Damp air, mold and mildew, paper-thin facades leaving
nothing to the imagination. Even with the door locked
and secured by electronic keypad prone to malfunction
I knew exactly what so-and-so did last Friday night with
an upperclassman she met while inebriated at one of the
more notorious fraternity houses. Alpha something or
other. I didn’t even have to ask, I heard. In that room
we left the windows gaping wide in the dead of winter.
The air never moved, only churned like a sick stomach.
T and I weren’t really friends but then we were
and then we weren’t and then we finally were, for
real the last time. In our corners, snapshots of past
lives. Boyfriends. High school theatre performances.
Smiling faces of hearts we had to leave behind. How
comical, what humidity and homesickness and hardly
a 10×10 expanse of cheap tile floor can do to two girls.
We grew insane in there as our photos, Scotch-taped
and secured, plummeted from the sweating wall. Sad fate.
Nothing stuck. It was a home we tried to make a home
but never really became a home, no matter how many
times we rearranged the furniture at 3 AM in hopes of
changing the energy of that blessed, cursed lack of space.
When she left for good I stayed behind and felt
strange inside, the room barren and stripped of noise,
of Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour on loop from her side of
the room, wafting scent of burnt cookies from the kitchen
next door, the volleyball court view usually obstructed by
window box fans, our end-of-day talking half-asleep about
who we ran into, the clumps of hair we found in the sticky
communal showers, the rowdy boys down the hall always
yelling about unimportant things, everything and nothing.
Suddenly it was May and the world smelled of flowers
blooming in sidewalk cracks and it was time to leave forever.
Out came the rags and the floor cleaner and away went the
remnants of my first year, clothes folded and crammed back
into the car trunk they hailed from. It was the end of spring
and my soul twinged having left behind the first place I ever
dreamt of forgetting. We were there and then we weren’t.
I pass it sometimes. Familiar limestone and brick. Still,
it’s not the same. We no longer haunt. No more of our tears
fall within the cement walls of the sacred profane, no more
constant hum, heat never rising, song of summer stuck
in the throat. That damp air belongs to someone else now.
It changed us, though.
It changed us.