There wasn’t much in the old blue van. Boxes of clothes, a few shoes, books, pictures. A stereo and cassette tapes. Boy, did I think that stereo was cool.
I knew that I’d pick posters after I got there, after my dad and stepmom had gone back home. I hoped I had a view of the lake, and I did, if you can call a sliver of sight a view.
I got there first. I can’t remember which floor I was on now; 14th or 15th maybe. Mertz Hall, where they put most of the freshman. I remember checking in, with my dad and stepmom there beside me, and hauling boxes from the blue van to the room so high up. It was so tiny; barely enough room for the two beds and desks, but I didn’t care. I thought it was beautiful.
My dad thought it was a shithole, or at least that’s what he said as he dropped the box onto the bed and said they were leaving. They were supposed to stay for the weekend; out of state students came early, and since there weren’t many out of state students I was alone there on that floor. Before we had cell phones. Before I knew that the word text would someday be a verb. Before I even knew the phone number of the one phone in the quad.
But they left, and I thought he was such an asshole. I was excited to be there all alone but scared, too, and that room was so quiet with just me. No little sisters to keep me company. No waitressing job to keep me busy. No homework yet to fill the time.
Just me. Just quiet. Just my sliver of a view.
I hadn’t met my roommate yet though we’d exchanged a letter or two over the summer. I knew her name was different than anyone I’d ever known in my little hometown in Kansas. I knew she was from a Chicago suburb. I knew that we were different in ethnicity and religion and academic interests and culture.
I didn’t know that she’d get a little wild once she no longer had parents watching her every move. I didn’t know she’d pass out drunk at frat parties and have to be carried back to the room, or that she’d bring random guys back to the room while I was trying to sleep. I didn’t know that those guys would be so mean to her, making fun of the way she smelled and taking pictures as others sprayed Lysol on her feet as she was passed out.
I didn’t stay in that room long. I couldn’t handle her and she didn’t like me, but there were two other girls on the other side of the quad with the same issue. So I swapped rooms with Laura, and traded Shilpa for Amy. I lost my sliver of a view, instead having a window that looked out over a busy street and another dorm across the way.
I learned that living with someone, even when it seems like it should work on paper, isn’t easy. I learned that hearing someone whisper “I wub you my Robby Wobby” over and over again before she uses the baby voice to talk dirty to Robby Wobby is just as uncomfortable as having two people all over each other in the bunk below you.
My first year in Chicago was spent in that dorm, sharing the common bathroom and showers in the quad, sharing a phone that everyone else had to use, too, and realizing that there was just as much to learn outside the classroom as there was during a lecture or a lab.
I can’t say I miss that dorm, but I do miss that sliver of a view.
Linking up for Ann Imig’s #WhereILivedWednesday