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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First-Year University: Mistake and Rescue

“Hey, Elisa*! How’d ya find me? What a surprise!” Standing right there in front of my open dorm room door was Eliza, a girl from my graduating class. But, she lived 386 miles from here, since she had elected to live at home while going to college. There were thousands of students attending university here; I was dumbfounded. I was also very pleased since I had seen no one from home for weeks.

“Well, it’s not all that hard to figure out where you might be, Sojourner. Duh, this is the only all-Freshmen Women’s high-rise dorm on campus. I thought I would start here and then work my way through the other dorms that slip in the overflow first-year girls, if you weren’t in this one.” We laughed as, of course, this was also the dorm located right next to the street that passes by the main section of the campus so a likely place for anyone to start looking for a first-year student of the female gender.

“Well, c’mon in and take a load off. Here, do ya want the desk chair or the softer seat on the bed? I just can’t believe you’re here!” I was so excited; I’d been so homesick for school friends. Well, Elisa and I had not really been friends in school—more acquaintances—but she was from home and that meant everything to me at this stage in my first time away from home experience.

“Should I put my bag here in the closet or…?” I hadn’t noticed the bag before. Hmmm, we were supposed to get permission before having overnight guests.

“Go ahead and just put it there by the bed. My roommate’s out just now but should be back. I’ll see if she’s gonna leave for the weekend. It’s pretty tight in here when the two beds are pulled out from under this sideboard thing that makes it into a kind of sofa so, if she’s here, there won’t be any room for you to crash on the floor between the beds. Hmmm, but we can work that out later. She’s away a lot of weekends so maybe. Are ya here for the whole weekend or did ya have somethin’ else to do in town?” Since I had no notice that Elisa was coming, I also had no idea what her length of stay might be.

“I just thought I’d take advantage of a ride from a friend coming this way to drop in and se what the scene is over here. Figured I could crash with ya, right?”

“Uh, well, probably for one night, at least, if my roommate is not gonna be here. They have rules about the number of students in one room because of fire codes and stuff. I don’t really know anyone off-campus because all the freshmen have to live on campus. If I’d known you were coming, I’d have asked around just in case my roommate isn’t going somewhere. Hmmm, I may still be able to find someone; I’ll ask here on this floor and, if not, then I’ll ask at lunch. It is just so good to see you!”

As it turned out, “C’ as in “cat” was planning to be away Friday night but would return Saturday evening. It was fine for Elisa to stay Friday, as long as I got permission from the Resident Advisor, a third-year student in charge of our dorm floor. After a walking-tour of the campus, including a stop at the University Commons for a Coke and snack for Elisa who hadn’t eaten lunch, we struck out for the necessary permission. It was granted and we were all set.

“Uh, what’s happening tonight? It’s Friday so there must be somethin’ goin’ on here on this hippie campus?” The heat began to rise up my neck and across my cheeks so I was pretty sure I was blushing badly.

“Well, there is probably a movie at the student union or we could get a pizza delivered. I could ask some of the others who don’t have dates tonight if they want to play some games?”

“You’ve got to be kiddin’? Don’t ya know any guys here who have parties? You’ve been here nearly six weeks already? It’s a joke, right?” My red-hot face was joined in its discomfort by the growing ball of tension in my stomach.

“Actually, yeah, I do know some guys but I am still going steady with Curt so I don’t date here. There are other girls in the dorm who are in the same situation so we kind of hang out on weekends to help us be faithful to our guys back home. It is not yet legal for us to drink alcohol, anyway, so not a lot of the fourth-year students will even look at us. Jail-bait, they call us.”

“Awe, c’mon! Well, I’ll call the friend who brought me here and find out what time his party is. He asked me to bring you along so I will; He’ll pick us up right here at the curb.” Elisa was off the daybed and dialing before I had a chance to un-freeze my shock. “Okay, he’ll be here in ten minutes. It’s casual so you look fine like that.”

“Elisa, I don’t drink and I don’t want to be with any other guy. I can’t do this; I really can’t.”

“Of course you can! Don’t be so square. C’mon. Don’t tell me you’re gonna spend your entire first year in this swingin’ university and miss all the parties for an old high school boyfriend? Besides, he’s not here. He’ll never know you went.” I was feeling just sick.

I’ll know I went. When he calls on Sunday, he’ll know I’m guilty about something’; I know he will.” I was really torn. I didn’t really want to go to the party off-campus but Elisa was my guest. Shouldn’t I go so she can have a good time? I wouldn’t have to drink and I, certainly, wouldn’t let myself be isolated by one guy away from the group. Would it hurt anything to go?

“Look, he’s down at the curb now,” Elisa was looking out of the window, “c’mon; let’s go. I’ll just have him bring us back if you don’t like it there.”

The scowl and urgency of my high school friend broke my resolve and two minutes later, I found myself signing out for the evening at the front desk. Her friend was cheerful and very pleasant as I was introduced to him. Elisa even let him know I didn’t want to drink and had a steady guy at home so… keep his friends off me.

“Well, he-ell-ell-lo ladies! What can I bring ya to drink this fine evening?” The host sounded pretty chipper and laughed when I said a Diet Coke. “Ah, yes, girls and their Diet Coke.”

He returned with a cold bottle of dark beer and told me there wasn’t any Coke, Diet or otherwise. I protested but it was to his back; he had gone on to find another thirsty guest. Okay, well, I could just hold it; I didn’t have to drink it. Elisa was no where in view.

As the evening wore on, the party guests became a lot sloppier in their words and behavior; the guys not caring about my guy at home. I was here and he was there, seemed to be their motto. I noticed a lot more men than women at this party. How I longed to go back to the dorm but where was Elisa to tell her?

A strange smell began wafting into the living room and I was under no elusions that beer was the only relaxant being served up at this party. Marijuana. I had not a clue where this house was located or how to get myself back to the dorm. Nevertheless, the sound of approaching sirens set my feet bolting out of that backdoor. I had no idea where Elisa was and, frankly, I didn’t care. She had abandoned me and I was on my own to find my way back… or risk being arrested for what other people were doing! How could I prove I wasn’t drinking or smoking pot?

I ran as fast and as far as I could before stopping to see if anyone had followed me. They hadn’t and I was, totally, alone in the darkness of the late night. I didn’t know the city and only knew that I was a very long ways from my dorm. I had not a single clue how to get back. No cell phones in those days and, in the far-distant residential area, no payphones either. I would just have to find my way back on foot. But, in which direction should I walk? Having no idea at all, I began to sob. I cried out of fear of the dark, as much as for the trouble I was now in just because I wanted to please my friend. How would I ever find my way back to the dorm and the safety of my own bed?

*Name has been changed.

If you missed the post that would explain why Sojourner referred to her roommate as “C” as in “cat,” click on yesterday’s link:

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