The summative moment of my college freshman orientation experience, I think, was when my friend’s dad, who was driving us down to Austin, said “it looks like we’re transporting a corpse in the backseat,” meaning me. I was the corpse.
Now, I’ve been called a lot of things in my life (most commonly Nicole), but “corpse” has never come up, oddly enough. Even back in early May, during which I’m convinced I became a zombie, most of my friends were still nice enough to classify me as more alive than dead.
It was around 5AM. We had been in the car for at least an hour. The night before, I’d gotten into bed at nine, somehow brushing aside the fact that summer days find me physically incapable of sleeping before 1AM, and ultimately felt thoroughly let down by my circadian clock when I stared at the ceiling for four hours. So it was with discontent and betrayal simmering in my otherwise empty stomach that I departed, stuffing last-minute items like contacts and money and shoes into my backpack and pretending not to hear Mom’s incessant “why didn’t you pack all this earlier?”
So there I was, giraffe-patterned blanket pulled up completely over my head to block the frigid AC and also oxygen.
My eyes were wide open. 80’s rock music blared from the front (the driver had to stay awake somehow). Chewing on a stick of peppermint gum that in hindsight had been idiotic of me to accept, I mulled on how my current situation was no fault but my own. I hadn’t gone with my friend to her concert the night before. I could have driven up a day early, stayed at a hotel. Instead, I’d reasoned that a same-day trip would waste less time, not realizing that the time I was “saving” was the time I would have been sleeping.
It was 8AM when we arrived. My purple suitcase, a heavier load than I’d expected, what with the added weight of my psyche, kept skidding against loose rocks on the pavement. We emerged from the parking garage to what looked like a marathon. There was a long path, which wound along the edges of buildings and out of sight, for arriving freshmen, and current students waved and shouted welcomes from the sidelines like spectators.
Their early morning cheer was incomprehensible to me. “They’re so excited,” I whispered haggardly out of the corner of my mouth. “It’s so early.”
My friend was slack jawed, too. “Wow.”
“Do you think they’re getting paid?”
After check-in, we were separated by last name and assigned different rooms. With my new roommate, another fellow business major, I headed up to the 13th floor—very lucky, the front desk assured—and discussed, of all things, the Pokémon Go phenomenon. Apparently, the CEO behind the app, John Hanke, was a Plan II major (I’m majoring in Business Honors and Plan II Honors), which makes me feel like I have career prospects.
I’m going on a mini-tangent here, but for those who don’t know exactly what Plan II is—which is everyone, including the people accepted into the program—no one really knows how to describe it. It’s like liberal arts, but not quite, because there’s a separate Liberal Arts Honors program. The curriculum supposedly parallels an Ivy education and makes students more cultured. Later on that day, during the Plan II session, I received a presentation outline with a slide clarifying Plan II as a program for “interdisciplinary arts and sciences, building a foundation of writing, critical thinking, and analytical skills,” just so we could finally put words to where all our money was going.
Anyway, despite the program’s mysteries, thinking about my future began to foster the foreign feelings of accomplishment and sophistication as well as the inklings of self-esteem. At least, up until the Business Honors Program (BHP) meeting.
We were playing BINGO—the icebreaker version, in which each sheet had criteria like “favorite color is blue” or “has no siblings” instead of numbers, and we had to mingle and get a row of signatures—when it happened. A guy walked up to my left as I was bent over signing another sheet and introduced himself.
I immediately straightened so that he wouldn’t think I was ignoring him, and the pen shot straight out of my hand and into my hair, and made itself comfortable, sticking straight out from my head like an arrow lodged in a target. It was probably quivering, too, now that I think about it.
“Nice,” he said, as I continued taking way too much time to find the nestled pen and remove it, determinedly avoiding eye contact.
“That’s embarrassing,” I sighed. Sometimes, it helps to comment on myself in third person.
My future classmate extended a hand, grinning, and I briefly entertained the thought of just playing dead. I’m thinking I should start bringing a blanket around with me at all times, just for occasions like these.
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