We loaded up the car and headed out to Route 30. I had made this trip several times before, but this time it was one way. I had been excited to—as I saw it—get on with my life, but this day I was feeling less than enthusiastic. I figured it was the hassle of moving: this would be the second time my parents and I had transferred my things from home to a dorm room. This time my sister was along to lend a hand. We finally pulled up to the institutional-style brick building that was to be my home for the next three years. The August weather was typically hot and humid, but looking at the dormitory’s stark exterior, I suddenly felt a chill.
As we entered the stuffy structure—it had no air conditioning—all my thoughts became focused on the many trips we would have to make up and down the three flights of stairs. Once a sufficient number of boxes were in the small room, I began to unpack while my father made the remaining trips to the car. As I arranged my new personal space, I forgot any reservations and actually became rather energized.
My roommate had not yet arrived, and my sister and I joked and laughed while we hung photographs and relived the events they depicted. When the mysterious roommate finally made her entrance, the room fell silent. I have never been comfortable with new people, and we were from such different backgrounds that I could find no commonality to unite us immediately. It would simply take time, I had decided, and that was something of which I assumed we had plenty. Since I was almost done with my side of the room, and my roommate and her parents were not exactly chatty, my family and I decided to go out for dinner before they made the return trip.
We went to a nearby restaurant, though we did not look or feel our best. A day of lifting and rearranging in the stifling atmosphere of the airless dorm had left us tired and sweaty. We had a pleasant dinner anyway, though my misgivings of the morning had returned. Throughout the meal, a knot developed in my stomach, my chest constricted, and my heart gradually increased its rate. By the time we returned to the campus, I was racking my brain for a reason for my family to stay—or to take me back with them. Dread and loneliness suddenly overwhelmed me, to the point where I could barely climb the stairs to my room. As we said our goodbyes, I fought back tears—and the urge to grab my father’s leg and not let go until I was in my room back home. After all, this is what I had wanted, what I had been looking forward to for months. My parents had made certain sacrifices (for the second time) to get me here, and so I set my jaw and determined to give them no more grief. They drove off, promising to comfort my little Chihuahua and to call the next day. I dragged myself down the hall to the bathroom, showered, and returned to the room to settle in for the night.
I was accustomed to falling asleep to music at home, so I set up my stereo next to my bed. My roommate did the...