance it got, chasing fairytales from a land of nightmare, and dissipating all pleasant thoughts from the depths of his mind.

If Professor Jerikson knew, then why had he left me alone? Why did he allow it to consume me?

His favorite professor stared at Dina's retreating figure before landing his stormy eyes on his student, meticulously observing his every move. "I know that you must be confused," he stated, voice firm and clear, not leaving any room for hesitation. 

"Confused would be an understatement."

Professor Jerikson cracked a small smile. "Ah, I'll miss those blunt remarks, Nicholas."

"Professor," he started, fidgeting with his sleeves and averting his gaze to the ground from the bundle of nerves that ignited. Do I want to know the truth?

Sensing his unease, Professor Jerikson smiled encouragingly at him, silently telling Nicholas that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Here stood his mentor, his teacher. The man before him was more than ordinary, but rather a man who repeatedly stimulated his opinions and eagerly pushed him towards educational areas that he was feeble about. Professor Jerikson had been more than a teacher to Nicholas.

He had been a friend. He had given his silent support through Nicholas's dark days.

"Did you know that I was..." he paused, squeezing his eyes shut as if the very thought of the darkness would once again consume him, but Nicholas pushed on, "that I was depressed?" 

His teacher nodded. "I had known for awhile."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"Well, Nicholas, would you have let me help you?" asked Professor Jerikson instead, a knowing gleam in his grayish-blue eyes. "Many educators have hunches when it comes to these things. Although we are never certain, we do suspect certain behaviors from our students. Through deductive reasoning, I was able to gather that there had been some horror in your life to cause you to be so withdrawn from the world."

Nicholas half-heartedly laughed. "Wow, all this time, you knew," he chuckled. "I must have been so obvious."

A stone of shame burdened his chest, the weight crushing him on the inside as his breath caught. Sheer embarrassment plastered against his cheeks, a fiery ember that ignited the nerves, and his glacial eyes carefully met Professor Jerikson's, nervous and uncertain. He had been foolish to believe someone like Professor Jerikson would never know, would never judge, would never confront him.

He noticed his teacher had lifted his hand, shakily placing it on his shoulder, a gentle touch to the turmoil of chaos inside. Although Nicholas had chosen to believe in Allah and His message, depression did not leave as easily. He was getting better, but there were still nights of macabre nightmares, of horrific anxiety, and of atrocious fears of his unknown future. He wondered if he would ever relapse into the same state again. 

"Nick," addressed Professor Jerikson, softly. "Being depressed isn't something to cower from. Depression comes from many factors of your life, but it's mostly from your perception of yourself. Yes, there are times when we are unhappy with ourselves and wish we could be better, but we cannot forget our redeeming qualities, which you have many. Don't be ashamed of who you are because I am not ashamed to have called you my best student."

Nicholas's tear glands had watered without him realizing it. Staring deep in his eyes, he saw his teacher smile, the same one that he'd given him on the first day that he met Professor Jerikson, the same smile that warmed his heart the way he wished his father could. He cared. Professor Jerikson truly cared about Nicholas as a student and as a person. 

"I apologize," he continued, "for not confronting you and helping you like I should have. Teachers make mistakes too, but I hope this one wasn't detrimental to you." 

Nicholas swallowed the lump in his throat. "It wasn't."

Professor Jerikson dropped his hand, placing his hand into his trouser pocket. "You know, Nick, I was in your situation once," he said.

His eyes widened in disbelief. "Really?"

"Yes," he chuckled as a faraway look entered his eyes, a storm of the past circulating around his pupils. "I had even attempted suicide in my youth, unable to move on from the growing pain that lingered inside me. I was a trapped helpless student, who had no inclination about my future or any motivation for it."

Like I was. 

"How did you get over it?" he asked, suddenly very curious about the side of his teacher that he never knew existed. 

Professor Jerikson met Nicholas's gaze, potent and determined. "I pushed past my struggles, tried my best to stay optimistic even when times were rough. I talked to my friends, my family, even my teachers, but the point is I overcame depression and so can you," he stated, firmly. "And by the looks of it, it seems as if you're on your way to overcome it."

Nicholas awkwardly scratch the back of his neck. "What if I don't? What if-"

"Quiet," hushed his professor.

He instantly shut his mouth.

"You will get through it. Keep a leveled head and focus on one thing at a time. Life may be cruel at times, but you can always overcome obstacles, Nicholas. It took me my entire youth to understand that."

Slowly, Nicholas let the smile curve his lips, a feeling of euphoria that he was becoming familiar with. "Thanks, Professor."

"Don't mention it," he waved off before his eyes landed on Dina from across the library. "She sure will miss you."

"Yeah, I know."

Professor Jerikson brought his eyes back to Nicholas, offering a knowing smile. "I hope things work out," he said simply. "See you at graduation."

As Nicholas glanced at his teacher's retreating form, a small prayer touched the tip of his tongue, an overwhelming urge to be with his Lord, to convey his emotions in prayer. He reached into his bag, searching for a book until his hands caught it. A lot had happened with his professor's arrival, and Nicholas needed an outlet for everything to finally sink in. 

He was going to pray.

----

Aw, Mr. Jerikson, you're a cinnamon roll. Speaking of teachers, Mr. Zemel (mentioned him a lot in this book lol) let me be his teacher apprentice! Guys, this is rare of this man. He like hates everyone, and now I get to boss people around with him and another teacher that I love XD

School starts next week, and obviously I'm nervous about the new year. Senior year is going to kill me. 

How are your school years so far? Any advice for a busy student?

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