Mornings in a communal bathroom are not something one can fully prepare for. I sit on the toilet seat and think about the fact that this stall is my only outlet for true solitude. When I return to the sink, a man draped in a flimsy towel is spitting phlegm into the drains. I give a little wave before soaking my retainers. This is college, I suppose. My little wet feet squelch down hallways in the dark; a craving for home-cooked sweet potatoes lives on in my mind. I have fans in my room now––they never quite work––and a small feeling in the back of my throat that constantly reminds me of how much I miss home.
Oh yeah, and a literal feeling in my throat has progressed into a full blown asthma condition. Freshman flu is quite astoundingly no joke, and I contracted it a mere three days after arriving here. Shaking chills and splitting headaches left me in bed for a good period of time. I lay in complete darkness, staring at the Fiona Apple poster hung awry and very occasionally slipped into sleep. This allowed me the grand opportunity to slow down and actually process the change that is college.
I’ve never been good at transitions. After my eighth grade graduation, I clutched a packet of Good & Plentys that was gifted to me by a teacher, and I sobbed hysterically all night. I did the same thing when, last week, a good friend of mine walked out the door for the last time. I hugged my good, weighted dino stuffed animal in my bedroom and cried for four hours, relentlessly. Then came the fever. I was sitting in the Deece, freshmen around as far as the eye could see, when shivers began wending their way through my body. Might as well take my temperature, I thought, and the red light of a janky thermometer flashed “101.” I resigned myself to the window corner of my dorm room and cried as I watched the world move by. I cried as I FaceTimed my cats. I cried as I called my best friend. I cried because nothing is the same as it was, and this will soon become my new normal.
And yet, there’s something in the air here. That “something” radiates through the beautiful singing of my new friend, strumming a guitar as I bask in the sun. She teaches me the delicate art of songwriting. I’ve never understood that before. That “something” brushes past me as I dance to Flo Milli while Swiffering our hardwood floors. I clean up messes and stomp on ants that infest our room. That “something” twirls around my neck on a freshly bought lanyard that I am swinging back and forth. That “something” is in a jam sesh-to-be, a Twisted Soul cup of tea, and it truly makes me feel happy.
So, I claim the fourth stall in the bathroom and stare at the sexual assault resources plastered around the walls. Oh boy, freshman year—a moment in time that will be forever encompassed by the idea of truly living free. It’s not really all it’s chalked up to be, but that doesn’t mean anything about what it could become. Fall air will eventually roll in and I will get to enjoy the sight of beautiful sweaters and smiling faces. Winter snow will make us dorm-ridden again, and we will get to drink chai. And when spring rolls around, maybe I will have finally adjusted to the reality of standing in a bathroom stall that will never quite feel right.