Debtor’s Door

Sarah Cavar

2,000 words
Content Warnings: stress culture / school addiction, disordered eating, verbal self-abuse, body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB)

Dear Uncle Max,

I really want to thank you. I can’t ever repay you, really, for something like an education––something so precious––but believe I will try. When I get a good job because of this good degree I will prove myself to be a good investment.

–––– University is different today than it was when you were here. That’s what I learned at our beginning-of-year assembly last night. Even between this year and the last one, exciting changes have been implemented, says the new headmaster! I’m sure you heard about the expedited three-year undergraduate degree that is now compulsory for all students. This caused a major drop in applicants, obviously…some people just can’t handle that kind of thing! But why go to college if you’re not there to learn and run with as few loans as possible?

Guess this means you don’t need to worry about me “doing all the drugs” you did back in “your day.” (I’ll only do half, I promise. Ha.) Think I’ll barely have time to breathe here, never mind smoke.

We’re going to go see our library cubicles now; it's already 8! It was still dark when I began writing. By the way, I have

Sorry Uncle. Saw the cubicles and then got pre-class assignments and the whole day just blew by. I’m back in my room now. I meant to tell you before that we all have single rooms because of the drop in enrollment. Some of them used to be doubles, a few even still have an empty bed for the roommate that isn’t there. The new freshman class this time only has 300 people in it. Wasn't your class over 3,000?

My room is pretty nice: a bed off in the corner, a massive desk area from where the other roommate’s bed used to be, a lamp, a decent-sized closet. Plus, it’s easy to snag a shower any time of evening with just ten people per floor.

My neighbor just knocked. She had forgotten how to get to the library. I was kind of mean when I told her the directions. I hate it when people bother me while I'm trying to get things done.

Remember that church song, “Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door”? I know you’re an atheist but I think if you came here today, –––– would make you a believer, but not in any god. Did you know there are no churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, anything near campus? There used to be some, decorated with rainbow “All are welcome” signs to attract the college demographic. Now they've all been shut down; apparently –––– bought up their land a decade ago, explaining that bringing home a hard-earned degree is the greatest form of salvation. Guess that makes you a god to me, doesn't it, since you got me here!

Now that my neighbor mentioned the library, I think I'll go there myself. I’ve finished the pre-class work but I know they’re dropping extra practice at our cubicles. Just in case!



Uncle Max,

I feel ashamed for being short with my neighbor yesterday. I call her my neighbor because I keep forgetting her name (you know how I am with names). I smiled at her in the canteen this morning and she smiled back; it's a start. We had to eat pretty quickly, so I just snagged an apple juice and went to the library before class.

Our first class was taught by this guy who looked more like a student than a teacher. He had just gotten his PhD. from –––– College. And he's only twenty-six! He called himself a “true believer” when it came to expedited undergrad programs. He did his at a little school up in the mountains that I'm pretty sure just closed. He seemed reluctant to give details until someone asked him for advice. He said what's on the attached notebook paper.

Mr. ––––: “we cant control how time passes. we CAN cntrl how we make use of it … staying ahead when time is in control means that you should be looking to get the most valu for your minutes. 20min? can  [forgot] 10min? COULD go 2 vending machine with friends, etc but COULD also do problem sets; readings. five min "

Sorry it randomly stops like that. We were all so excited to listen to him that it was hard to keep up with notes. I feel bad now, though, I'd have liked to see what

I think I have a crush on him but I'm not sure. I think it's on his work ethic. I'm getting pretty sleepy and don’t know what I was going to say for the above paragraph. Haha. Night!


Dear Uncle Max,

Sorry I haven't written in a bit. I wish I knew what I’ve already told you and what I haven’t. I hate my floormates. When I heard one yelling last night I banged on their door and yelled back. When they opened it, they whispered to me that they felt like they were going crazy. I said, Why? And they replied that they had been lost someplace by the library for a long time before they got back to the room. I told them it was nothing to disturb us over and to just stay somewhere else if they can’t find their way. They looked sad. I regret it.


Uncle Max

I’m losing my pinky. My useless pinky finger. At first we were a little freaked out, since it's not like anyone wants to have their pinky amputated. But the headmaster called a family meeting (assembly) and explained that no one was going to amputate anybody here. We were just losing our pinkies because eventually all meaningless things would go away. He looked so sad and continued. “I’m so sorry about the confusion. I can assure you we just don’t do violence here. We’re a college. We're a family.”

Everyone dispersed so quickly after the meeting. I saw almost no one while I was walking to the library, although I'd assumed everyone else was going there, too. I got lost. Guess my pinky isn't the only thing I'm losing, ha! Now I just feel guilty. Who am I to get mad at people for getting lost if I’m that stupid too?

Ok, heading back to my room. Sometimes I think, if the library's that hard to find, why not just stay there instead of walking back across campus in the dark?


Dear Uncle Max,

I slept in the library, and it was pretty nice. I did that thing where you sleep in two different shifts. I was so productive in between shifts; it was about two-thirty am and until four-thirty and I got plenty done. I went back to bed until seven-thirty and woke feeling great. Tomorrow I am trying for 6:30. My ring finger is on its way out.

I've been taking Mr. ––––’s advice to heart. On the way to the canteen today I was looking at my notes for next week's test. I'd have looked at them in the canteen, too, but I never made it. I met a campus policeman where the canteen used to be…?--where, anyway, my stupid fucking head thought it was. STUPIDFUCKSTUPID

Sorry, had to go for a sec. Can’t read what I wrote there but I'm just going to try and remember where I left off. The police. I asked him how to get to the canteen and he looked at me as if I were a monster or something. I told him I was sure it was here. He didn't say a word; just gave me water and a Nutrigrain and sent me walking. They really make me feel taken care of, you know? That sugary strawberry filling tastes like childhood.


Dear Uncle Max,

I promise you I am signing my name to the letters. I know you're a stickler about that. Also this isn't the usual stationery, sorry. I ran out. There's some back in my room but I can't find it. I used to know precisely where my hall and room were, which buildings were beside it…but I've been in the library so long I don’t think    

Don't worry, now the police walk around in here with Nutrigrains, although rumor has it they're going to switch to fresh fruit once it warms up. Yum!

One of them is coming now. I said hi, officer. He rolled his eyes and told me to get back to my problem sets. These were my extras, I explained; I was ahead of schedule. He said, “so now you’re going to sit around doing nothing when you could be doing your problem sets?” I tried, again, to say they're extras. I don't think he heard me


Dear Uncle,

I sent you a letter last week, but you never replied. Hope you don't mind the impersonal letter…I suck at names, actually. Promise I’ll learn yours eventually.

I can't wait for the nice weather, so I can take all my books and things outside. I'm looking forward to my Nutrigrain today but I wish they'd just hurry it up with the fresh fruit; it's better for you. Then again, you can eat a Nutrigrain faster than an apple and get back to work. I need to stop thinking about it because once you start a distracted train of thought, it's hard to stop. That's why the police hang out with us when we eat the Nutrigrain bars. They have timers, but it's a no-pressure sort of thing. When I asked about it they asked, "What timers?” They're so funny.

I’m back from class and now know I have to finish this letter even though I want to fucking die. I WANT TO DIE. Mr. –––– gave me back my test and sort of shook his head at me, so personally disappointed. It was the lowest grade I had ever gotten in his class. This girl who I think used to be my neighbor got the best grade, and he wouldn't stop talking about her.

I just heard the headmaster say he was giving extra-extra credit to the person with the most cubicle discipline. The winner would also get a free pair of compression socks to fight clotting. The headmaster now speaks through a P.A. system and we can speak back. It feels like having a father.

I have to win so I can get back in Mr. ––––’s good graces. The only other way would be to kill my old neighbor to get her and her grades out of my way. I don't have the time to plan something like that.

My eyes hurt so I'll write again another time.


Exams are just around the corner! QuikSend helps YOU keep your family close while studying the most!


Love you. Can't wait for summer sun and fun!

Your favorite student,

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Seriously, I shouldn't even be writing because god knows I'm going to fail my bio final tomorrow and writing this just makes it more real that I'm going to fail

Today I walked out of the library to clear my head, but it wouldn't budge. When I got outside I closed my eyes for a moment before remembering that they were gone, as were my eyelashes. I think that now that I have exhausted the possibilities attached to my eyelashes I will begin with my extra skin.

And how did you know about my fingers and toes? Why do you care? If you're really my benefactor, you should know there are many things worth losing to get a good education. Maybe you never got a good education. Maybe you're even dumber than me. Well, dumber than I’m trying to be. DUMBER THAN I WILL BE WHEN I JUSTGETMYSHIT  TOGETHER .! I’m trying to get my B.A. in two years, after all. So just let me b

Sarah Cavar is a full-time student, studying the way medical discourses cage, mediate and pathologize certain bodyminds; and additionally how power relations have invented bodymind deviance, especially through "gender dysphoria." Their work has been featured in The Offing, Sinister Wisdom, Mad Scientist Journal, The Establishment, and elsewhere.