This book is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people or situations are strictly a coincidence.
This is for all the brown girls and brown boys out there with active, creative minds because the world needs more authors who write in color. It's also for my kick ass friends and and family who shamelessly share all my articles and read my high school writing, no matter how bad it was. And lastly to Columbia, MO you made my freshman year and the three years that followed truly unforgettable.
“I can’t believe it’s fucking raining!”
“Kay, watch your mouth, you may be going to college, but are not there yet.”
I mean I basically was. Finally, after nine months of counting down, it was happening. I was sitting in a hotel room just a few short miles away from the University of Missouri. My dream school, home of the best Journalism school in the country and I was ready to take it head on, but more importantly, I was ready to get the fuck out of Indiana. For good.
“Kayla, did you hear me!?”
How could I not hear her? My mom’s voice carries like none other. I mean, where does she think I got my loud voice from?
“Sorry mom,” I replied.
Anyway, there I was, about to start my journey to adulthood, everything was about to change. I purposefully picked a school six hours away so that there would be so surprise family reunions, no quick weekend trips and plenty of physical space between me and my life in Indiana.
I don’t know what I have against my home state, I really don’t. I wasn‘t forced to move there because one of my parents got a new job. I didn’t grow up in a cramped apartment with shoddy wifi and no AC and I even got the opportunity to get out of Indiana at least once every year. In fact, two months earlier we were all in Hawaii.
But that’s not the point.
Indiana just never felt like home to me. When I was forced to go to public high school I never made any legit friends. Sure I played a Varsity sport and helped edit the school newspaper, but that didn’t really land me in the spotlight except for when athletes were trying to get their faces on the front page. As if anyone besides them gave a shit about a brand new high school’s shitty sports teams.
I just always wanted out.
It’s funny, I always thought I’d end up somewhere a little more glamorous than the middle of Missouri, like Chicago, or New York City. Before I even heard of Mizzou I had my heart set on Stanford although I don’t really remember why. It may have just been because at 2,314.9 miles away from my parents front door, it was literally the furthest I could get away without it looking suspicious (I mean c’mon, it’s fucking Stanford).
Everything changed when I went to a journalism conference in St. Louis with my high school’s newspaper staff. There was a portion of the conference reserved for colleges. I had zero interest in going to a college fair, but at the time I figured going to rub elbows with cute college guys couldn’t hurt, so that’s what I did.
It was there that I saw an obnoxious black and yellow table with tons of cut out tigers. It was so tacky, I actually scoffed, out loud. But that table also had one of the cutest boys I had seen all week. He was tall with a shaved head and beautiful chocolate skin. He had a smile as wide as a billboard and at the end were two perfect fucking dimples. He was wearing the obnoxious black and yellow colors to match the table, but somehow at the time I found that cute. So I went up to him introduced myself and for at least five minutes acted like I knew exactly what Mizzou was, which I think worked until the very end when he chanted “M-I-Z!” and I had no clue what to say back. Awk. (If you’re wondering the proper response is “Z-O-U” unless by off chance we’re playing kU then your response should be “FUCK KU!” as loud as possible.)
To this day I don’t know if it was the way that beautiful chocolate man engaged with me or if it was some other force that pulled me in, but I was hooked. What the hell was Stanford? Just a faint memory to me at that point. As far as I was concerned, I was going to Mizzou and it was going to be fucking awesome.
* * *
“OH MY GOD KAY!”
Fuck, it’s Monday morning and we just finished midterms last week, what could Brianna possibly want? Maybe I can ignore her, I mean my headphones are in. Yup sold. Ignoring her.
“Kay? KAY! Ugh--excuse you! Jeez athletes walk around this place like they have a winning record, move it meat head!”
Oh Brianna, the only person to ever really serve as a frenemy in my life. We met in summer school my freshman year. She was nice and her senior pothead boyfriend would give me rides home so I didn’t have to ride my bike, so I fucked with her a lot back then. Somehow she found out about Mizzou even though she didn’t even go on the newspaper trip and she’s been talking my ear off about it ever since.
Brianna is a sweet girl, she means well, she’s super smart, but she’s a bit of a know it all and isn’t aware when she’s disclosing too much information. But I love the girl. She has been a solid friend over the last four years. Plus, she’s quick on her feet which kept me out of trouble.
Against my better judgement I decide to turn around and see what all the fuss is about. Knowing her it couldn’t have been that bad.
“Oh good you heard me!” she says as I turn around.
“Yeah, sorry I was in my own world a little bit, what’s up?”
“Well, as you know I narrowed my list of schools down to five.”
“One of which was Mizzou with my bestie!” she squealed. It’s too early for that.
“Well...I got in!” she squealed again, only this time it was accompanied by jumping up and down.
Look I get it, getting into your dream school, or any school for that matter is a big deal. I had gotten into every school I applied to so far and with Brianna’s news so had she. But I hadn’t heard from Mizzou yet and if she had I wondered if that was bad news for me.
“That’s um awesome Brianna! Congrats.” I didn’t mean that. Yes I did. I was happy for her, but I wished it were me. Everyone at school knew at least two things about me if nothing else: 1) I hate Indiana and just about everyone in it and 2) I wanted to go to Mizzou, badly.
I couldn’t have Brianna’s news getting out too much people love to assume things and Brianna’s acceptance into Mizzou would quickly turn into a rumor about my denial from Mizzou, which hadn’t been confirmed yet.
I snap out of my racing thoughts and focus back on Brianna. She’s been talking for a while (as usual) but usually I can pick up in the middle of her rambles and be fine.
“...so yeah basically my step mom just totally spaced getting the mail all last week. Probably because she fired our maid.”
Yeah you heard that right. A maid. Indiana may have been a land locked stated in the midwest, but in the town I grew up in, you would have thought it was the OC. Everyone was just so...white. That’s part of the reason I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t pretty like most of the girls at the school and my skin was only sought after when some pervert fuckhead wanted to be able to say he had been with a black girl. I was never interested.
Last week their maid found some incriminating evidence while she was cleaning the house. I guess she called Brianna’s step mom out on it and so she fired her on the spot. Of course that’s not the story she told her husband. Now they’re maid-less and I guess it’s really hard for them seeing as Bri’s step mom can’t even handle getting the mail on her own. I mean their mailbox is a far walk from their actual front door and Bri’s mom does stay in the house all day, so I guess it makes sense.
Brianna was still talking when I zoned back in for a second time. I wondered if she talked this much at home. In our four years of friendship she had always come to my house for holidays and sleepovers, but I had never been to hers which I never questioned until now. I mean she did have the bigger house and a maid who would have cooked us anything we wanted. Damn, I really fucked that one up. I was just hoping that the first period bell would ring before Brianna got the chance to ask me about my acceptance. Just a week earlier my dad said that his coworker’s friend, who also went to Mizzou said that it was hard to get in, especially out of state. What if Brianna took my spot? I mean she couldn’t have, right? But at the same time they’ve got to reserve a spot for the black girl at the predominately white school in the suburbs. Affirmative action is still a thing and I’m a much better choice than someone well, not from the suburbs.
Yes, the first period bell, signaling that Brianna had exactly seven minute to wrap up whatever she was dragging on about so that we could get to class on time, or at least so I could. I hate being late.
I guess even if I did dodge the acceptance question for now there was always later. I mean Brianna and I are always together. Lunch, newspaper, study hall, how the fuck was I going to ignore her until I found out the status of my application? Ugh, why is this happening to me? I always get the short end of the stick. Seriously. I wait for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell me I’m on a non-celeb version of Punk’d almost daily. No luck yet.
“So...are you in?!”
Aw shit. Play it cool Kayla, you’ve got about 60 seconds and then you can dash to class.
“Umm,” my voice was shaking, “Wha-what did you say?”
“Did you get in? To Mizzou! Are we going to be classmates or better yet roommates?!?”
We were most certainly NOT going to be roommates. Ever.
Brianna knows me too well. She knows everyone too well. She was like the high school crier, she knew everyone’s business, sometimes before they knew it. Our junior year, two hours before the homecoming dance she knew that Charlie, our star (I use that word loosely) quarterback was going to dump his date Delaney for a freshman named Raven. Granted she only knew that because her and Raven spent that afternoon in Saturday detention. I guess Raven got Charlie’s number somehow and sent her nudes to him. Completely unsolicited. Right after the nudes she sent a series of texts explaining to him how he was going to ditch Delaney right before the dance and take her instead. Brianna practically helped Raven write those texts and then proceeded to text our entire group of friends the gossip. I still can’t believe that didn’t get back to Delaney sooner or that to this day she took him back. Whatever.
I had to figure out what I was going to say to Brianna. I didn’t want to lie, but would saying I don’t know make me look like a liar? I mean that was the truth. I didn’t know. I hadn’t heard anything.
“Oh uh, I don’t know, we went to Bloomington last minute this past weekend for my brother’s basketball tournament so I haven’t had time to go through my mail.”
That was half true. My brother did have a basketball tournament this past weekend. Unfortunately I was at work all weekend, but since my friends are all skinny bitches who refuse to eat carbs every other week they never bother to come visit me at the bakery where I work. Which for the first time in four year has worked out in my favor. Huh.
“Ohhh ok. Well I’m sure it’s in your pile of mail at home. We should go to your house for lunch and check!”
She cannot be serious? Is she serious?
It’s 7:38 and first period starts at 7:40, I hadn’t even been to my locker yet.
“Yeah, maybe. I don’t know I really need to do my math homework before sixth. I’ll just check after school. I gotta go, class!” I rushed upstairs to my locker and it felt like my heart was pounding out my chest. I didn’t even look Bri in the eyes as I dashed upstairs, I knew she would would have known I was lying if I did. As I was practically running away I could hear her say something, but I couldn’t quite make out what it was.
“OK sounds good, bye Bri!” I yelled back. Even if she said something that warranted a legit response she’d repeat it later. She always did.
* * *
I spent all day in my office in the publications lab, which Bri had totally authority to walk into anytime she wanted, after all she was our best photographer, but she didn’t. She knew if I was in there that I was on deadline or having a rough day and didn’t want to be bothered. So she kept her distance.
It’s not that I was having a bad day I was just freaking out. By second period I had assumed that I didn’t get in and I immediately started thinking of excuses that I could tell people so that it wouldn’t seem like a big deal.
That’s what I hate most about high school, even if no one cared about you 99 percent of the time, there was always that one percent chance that everyone was going to care about something happening in your life, especially when it came to college decisions.
I went to one of the best public high schools in the state. When I went on college visits in Indiana and introduced myself, admissions reps perked up because they knew I was coming from a great school system with teachers who actually gave a fuck.
When the seventh period bell rang I sprinted towards my locker and then out the emergency exit door, (which for whatever reason maintenance still hadn’t figured out was broken-- that’s how all the smokers got their fix during the day) jumped in my car and headed home.
I burst into my house dragging my feet and shuffling the papers in my hand loudly, I made sure the door flung all the way open and hit the door stopper to make a loud thud noise. Both of my parents were already home, which never happens, so I decided to make a scene (I swear with a little practice I could be an actress).
“I’m in the kitchen Kayla.”
I walk in the kitchen to meet her.
“What’s gotten into you Kayla? Why are you bursting in the house screaming?”
As if you never scream, mom. Everything you say is at voice level of ten.
“Mom, did any mail come for me last weekend?”
“I don’t know Kay that’s what your mailbox is for, got check it.”
We each have our own mailbox and cubby at my house. I used to feel like I was in kindergarten having to put my shoes perfectly in a the square, but it’s pretty convenient now. Usually my brother gets the mail and sorts it, but he always throws it in our boxes in the least cohesive way possible. Bills from last week could end up at the bottom and Christmas cards from last year at the top. It was so frustrating, but no one else remembered to check it the way he did, so we kept letting him do it.
I rushed to the mudroom where our mailboxes and cubbies were and tore through my mailbox. There were bank account statements and banks offering me a credit card, but no letter from Mizzou. I felt defeated. I panicked and immediately I broke down and started crying. I leaned up against the wall and slowly sunk down to the floor. I felt like a muddy puddle. How could Bri have gotten something and not me. It wasn’t fair.
I checked my phone, three missed calls from Bri and a text that read “WELL?”
I ignored her and turned my phone off. She’d just assume I either got grounded or that my day was really that terrible. Either way, it bought me more time. I wiped the black tears from from my cheek and tried to slow down my breathing. At that point my mom realized I had been crying and came to see about me.
“What’s going on Kay?”
I didn’t answer her, I didn’t want to talk about it. But my mom almost never accepts that as a option so I knew eventually she’d get me to talk. I gave in sooner than expected.
“I didn’t get into Mizzou,” I said with my head hanging down. I didn’t even bother to look up at her.
What? Why not? Aw I’m so sorry Kayla, what did they say?”
What’d they say? Was she serious? Mizzou has an enrollment of at least 32,000 students and she thought that they took the time to tell applicants why they weren’t accepted into the school. With that one question, I was pissed.
“I don’t know mom, they don’t have time to tell me why I suck so bad, instead they tell me nothing.”
“I mean what’d the letter say Kayla,” she said with an attitude. “No a college isn’t going to tell you what they didn’t like about you, but they do send you a denial letter.”
“Well I didn’t get a denial letter.”
“Then how do you know you didn’t get in!” she said with her voice raised. I look up at her and her hands are on her hips as she looks down at me tapping her foot as I muster up an answer.
“Bri told me this morning she got in. She got her letter last week so I must not have made the cut.”
“Oh honey, you think a college that allows you to apply until damn near April sends out its acceptance letters all at once?”
At that point she was down on bended knee, her hand caressing my chin, forcing me to bring my head up and look at her.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Why don’t you sign into the website they gave you so you can see if they’ve even reviewed your application.”
I pulled myself up, crawled to the computer and logged in. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for the worse. Sure I had gotten into other schools, but they weren’t Mizzou. I thought back to the beautiful chocolate man that told me to apply and “keep in touch” if did get in, what would he think of me? Our chances of dating would be ruined (I swear that’s not why I applied, at least it wasn’t the only reason). Our computer was taking forever, every second I was forced to watch the spinning rainbow wheel of death I thought I was going to hurl.
I typed in my username and password slowly to be sure it was correct and I hit enter. When I did a simple black box with text inside popped up.
It read: Application Status-Admitted.
Wait. What does that mean? Does that mean that I’m in? Do I scream? Do I ask my mom before getting excited? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?
“Uh mom, could you come here?”
She walks over to me and rests her hands on my shoulder. I know she can tell I’m nervous, terrified that I am not going to receive the answer I so desperately want. I see Mizzou as my golden ticket out of Indiana. If I could move out of state and start my life unlike all my peers who opted for in state schools, I could do anything. I just needed the chance.
“What’s this mean?’
She pushes her glasses up on her face and squints to read it, which I never understood, but whatever, she reads it out loud over and over again as if it says something different each time. She pulls her glass down from her face, stands up straight and clears her throat.
“I mean I think it means you’re in honey, but maybe you should just call admissions and ask.”
Of course, admissions, why hadn’t I thought of that sooner? A call to them during lunch time would have solved all the anxiety I was dealing with all day. Luckily, Missouri is an hour behind Indiana, so my mom’s suggestion was not in vain. I snatched our home phone from the dock and ran upstairs to my room and dialed the number (which I knew by heart).
It barely rang once before a menu of options was given to me, but I was too lazy to listen to them so I just hit zero until I got a real person. I fucking hate automated bullshit. Just give me a live person to solve my problems. Please and thanks.
“Thank you for calling the University of Missouri, home of the Tigers, how may I help you?”
I took breathe and started explaining my situation.
“Hi my name is Kay, uh, I mean Kayla and I was wondering if I got in.”
The women on the other end of the phone seemed perplexed.
“Okay...Kayla do you know your pawprint you use to log into our database, or can you at least give me your last name?”
Of course, I doubt I’m the only Kayla applying to Mizzou. Whoops.
“Yeah my name is Kayla Smith, but my friends call me Kay.”
She didn’t need to know that Kayla.
“Alrighty let me just look you up in our system, give me one moment.”
I hear a lot typing and more voices chatting in the background. It sounds like she’s in a call center, which makes me wonder, are there that many students trying to get into Mizzou. What made me think I was qualified again?
“Okay Kayla are you there?”
“Yes ma’am, I’m here.”
“Well hun our records are showing that your application was admitted which by our standards means you’re in. You should be receiving an official letter in a few days.”
My mouth drops and with it so does the phone.
“Hello? Kayla? Helllloooo?”
I snap out of it and bend down to pick up the phone, as I reach for it I realize I am literally shaking with excitement.
“Yes I’m here and I heard you. Thank you.”
It was probably rude to just hang up the phone on her like that, but I didn’t know what else to say. I belly flopped on my bed and began to cry, happy tears of course. This was it. I was going to Mizzou. I was getting out of Indiana. No more corn fields, no more 90210 wannabe Barbie types, no more two faced friends or entitled athletes that only read my writing when they wanted to butter me up before asking to be featured in our next issue. I was going to Mizzou. I was going to study at the best journalism school in the country. All my dreams were coming true and it felt so damn good.
* * *
The Pepsi Coliseum filled with laughter, chatter and a few tears (of joy of course). The class of 2011, the first class to spend all four years at Fishers High School was out of here! Finals were over, open house invitations sent all that was left to do was get through graduation rehearsal and walk across that stage.
I didn’t understand why we had to spend an entire day to practice walking into the coliseum, down the aisle, to our seats, up to the stage, across the podium and back to our seats when it was so intuitive. Mr. Earner, the principal, ensured us that it was “for our safety” to make sure no one did anything stupid on the day of, but the truth is it didn’t matter how much we practiced walking and sitting, if someone wanted to do something stupid during the ceremony, they were going to do something stupid during the ceremony. As long as it wasn’t during the calling of my name, I didn’t really give a shit.
“Uh uh students.”
Mr. Learner had been trying to get our attention for about five minutes now and even though he had a microphone, it just wasn’t working for him. We had been at the coliseum all morning practicing for graduation when today was supposed to be our Senior Fun Day so even though he probably only had one more announcement to make, we weren’t having it, or at least I wasn’t.
I sat on my phone scrolling through Facebook photos of high school friends last days together, I read a ton of crappy captions about graduation not being a goodbye, but a see you later. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t empathize with how anyone was feeling. These people had been going to school with one another since they were in diapers (okay maybe training pants). I had only spent the last four years with them.
Don’t get me wrong, I made some good memories, I have a few people I think I’ll stay in touch with once I move to Columbia, but for the most part, I’m over it. I’m ready to leave. High school, the Coliseum, Indiana, I just want August, or even July so I can be at freshman orientation and learn about all Mizzou has to offer me.
“Let’s get out of here Kay.”
I look up from my phone to see Brianna and her boyfriend staring at me as if they needed my approval to leave. Unfortunately I kind of like to play by the rules and I didn’t want anything jeopardizing my chances of walking across that stage on Saturday.
“It’s almost over, but you guys can go ahead, I’ll just take the bus back.”
Brianna got her license a year later than everyone else, she claims it was because she didn’t care about driving herself around when she had a boyfriend that could do it for her, but everyone knew it was because she wasn’t passing her drivers test. Bri and I were partners during driver’s ed and she was not good. We took the class during a brutal Indiana winter. The first day we went driving there were just flurries, but by the third day there was half an inch of ice and a foot of snow being cleared off the road. I was literally shaking when I got behind the wheel and not because it was cold. But when it was Bri’s turn she shrugged her shoulders and slammed on the gas. Almost immediately we spun into the other lane, stopped and then slowly inched down into a shallow ditch by our school. Brianna burst into tears immediately, but I couldn’t help, but laugh. I loved her confidence, I really did, but sometimes she was too proud for her own good.
She spent the next six weeks of drivers ed apologizing profusely to the driving instructor and she gave me twenty bucks never to tell the story to anyone.
Anyway, two years later and she’s back on the road. I’ve driven with her a few times since then, but never in the winter. She’s gotten better, but that doesn’t stop me from saying a short prayer before she gets behind the wheel.
I stare into Brianna’s eyes and she looks different. Kind of tired. Sad even. I wonder if everything between her and her boyfriend are okay, but graduation rehearsal wasn’t the time for that conversation. I smile at her warmly.
“Thanks for thinking of me Bri, I’ll call you later.”
She takes her boyfriend’s hand and struts away, right past the security guard blocking the gate. She doesn’t even flinch when he tries to stop them. She just flashes that thousand dollar smile and keeps walking until she’s out the door.
* * *
“Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
“Will you two shut the hell up!” I snapped.
Seven hours on the road to Mizzou for only the second time and no, we were not fucking there yet. My siblings were getting restless, my grandma was telling the same stories over and over and my headphones were no longer drowning out the noise.
Mizzou’s campus to my parent’s front door is actually only about 6 hours, but when you’re traveling with six people, it’s not that simple. Toss in torrential down pours for at least three hours of the drive and you’ve got my current situation. Seven hours into a six hour road trip with about an hour still left to go.
For the next two days I planned on practicing how not to look like a freshman. While I hated starting at the bottom of the totem poll after just being there four years ago, I was excited to start over in a new state where no one, besides Brianna knew who I was.
“So what’s the plan for tonight?” my mom asked, trying to drown out my siblings.
“We’re meeting Lakin and her family and Shakespeare’s at seven, but I really want to explore campus before that.”
“Okay we can do that, but we’re going to our hotel first. I just need to recollect myself after this drive.”
I hated that about traveling with my family. They always wanted to go to the hotel first, sit and chat, have a few cups of tea and then get down to business. It was such a waste of time to me. They did it on every vacation we went on. We couldn’t just drop our stuff off and head to the pool, or to a restaurant, we had to sit first, and take it all in. I figured it was just one of those things that I’d understand when I was older, who knows.
“Columbia, Missouri five miles!”
My mom loves being the road trip hype man, no matter where we go, she is usually the one that is paying the most attention to how close we are. The closer we are to our destination, the more excited she gets in her announcements.
“Yeah, finally.” Jeff mumbles under his breath. My brother has no problem being the one to ask how close we are to a place every fifteen minutes and he does it, every fifteen minutes.
It’s safe to say my siblings aren’t thrilled about being stuck in a hotel room for three days while I become more acquainted with Mizzou, but my parents love a teachable moment, especially when it comes to instilling the idea that they were going to college, whether they wanted to or not. So last minute, they got roped into the trip, which meant so did my grandma because of course they needed a babysitter.
Jeff and Katie are my little brother and sister. We are pretty far apart in age. I’m the oldest and they didn’t come along until seven and nine years later. I’m still not over that either. Unlike me, they spent their childhood only in public school, so they are a lot more acclimated to things than I was.
Finally we’re here. I rushed everyone out of the car and up to the room in hopes that the faster we got up there, the faster we could leave.
Mizzou’s freshman orientation, or Summer Welcome as they like to call it was very intricate. I was the last of my high school friends to attend any type of orientation and so I was going into it with an idea of what it would be like. Long, boring and full of information my parents would care about, but I wouldn’t. Brianna had sworn that there was no way I could possibly be prepared for Mizzou’s two day event, but Bri was also dramatic, so I took her comments with a grain of salt. Besides, I had to focus on my dinner plans with my roommate to be, Lakin. We made sure to pick the same orientation date so that we could meet before move in day. For me, I was trying to make sure that she wasn’t too good to be true because she seemed damn near perfect.
We pulled up to Shakespeare’s right on time and Lakin and her mom were waiting for us already. As soon as we saw each other we embraced like friends from another life seeing one another for the first time.
Lakin was a gorgeous muscular girl with pale skin and short blonde hair that came right to her shoulders, you could tell she played sports in a former life. The way she was dressed reminded me of what I would wear when on a health kick with plans to go to the gym. She had a big warm smile and a slight southern accent. Her mother and her looked more like sisters, I guess black isn’t the only thing that doesn’t crack.
We ordered our pizza and had light typical conversation amongst one another. Every once in awhile during the conversation Lakin and I would say the exact same thing at the same time, but with different attitudes and our parents would laugh at how similar we were despite our obvious differences.
“I think they’re going to get along just fine,” my mom said to Lakin’s reassuringly.
I know she was just trying to be nice, but I honestly felt that way too. Lakin and I had a lot in common and she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders which was great because I wasn’t interested in having a roommate who’s hair I’d have to hold back every weekend while she puked all of her hopes and dreams into the toilet. I knew I had made a good choice and I hoped she felt the same.
After dinner was over we said our goodbyes and went our separate way. Summer Welcome had an early start time of 7 a.m. and I did not want to be late.
* * *
Summer Welcome was a blur, there was a lot of talking, cheesy skits, an unfortunate amount of get to know you games and by the end of day one, I just wanted to get my class schedule and go home.
I did have one thing to look forward to though, the guy I met a year ago during a college fair in St. Louis reached out to me and said we should meet up for coffee while I was in Columbia. I was ecstatic. I wasn’t even on campus yet, but here I was scheduling coffee dates with cute boys. His name is Aaron and I could not wait to see him again. Unfortunately, we only took one car to Columbia, so that meant my parents had to come along for the ride.
Aaron was just as beautiful as I remember. Tall, scruffy and the perfect shade of brown. After a long weekend of rules and regulations, I was excited to get an idea of what college life was actually like. Was it hard to get alcohol? What are the best clubs to get involved with? Is making friends really as easy as everyone says?
Aaron talked about everything, except for those things. He talked about every organization he was in and how Gumby’s pizza was so much better than Shakespeare’s. He boasted about his apartment that was practically on campus the walking distance was so short and he gave my parents and I some real talk about the things that were wrong with Mizzou. The privilege on campus, how difficult it is to see an adviser when needed and the high price of simple foods like ramen and sugary cappuccinos at Mizzou Market. It was a lot to take in and I could tell that my parents were over the conversation almost as soon as it had started, but I was in a trance.
He was just so smart and well spoken. He was a sophomore so he didn’t have the mentality of a high schooler, the way most freshman guys that I had met that weekend did. He was easy on the eyes, well plugged into campus and even if he wasn’t interested in me at all I think at the very least we’ll have a really great friendship.
One day. I have one day until I move out of Indiana for good. Maybe that’s dramatic. I’ll be back, I’ll definitely be back, my family is here and they probably always will be. But in just one day I will be doing what I wasn’t even sure I could.
My grades have always been good and I like to be involved in everything, so getting into college was never really a worry of mine. Even the money aspect never bothered me because my parents had made it clear they were taking care of it. But all my life I have wanted more for myself and I wasn’t sure I could actually make that happen.
Often times, we let fear decide what we are capable of doing and what we aren’t cable of doing, but I refused to let fear get the best of me. I have always been known for doing what everyone else wants me to do, but rarely do I feel like I’ve gotten to do what I want. That sounds bratty coming from an 18 year old, but shit, I’ve got goals too. Moves I want to make. Dreams I want to see come to fruition.
Mizzou was the first selfish decision I feel like I’ve made. Although Bri would be there with me and Aaron and I had become fast friends since meeting at Summer Welcome my decision was made because it’s what I wanted, no one else.
I sit on the edge of my queen size double decker bed and slowly look all around my room. I see the stack of yearbooks and newspapers I worked on while in high school, awards I won from academic achievements and countless pictures from the past four years. I barely know the friends smiling next to me in them. We were all heading out on different days and although I’d been to a few goodbye dinners, I hadn’t cried yet. At the last gathering for our friend Chelsea, who was entering the military, Bri and I sat in her car afterwards in silence. Neither one of us cried even when Chelsea started tearing up. I think it made us both feel bad. But the absence of tears doesn’t mean you don’t care just like the presence of them doesn’t mean you are weak.
The goodbyes I thought would be hardest were almost nonexistent. Maybe it’s because we’ve allowed ourselves to find comfort in the fact that we’ll be back here in a few months for the holidays, or maybe we were never really friends to begin with, just acquaintances. People to sit with at lunch and gossip with in the mornings before class. People to split the cost of a limo with for prom and bodies to show up at open houses to make you feel special. Did I ever really connect with these people though? I wasn’t genuinely excited to see where they ended up in life, I just want to know because I’m nosey.
I look over at the pile of stuff I have ready to to be put in the car and I cannot believe that out of all that own I managed to narrow it down to two suitcases and a few grocery bags. I inhale deeply and slowly and exhale just a long.
“I’m really going to miss this place,” I say aloud. No one is there to hear me though. It’s just me, in my room, alone and in that moment I feel no different than I’ve felt all of high school. Out of place, out of sight and out of mind.
Move In Day
I sit on the edge of the bed in disbelief of what I’m seeing. My body shudders as a cold chill runs through it.
It’s raining. It’s really fucking raining.
Now as much as I like to dispel stereotypes about black women, one that I know to be true through and through is our absolute disdain for rain and humidity. And with newly washed and straightened hair that is supposed to last me until the first week of school is over, I was not here for the rain or for Missouri’s humidity.
“What’s the big deal?” my dad says trying to comfort me.
My mom and I practically snap our necks turning to face him. How does one live with three black women for 20 years and not understand that we don’t fuck with rain. Yes we’re aware umbrellas exists and no that does not change our stance on rain itself.
I mean sure it waters the earth, gives life to dead things, hydrates us, but it’s also been ruining my flat iron styles since I was five.
“Dad. Dad dad dad, you and mom have worked very hard over the past 18 years of my existence to teach me that first impressions matter.”
“Well,” I say taking a deep breath “I simply cannot make a good first impression if I’m sweaty from moving AND my hair make me look like a poodle!”
I am newly natural, a choice solely based on the fact that I don’t trust just anyone with my hair, not even my mom. So doing it myself for the next four years seemed like the best option. It is not a political statement.
“One step out there and I can kiss my chances of being the next celebrity alum from Mizzou goodbye!”
“Okay Kayla,” my mom said chiming in “It’s not that serious.”
But it is that serious. Black girls don’t get the same respect white girls do. I was willing to bet money Lakin would show up to move in day the same way she showed up to our Shakespeare’s dinner the difference being her hair would either be in a stingy ponytail or a messy bun, which no matter what white girls say, always looks like shit.
Well, I wasn’t blessed with hair that can somersault over itself and still be deemed presentable by the majority. No I have to work for all of this.
I folded my arms across my chest and shifted my hips from side to side, giving both my parents the death stare. Not that they cared.
I got up, grabbed my sweatshirt, tossed it on being sure that the hood covered my entire head and forehead and headed out the door.
* * *
Moving in was a lot more anticlimactic than I thought it would be. But then again there isn’t much to do when you’re living in a literal shoe box. My room was 181 square feet and I was sharing it with a stranger. Sure, Lakin and I had talked practically every day since we decided to live together and we bonded a bit at Summer Welcome, but how did I know this white girl was really rocking with me like that? I guess the answer is I don’t. I just hoped for the best.
Look, I know I’m not a nice person, it is the unfortunate truth. I have resting bitch face, I wear my heart on my sleeve, say what’s on my mind and for the most part don’t tolerate any type of bullshit that occurs. But that’s not what gets you friends and truth be told, a few hours into my time at Mizzou and I was already desperate to make friends. I remember seeing two black girls rooming together at the end of my hall, maybe they’d be my friends. Who knows. I tried to put my mind at ease, the entire floor was getting together shortly to meet with one another and I already knew that would be the perfect time to scope everyone out.
“Well, we’re on our own now!” Lakin said flashing her brightest smile at me as she came into the room. I wonder if she paid for those teeth? She left the door cracked ever so slightly which was a big pet peeve of mine. She had just said goodbye to her parents and like me, didn’t look sad about it one bit.
“Yup, it’s kind of weird. I counted down this moment for months, but now that it’s here, I’m not sure what to do with it.”
“I don’t think you have to do anything with it, just accept you know, let it happen, I’m sure it’ll be great! By the way, do you have plans tonight?”
Lakin tilted her head to one side and flashed that gorgeous smile at me again. Why did she keep doing that? I know she was trying to be nice, but it was a little weird. I actually did have plans, Aaron said he was taking me out for a dinner that would change my life. I didn’t want to invite her because I thought it maybe could be a date. I don’t know. Plus, the last thing I wanted to do was compete with a white girl over a slice of pizza.
I asked Aaron where we were going and he said it was a surprise, but I knew it was pizza. He had been talking about Gumby’s since the day I met him, so I was excited to see what all the hype was about.
I smiled back at Lakin, this entire situation was oddly reminiscent of my conversations with Bri when she would ask me questions with simple answers, but that I just did not want to answer. Unfortunately, dodging Bri was significantly easier than dodging the girl that I’ll practically be sleeping next to for the next nine months. Lakin and I had the rest of the year to fight and lie to one another about petty stuff, was I really going to start it off on the first night?
I sat back in my desk chair and started spinning around trying to appear as laid back as possible, but it really only made me dizzy.
“Uh yeah, my friend Aaron and I were going to grab pizza, no big deal.”
“Oh cool, mind if I come along?”
“Yeah, I mean I’m sure it’s no big deal, I’ll just text him and see.”
I was not going to text him and see. I just left my parents a few hours ago, I wasn’t going to start asking for permission that quickly from someone else.
“Cool, I’ll even drive!”
Drive? Lakin had a car? That changed everything. You see my ‘98 Toyota Tercel (which they don’t even make anymore) was in no shape to make it to Columbia, so I planned on going without it for the first year and hoped my parents would realize eventually I’d have to get a job that required a car. Lakin never mentioned that she had a car before which was pretty fucking sneaky if you ask me, but I ain’t mad at her because if Lakin had a car, that meant I had a car.
I will never understand why people like to say the words “knock knock,” but don’t actually fucking knock when doing so. I will also never understand why people announce that they’re at the door, but don’t wait to be invited in. Just because my door is cracked doesn’t mean I want you in my space. This is also why I like to keep my door closed completely, not that half ass cracked shit Lakin did when she came in from saying bye to her parents.
At the door was Nicki, our glorified babysitter for the school year. Together, her and Eric were supposed to make sure we did nothing fun, got to class on time, finished our homework and study for tests. Basically.
Together they also lead a class once a week where everyone on the floor was supposed to bond and learn about journalism, a field most of us were majoring in and hoping to break into.
“Are you girls ready? We’re about to have our first mandatory floor meeting!”
It may not seem like it, but for the most part, I try and play by the rules, so if someone tells me that something is mandatory, I take it seriously and I show up. I didn’t plan on ditching, even though Aaron had texted me twice asking if we could move our dinner up, and even if I did have plans to skip I don’t see how that would’ve warranted her coming into our room uninvited. Maybe I was being too harsh or too mean, or maybe I just expected some basic respect for my space, but either way, I shouldn’t have responded the way I did.
“Okay, well I’m an adult who knows how to tell time and also knows that it takes exactly 5 seconds for us to walk out or door and to the fifth floor lobby. We’ll be there shortly,” I snarled, turning my desk chair away from the door and to my computer. Most of the time when I am feeling bold enough to say something like that, it doesn’t come without me immediately trying to get out of the situation.
I peeped Lakin from the corner of my eye mouth “Sorry, be right there” to Nicki as she closed the door, correctly this time.
“Whatever,” I whispered under my breath, while still typing a passive aggressive tweet about the situation.
“Are you okay?” Lakin took one step towards me and touched my shoulder. “What was that about?”
“I just don’t like people 1) telling me what to do and 2) coming into my room uninvited. It doesn’t even matter, bet she won’t do it again. Let’s go.” I grabbed my sweatshirt, got up and headed towards the door and Lakin followed.
When we walked into the lobby most of the floor was already there. Almost all of us were freshman and so being punctual and making friends fast were pretty much at the top of our lists for the first week of school. Lakin and I took the only pair of seats left next to each other and when we did the entire lobby roared.
“You can’t do that!”
I’m about ready to beat someone's ass. I mean I can’t fight, but still, what the hell?
We turn to each other perplexed and in walks Eric, the other babysitter on the floor. He walks toward us, throws his arm around our shoulders and says “Sorry ladies, we want everyone to sit next to someone they haven’t met yet, please choose another seat.”
Was this kindergarten or college because after just a few hours of being here, I couldn’t tell the difference. Lakin got up and chose a seat on the floor next to a really cute boy. He was racially ambiguous and looked oddly familiar, but I know I’d never met him before. He wore a snapback, a burnout Mizzou tee and light wash distressed jeans. In that moment I was kind of jealous I didn’t get my ass up and move. Story of my life.
“Okay, let’s get started. Hello everyone I’m Nicki.”
“And I’m Eric!”
“And we’re your Residential Advisors for the 2011-2012 school year!”
Silence. We were supposed to clap?
“Alright then, well we just wanted to have a quick introduction meeting go over some of the ground rules and have everyone introduce themselves! So first, Eric is going to go over the Hatch Hall rules that you all agreed to when you selected this residence hall.”
I understand that this something that has to be done, but couldn’t this have been sent out in an email? If we already signed the rules, why do they need to be read again, did people really just sign a contract blindly?
Of course they did. People always have a lot of advice and things they want to tell you about college, but nothing anyone says really prepares you for the amount of complete and utter bullshit you go through. Summer Welcome, although fun at times, was a lot of bullshit and information, signing up for classes the next day was a lot of bullshit (I didn’t even get to pick any of my classes and NONE of them were in my major) and this meeting right now is bullshit.
I look up at my floormates, paying attention to the look on each of their faces. These were the people I would spend the next nine months with. They’d see me at my worst and my best and hopefully some of them would support me through it and become a good friend of mine, but I guess only time will tell.
“Okay, so does everyone understand the rules?” Although the question was posed to everyone he looked directly at me. I wonder if it was that obvious that I wasn’t listening or if it’s because I’m black.
I hate even having that thought and I hate that having that thought also makes me question why I have to make everything about race. I don’t actually make everything about race, but you’d think so the way white people react when you bring it up. I get it, white people don’t want to talk about things that make them uncomfortable, but it’s not like the 265 years of slavery, 99 years of segregation and 50 years of kinda sorta freedom is comfortable for black people to talk about either. Just saying.
I guess he could also be looking at me because I’m sure babysitter number one, Nicki already told him about the attitude I caught before the meeting, maybe he thinks I’m going to cause trouble. But then again no where in the rules, which I actually read before signing, did it say anything about not having an attitude. So he can go ahead and turn his head right back around and stare at someone else. I make eye contact with him for an uncomfortable amount of time before he finally looks away.
“Kayla, how about you introduce yourself first. Say your name, where you’re from, your major and an interesting fact about yourself.”
Of course, more bullshit! Hooray! I stare blankly at Nicki who probably chose me to go first as payback. I don’t mind going first, in fact I prefer it, it means you get to get it over with and won’t spend your time stressing out over what to say. I roll my eyes, in true Kayla fashion, and begin.
“My name is Kayla, my friends call me Kay, I’m from Indianapolis, Indiana, journalism major and growing up I was a beauty pageant brat.”
That’s always my go to interesting fact. No one ever believes me because I’m not exactly beauty pageant pretty or model skinny now-a-days, but it’s true. Your girl did not only compete in beauty pageants she slayed.
I look around the room and notice that everyone is actually looking at me, which makes me nervous. Talking in front of people is always so much easier when no one is paying attention.
“I swore your interesting fact was going to be that you got hit by a car.”
Uhhh who said that? No one knows that but Lakin.
I shift my eyes over to where the voice came from and who is it, the cute boy sitting next to Lakin. He laughs and then smiles at me, I smile back hoping no one asks me to talk about it further. Yes I got hit by a car in high school, no I didn’t really get hurt, no they didn’t catch the guy and I got no money out of it, but I did get to ride in an ambulance, which was kind of cool.
I racked my brain for how he could have known that and I realize that it’s because I told that story to my Summer Welcome group. I was trying to be impressive and so that’s what I came up with during two truths and a lie (my lie was that I had a black lab named King). No one guessed correctly.
I guess cute boy looked familiar for a reason, he was in my Summer Welcome group, although I don’t remember him, I don’t even remember his name. To be fair, Lakin and I did spend most of Summer Welcome trying to neglect the people in our group, so maybe that’s why.
“Someone has a good memory,” I giggled mostly out of nervousness.
“Yeah, something like that. I guess I’ll go next since I’m already talking. My name is Trent, I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, I’m majoring in journalism and this past summer I worked at Worlds of Fun as a singer and dancer for their daily shows.”
He’s cute and he sings? Score. I was already planning the romantic songs he’d be singing to me this year and he didn’t even know it.
Everyone took turns going around the room saying information that no one would remember beyond their name. I spent my time stealing looks at Trent the entire time. Of course he sings and dances and wants to be a broadcast journalist, look at him. He had gorgeous olive skin, short dark brown hair, the whitest teeth I have ever seen and bone structure so perfect even Jesus Christ himself would be amazed.
After introductions were over the meeting was adjourned and everyone went back to their rooms. I lingered in the lobby because Trent was still in there and I wanted to him to notice me and maybe start a conversation. No such luck, but he was chatting up Lakin, of course. Why did I have to pick roommate who was the poster child of European beauty?
I walk up to them and try to get a feel for what their saying to see if I can squeeze myself in the convo.
“Yeah and Kayla should come too!” Lakin says acknowledging me standing there.
Shoutout to you white girl, shoutout to you.
I couldn’t tell if she was including because I looked like a lost puppy begging for a scrap of food, or if she really wanted me at whatever they were planning. Either way, I was going to accept the invitation, especially if Trent would be there.
“Right on, well, I’ll hit you guys up tomorrow. Bye!”
Ugh, he is so cute, even the way he talks is cute. Lakin and I say goodbye and walk back to our room. I walk in and leap for my bed a little overwhelmed by all the information I just half assed listened to. I planned to take a nap before Lakin and I met with Aaron, but clearly Lakin had other plans.
“So I have a confession…” Lakin said, letting her sentence hang in the air, begging from me to react to it. And of course, I do.
“Oooh do tell!”
“I totally have a crush...”
Why does she keep lingering after every sentence, spill it bitch!
“It’s our first day! On who?”
* * *
Whatever plans Lakin had for her, Trent and I still weren’t clear, but ever since Aaron picked us up I had been thinking about them. That and the fact that she was already proclaiming her love for Trent. (Okay so she didn’t use the word love, but shit this is college, things move fast, don’t they?)
Sometimes I have to stop and remember just how great God is because as soon as Lakin told me she was crushing on Trent, my phone rang and it was Aaron telling me he was outside. The perfect excuse for me not to respond to her news at all. Which is exactly what I did. I mean what am I supposed to say, I saw him first? That didn’t even work in high school, so why would it work in college? I’m realizing that I’m not only new to college, but all the unspoken rules that come with it as well. At this point I wanted little to nothing to do with her and I was upset I invited her to dinner at all.
At least I was with Aaron and I got free pizza. Aaron was right, Gumby’s is better than Shakespeare, plus the wait is way shorter. But if you’re one of those people who has to try the local staple, give Shakespeare’s a go. Just to say you did it.
“Sooo how has your first day been?”
I’ll admit I was letting Lakin’s news truly get the best of me and hadn’t spoken much to her or Aaron since I got in the car. But for an unprecedented first time, I decided to get over myself and entertain both of them.
“So far so good, Lakin already has a crush!”
Whoops. If there is one thing I love it’s popcorn worthy drama that doesn’t involve me and that is exactly what this was. All I had to do was plant the seed and watch the rest unfold.
Lakin’s face turned bright red, the way a five year olds would when they’re kicking and screaming about the candy bar their mom won’t buy them at Walmart. But I really didn’t get what there was to be nervous about. Aaron doesn’t even know Trent, he barely knows us. It’s harmless.
I couldn’t tell if Aaron was trying to be funny by talking in a valley girl voice with an inflection, or if he actually wanted Lakin to talk about it, either way, I egged on the conversation.
“Yeah Lakin, tell us all about him, Trent right?”
“Trent? That’s the cutest white boy name ever. Trents are always rich and cute!” Aaron squealed, grabbing Lakin’s hand to assure her it was okay for her to talk about it. Which was also kind of weird. I guess I had never been around him long enough to notice his mannerisms.
“There’s not much to tell really. He was in our Summer Welcome group and we just hit off.”
No they didn’t “hit it off” I was with her the entire time at Summer Welcome. When did they hit it off and where the hell was I?
“I added him on Facebook afterwards and we spent the rest of the summer commenting on a few of each others posts. I didn’t realize he was living on our floor until the meeting tonight actually.”
Of course she didn’t how convenient. I can’t believe they had been talking all summer. I’m usually not this possessive so I don’t even know why I care. I barely know the kid, just his name really.
At this point Aaron was leaning towards Lakin hanging on to every word she said. I’ve never been the type to fawn over someone else’s relationship. I can admire a cute healthy couple, but usually it ends at that for me. I don’t care too much after that.
“So when are you guys going to hang out?”
Yup. Aaron definitely gave a shit.
“Well we’re all supposed to watch a movie tonight, Kayla will be there and you’re more than welcome to come too Aaron!”
“I would, but I’ve got a hot date of my own with some cocoa butter and my hand.”
“I’m kidding! But sparks will just have to fly without me, I’ve got some work to do before school starts.”
Aaron worked for Residential Life, but he wasn’t a babysitter like Nicki and Eric, he was in the marketing department. He created all the visuals students see. Which sounds like a cushy job. When I do eventually get a job, I want something low maintenance like that.
We had officially been sitting too long and I was ready to go. I had to mentally prepare for this movie date I was practically crashing later.
“Well you will certainly be missed Aaron.”
“Psh, when am I not bitch?” He replied, kidding of course.
“Alrighty then, do you mind if we go, I’ve been moving heavy stuff around all day and want to shower.”
Okay so that was a lie, I definitely made my mom and dad do most of the heavy lifting...and building, but I was ready to go. Aaron had been acting kind of weird all night and I really just wanted to put my headphones on and ignore Lakin for a bit.
Aaron dropped us off right in front of Hatch and honked goodbye, I kept my eyes forward as I headed for the door and before I could pull it open, someone else did. Trent.
“Whoa, first night and you’ve already got older guys driving you around.”
What’s that supposed to mean, was it a slut joke?
I play it off like it’s nothing, can’t let these boys see me sweat.
“Oh, you know, I like to move fast is all.”
“I like it, I like it. I’m actually glad I ran into you guys, I’m headed to dinner and then to a friends house to smoke and chill, so can we reschedule our movie date? I figure we’ve got all weekend, but it isn’t often potheads are offering free reefer ya know?”
No. I didn’t know. All the run ins I had with potheads in high school pissed me off so much that I made a point to stay away from that shit all together.
“Yeah, whatever, that’s cool. When you’re ready, you know where to find us,” I said winking at him, hoping he doesn’t it take it the wrong way. I’m just trying to be friendly.
“Cool cool, well you ladies have a wonderful night because I know I will!.”
“Byeee!” Lakin said eagerly. She hadn’t spoken during our entire exchange, but she just had to get a word in, so she did. How annoying. I headed for the elevator, barely acknowledging her.
“How do you do that?” she asked.
“You’re just so confident. You said things to Aaron that I could never say, you brought up my crush like it was no big deal and you just talked to Trent and kept your cool while I froze!”
Please white girl, calm down.
“Ugh, black people are just so confident, it isn’t fair!”
Pause. While I appreciate the sort of backhanded compliment she was trying to give to me and my people I hated moments like this. My time at Fishers High School, which was majority white taught me that if white people were lumping back people together for good things that they do, they were doing the exact same things for bad things. I was not about to play this game with her. So I used our 30 second elevator ride as a chance to educate.
“It’s not so much that every black person is confident and every white person isn’t, it’s the fact that my parents raised me to be proud of who I am. Unfortunately, I was not able to grow up in every black home across the country so I can’t actually say that confidence is something that all black children were taught.”
I’m almost sure she can tell I am being a sarcastic bitch by my tone.
“Oh I wasn’t trying to be racist, I really just meant it as a compliment, my ex boyfriend was half black and he was always pretty confident too.”
“I guess that’s merely a coincidence then Lakin.” I said flatly.
I wasn’t about to fight with her. Not tonight. but eventually, after living with me, she was going to understand how and why everything she just said was problematic, but tonight was not that night. You gotta pick your battles.
We rode the elevator up to the fifth floor and walked to our room in silence after that. Lakin sat down at her desk and looked at me for a while. I could feel her looking at me, but I refused to look back. I know she is trying to figure me out, but it’s the first day. These things take time, she really shouldn’t beat herself up over it.
I put my headphone in my ear and blast Kanye as loud as possible. He was my go to when I wanted white people to think I was really hood. I get Kanye is pretty mainstream, but I really can’t handle listening to trap music. I may have every song Kanye, Jay Z and Drake have made to date, but I also had Hilary Duff and Paramore on my phone too.
I turned over on my side facing the window so that I didn’t have to see Lakin, not even out of the corner of my eye. I looked out the window and could still see people moving their stuff in. I closed my eyes and thought about Aaron and Trent, about what my first week of school would be like and if I’d like it here.
So far, Mizzou had worn me out.
* * *
“Kayla? Psst Kayla! Are you awake?”
I hadn’t turned over and acknowledged Lakin since we got back from Gumby’s. I wasn’t mad at her, I was just annoyed with the situation and I really was tired. But I can never get any real sleep in unfamiliar places and though I would be calling Mizzou home for the next four years, it was only night one and I wasn’t used to sleeping here yet.
“Kaylaaaa do you hear that? It sounds like a dog.”
Obviously she knew I was up. She probably thought my headphones were still in, but they weren’t I was just on my phone. Scrolling through Tumblr. It was 1:30 in the morning. If Lakin thought bothering me about hearing a damn dog at this hour was going to be a normal occurrence, she was in for a rude awakening. Yet another thing I was going to have to check her on later. But for now, I gave in.
“No Lakin, I don’t hear a dog.”
“Good you are awake, I was worried I was going to wake you!”
“But you took your chances and called my name incessantly anyway. Got it.”
Did I mention I really wasn’t trying to play with this girl?
“Sorry. I just really feel like I hear a dog.”
Lakin has two dogs at home in Arkansas, both of which slept with her every night, I’m sure she missed them dearly. But one of the many rules our babysitters went over earlier was that no pets of any kind were allowed in the dorms without written permission. Dogs and cats weren’t allowed in the dorms at all.
“I think you may just be hearing things, Lakin.”
“Well let’s just go see okay?”
As far as I was concerned, we weren’t going to see anything. First of all it is 1:30 in the morning, second of all what if there is a dog waiting to bite us or some shit because it has no home training and finally I’M NOT TRYING TO FUCK WITH THIS HOE.
I got the feeling that Lakin wasn’t used to hearing the word no, I wasn’t either. I didn’t respond to her offer and after about 30 seconds of silence she sat up, climbed down the ladder of our bunk beds, walked towards the door, cracked it open and peaked out into the hallway.
“I still hear it. Kayla I swear it’s a dog, come listen!”
Against my better judgement I got up and followed Lakin out the door. We tip toed down the hallway towards the lobby listening closely for the supposed dog. I didn’t hear it at first, but as we got close to the lobby I did.
The elevator doors flung open unexpectedly causing Lakin and I both to jump. We weren’t used to living here yet so all the tiny sounds and movements were still unfamiliar to us. I more so was scared of getting caught, but it’s not like college had a curfew, or like I was doing anything wrong. It was just a habit.
Walking out of the elevator, looking just as started as we were was Emmie, who lived across from us, and a guy I’d never seen before. Emmie had moved in before all of us because she wanted to rush and join a sorority. Her interesting fact during the meeting is that she is withdrawing from the recruitment process because “all of the girls were so basic.” Yeah. I have my own feelings about sororities, but for the most part I assumed that if I were going to be in one, it’d be a historically black one. I assumed white sororities (what I call them) weren’t interested in anyone with my chocolate skin unless they were willing to assimilate. I spent my entire time in high school assimilating to white culture and wasn’t any happier so I refused to do it in order to have fast friends and bunch of bullshit rules.
Emmie and her friend got off the elevator and stared at us. I stared back. I’ve found that sometimes people don’t even realize they’re staring, but if you stare back at them, they get the hint. So staring is what I do.
“What are you guys out so late?” Lakin asked sounding like a concerned mom and breaking the stare off.
“We just thought we heard something so we’ve been going to every floor to see where it’s coming from.”
Oh Lord Jesus if these people think they heard a dog too I’m really just going to be over it.
“It sounded like a dog!” Emmie proclaimed.
Of course it sounded like a dog. We’re in a 10 story building that doesn’t allow dogs, but I’m sure someone was willing to break that rule the first night with hopes of being kicked out of the residence hall. I was over it.
“Ok, I’m going back to bed.” I said turning around and heading back towards our room.
“Why?!” Lakin asked. She had the saddest look on her face as if I had actually let her down.
“Fine, I’ll stay.”
Peer pressure is a mother fucker.
Together we head back down the hallway where our room was, tip toeing so that we wouldn’t wake anyone and so that we could hear this dog that definitely maybe existed. Suddenly the barking stopped. I heard nothing and neither did the rest of them. Emmie, who was leading the group turned around and looked at us perplexed.
“What do we do now?” She said whispering back at us.
We all looked at one another and simultaneously shrugged our shoulders. It’s then I realized that even if we were hearing a dog, even if it did exist and someone was breaking the rules the first night in the residence halls what were we going to do with that information? Tell our babysitters? Pet it when we found it? I wasn’t sure and clearly neither were the rest of them.
I turned around and headed towards my room, I didn’t realize they were following me until I had reached our room. I knew I couldn’t ignore them, so I turned around and said goodnight.
“Well guys, it’s been fu--”
“Are you guys hungry? I’m kind of hungry.”
It was Emmie’s friend interrupting me and also speaking for the first time since he had gotten off the elevator. I hadn’t thought much of him up until that moment, I had barely even looked at him. His name was Joey. He was shorter, about my height, very skinny with a slightly grown out buzzcut. You could tell that if he let his hair grow out enough he’d have beautiful brown curly locs. Similar to Trent he was racially ambiguous. He had deep hazel green eyes and looked kind of mousey, but I had a feeling that once he was in his comfort zone he had a big personality.
I wasn’t sure how him and Emmie met. She said she moved to campus on Sunday, a full four days before us. She also said she had “practically gone out” every day since moving in. So maybe they met one of those nights.
“I’m kind of hungry too.” Emmie replied.
I was definitely hungry, but it was also 2 a.m. at this point, what was even open?
“Let go get food, I’ll drive!” Lakin chimed in.
Once again peer pressure was about to get the best of me. Here I was about to go to my room and lay down after what had truly been a long day, but this was the first invitation I had gotten to make new friends and it had come a lot sooner than I expected it to. So figured I might as well take it.
“Ok, let’s go!” I said eagerly, trying my hardest not to appear annoyed at the entire situation.
“But I’m only going under one condition…”
They all turned and looked at me.
Because I ain’t no backseat bitch. I raced towards the elevator and they all followed. A sober 2 a.m. breakfast with strangers? Sure, why not.
* * *
Who knew two hours and unlimited pancakes could cause three people to be inseparable, but that’s how it was. Emmie, Joe and I were, inseparable. We hung out for the rest of the week and all weekend. We shared our embarrassing stories (and photos) from elementary school and talked about what we were worried about most for college. I loved them, I barely knew them, but I loved them. They were just so genuine and easy to talk to, I had never met people like them. Everyone in Fishers was so stuck up and concerned about looking good and stupid name brand shit, it was so refreshing to be around people who were just chill.
I was sitting at my desk going over my schedule for the next day. I couldn’t believe that my first day of college started tomorrow. I was so nervous I was shaking. I looked up a map of the University of Missouri campus to make sure I knew where all my classes were. I mistyped almost every building my hands were shaking so much. I couldn’t believe this was the reaction I was having, I felt like I needed to take a shot just chill the fuck out.
It was Emmie, barging into our room like she had all weekend, but I didn’t mind. Although it was against the rules, we kept a magnet on our door so that it wouldn’t lock and people could just come in without us getting up. Most people still knocked, but Emmie was different, she didn’t really give a fuck about anything, and I admired that about her.
Emmie was from LA, and totally had the chill vibe. She went to a high school with a lot of preps (what she called them) but she was far from it. She loved punk and rock and roll, but was also obsessed with anything pink, Kate Spade and Disney princesses. She was prep and grunge, liked punk and pop, pink and black, she couldn’t be defined or pushed into one box and she knew it bothered people, which is why she loved it.
She had fiery red hair and freckles all over her body. Everything she wore was fashion forward, it was like she went to New York Fashion Week and picked what she wanted right off the model piece by piece. She even had a model frame. She was slim, but had a butt and boobs to speak of. At 5’10” she towered over most of the girls on our floor by five or six inches, but she wore heels anyway, she didn’t care.
I never would have hung out with someone like Emmie in high school. I knew plenty of girls like her, or who at least girls who wanted to be like her. I felt like they were always trying too hard, but at the end of the day Indiana was a land locked state with little to no skyscrapers and certainly no sandy beaches full of tan men with shaggy sea salt hair and six pack abs.
Emmie was standing in the door looking like she had news that she was just bursting to share. So far her stories hadn’t disappointed either. She did what and who she wanted, when she wanted and she did so unapologetically.
“Wassup girl, how was your night?”
“GIRL!” She says dramatically, pulling Lakin’s desk chair out from the desk and sitting on it backwards.
“It was something else.”
I leaned in towards her with wide eyes, giving her the floor to delve into what was sure to be an interesting conversation.
“So I met this guy during recruitment right? But we weren’t allowed to talk because I was rushing, stupid rule, I know. Anyway, somehow I was able to get him alone one night in the dining hall and hoping that I would be able to do so I already had my name and number written down for his pleasure.”
She paused as she heard someone fumbling with the door. It was Lakin, who had just gotten back from walking her class schedule with some friends from high school. I had to admit it was smart of her to do that, but since her and I were in most of the same classes, I figured I could bum along with her until I figured it out on my own.
“Oh hey Lakin, I was just telling Kay about my outrageous night.” Emmie said not even moving or acknowledging the fact that she was in Lakin’s desk chair. I told you, this girl gives no fucks.
“Ohhh okay, cool.”
Lakin shifted her weight from one foot to the other and proceeded to put her belongings up in her desk not saying another word to Emmie or I and barely making eye contact. It all felt so passive aggressive. I didn’t know if she wanted Emmie to move, but I assumed so and if that was the case she should just ask. I said nothing.
“Anyway, he texts me last night, knowing that rush was over and said his frat was having a back to school party and that I should come...alone.”
I glanced over at Lakin, who at this point was sitting on my bed, staring down at her phone. She looked very uncomfortable. Lakin came from a conservative background and was very proud of it without being disrespectful towards those different from her. I respected that, but sometimes the look on her face and body language was way more telling than what she was saying, or in this case, not saying.
“So that’s why you ditched us last night!”
“Sorry girl, I’ve been on a dry spell for weeks and my little friends,” she says holding up her pointer and middle finger, “just weren’t doing it for me anymore.”
I wondered if it was clear that I had never been sexual with anyone before. Actually, I hadn’t even been kissed, unless kindergarten bullshit counts. One time this guy in middle school clearly liked me and I like him back and we made plans to kiss behind the bleachers after school, but people found out and so by the time he went for it, we had a show of unsolicited 13 year olds cheering. He kissed the corner of my mouth and ran away. Fun times.
Emmie definitely wasn’t the type to judge me for my lack of sexual experience, neither was Lakin so I didn’t think much of it.
“OMG you’re totally judging me right now, aren’t you?”
“Oh no, I’m-”
“Not you Kay, I know you don’t give a shit, Lakin!”
Lakin dropped her phone and looked up at us perplexed. You could tell she was trying to think of the right thing to say, but she was with friends, she could be honest, no need for the politically correct bullshit.
“I-I’m not judging, I just couldn’t help but listen in. As long as you were safe that’s all that matters.”
“Of course I was safe, honey I don’t even blow without a rubber on.”
Not that I knew anything about the difference between blowing with a condom on and without, but something tells me that it’s probably more enjoyable for both parties with the condom off. Just a guess. But hey, Emmie was being safe and I supported that.
It was clear Lakin wasn’t sure how to respond to Emmie’s comments so rather than even trying she simply picked her phone back up and kept pretending to text.
“So what happened next?” I asked trying to get Emmie back on topic before she tried to start a fight.
“You know I’m not really sure, I was drunk so I was going in and out the entire night.”
I sat in silence, giving her a look to make sure she was okay with what went down last night. If she was lying, she didn’t have to, not to me.
“I mean obviously I’m okay, plus I got some, so it’s all good!”
I loved Emmie’s take on life, I was even a little jealous that she could go blow a guy like it was no big deal. Not that I have any huge desires to want to do that, but the fact that she can just own it and be so nonchalant about it is cool. I respect that. She was introducing me to this new form of feminism I had never heard of or explored.
In high school if you did anything more than make out with a guy who wasn’t your boyfriend you were a slut and shamed publicly for it. Especially if you did it before he took you out (as if an overpriced meal at Johnny Rockets means you own the guy anything). It was refreshing to hear a woman just come out and admit that she sucked a dick and she liked it (and that he actually returned the favor).
Emmie’s phone began to vibrate, she looked down at it to see that it was her lover from last night calling. Maybe it wasn’t just a night of fun like she had thought. She politely excused herself and wished Lakin and I good luck on our first day. Unfortunately, I had no classes with Emmie, or Joe for that matter.
I sat on Tumblr aimlessly reblogging content for almost two hours straight. Every once in awhile Lakin would make a “I can’t believe tomorrow is our first day” type statement and I would simply reply with a “yup” or a “mhm.” I didn’t want to think about it.
I had eight more hours of summer left before I had to get serious and even if they were just going to be spent sleeping, it was going to be done in peace.