Words | Steph McCarthy-Reece

I woke up today with a headache. Just a dull thumping at the front of my head, a toddler bashing its fists against the wall of my forehead. 

Face washed, get changed, coffee down, gotta keep moving. Every step around the kitchen, every turn of my head really enraged that fucking toddler. Where are its parents? Thump, thump, thump, like a hangover but without the fun night before.

There’s blood on my toothbrush. I was brushing too hard, or maybe it was the cut on my lip? No time, gotta keep moving. 

Metro’s packed, Opal gates jammed. Lost my concession card last week. Goddamn adult cards are expensive, goddamn adulthood is expensive. Gotta buy more toothpaste, gotta buy some Panadol, gotta top up my Opal card, gotta ask for more shifts, gotta do that reading, gotta do that quiz. Gotta get rid of this headache. 

Train’s late. “I’m more relaxed now” brags the broken metro gate. Good for you, I’m running late for class in Y3A and my head is pounding right now, almost like a stake being pushed right back into my skull. Doesn’t matter, gotta keep moving.

Tute then lecture, then lecture, then study, then work, then all over again tomorrow. My favourite lecturer is away sick and the mature-aged student at the front won’t stop asking questions that don’t matter and everyone sounds like white noise, just different pitches of white noise, and not the nice kind that you fall asleep to- the grating, droning kind that really shoves that stake right into the stem of my brain. Doesn’t matter, gotta keep moving. My head is killing me now. 

Not enough time to study between classes and work, not enough work to pay my rent, not enough time at home to justify my rent. It’s okay, just find a seat at the library, class is over now, get that reading done, order that new concession card, gotta keep moving.

Can’t find a seat in the library. Fucking high schoolers. I’m sticky and hot from the walk and the library air con is never cool enough and god damn my head is splitting now, like a miner who’s struck gold in my frontal lobe, chipping straight through to my cranial sutures.

Find a seat in the silent space but the person across from me is talking on the phone, and of course they’re a fucking first year. Probably used to study here in year 12. Fucking high schoolers. My cranial sutures are coming undone in violent, hammering strikes. 

AskMQ is down of course. I missed a quiz last night, 15%. Is that blood? It’s not from my lip, it must be my head. Sounds about right with the miner hammering so hard. Rent is late, never enough shifts, never enough time, I missed that bloody quiz, bloody idiot. 

Why isn’t the first year noticing the blood? Oh god, the pressure’s starting, bursting my eardrums, the top of my head, the front of my head, I think my skull’s about to explode, why isn’t she noticing? Head in hands, please don’t explode, that’d be so embarrassing. Don’t wanna end up on MQ Love Rants. 

“To the cute stressed boy in the library whose grey matter hit me in the eye – love react for a dm ;)”


Skull bone, brain, hair, blood, arteries, the miner, the toddler, the stake, all explode outward, upward, onto the first year and her pristine AirPods, onto my screen with the AskMQ error message, onto silent space sign, it’s everywhere. I’m bound to cop a fine. Oh god, I don’t have the money for that. 

The first year, why isn’t she noticing? She’s still talking to her friend, AirPods still in her ears. No-one’s noticing, no-one’s paying attention, like they’ve all got their own headaches. I walk around and pick up pieces of my viscera and shove it all in my bag because maybe the librarians won’t notice if I clean everything up real quick and leave? Why hasn’t that bloody first year noticed yet? 

God, I’m so tired.

Go home, lie down. Wake up when it’s dark, forget to eat, forget to do my quiz, forget to go to work. Sleep bad, sleep stressed. Wake up with a headache. Do it all over again.