The moment that I was brought to college by my mother – and the moment that she then left me there – is one that remains crystal clear in my often-fractured memory. I remember it all: the frayed denim shorts I wore and the silver hoops in my ears that would sometimes get caught in the tangle of one of my curls and how it was eighty-five degrees and humid outside, as it would always be for the next four years on the days when moving boxes and Hefty bags stuffed with clothing was required. I remember opening the door to my dorm room, a space designed for two people but assigned to three, and realizing that claustrophobia could actually be a spontaneous phobia that could descend out of nowhere and that it was an ailment to which I refused to succumb.
So it was on that very first day when I appraised my two roommates – girls who were complete strangers to me but who I got undressed in front of later that night – and sussed out which would be more likely to psychologically break first. It wasn’t that I wished a psychosis on anyone, let alone fellow freshman girls who were away from home for the first time and seemed rather vulnerable and sweet. It’s also not like I completely believed in that college urban legend that if your roommate commits suicide, the roommate left behind will be given an automatic 4.0 as some sort of academic compensation for the emotional burden she must carry like a boulder on her hopefully-still-tan-from-the-summer shoulders – though, frankly, that legend has never fully been debunked and I kind of believe that the free-4.0 thing happens somewhere and that it’s probably a place like Oberlin. And while a 4.0 would have been a lovely GPA to snag while still being a girl who had habits like skipping Intro to Psychology because it started at the near-dawn hour of 10:15 AM, I didn’t really want a dead roommate on my hands. No, I decided on that first night as we all ate salads and fries in the dining hall – both could live. But one of them had better sink into a depression, and fast, so she would rashly make the illogical decision to drop out of school, leaving only two of us in a room, as the architects of the space had clearly intended.