The story goes like this: the girls arrive in late summer with a suitcase packed and high hopes. They are eighteen and ready to carve out their place in the world.
Times have changed; their attitudes have not. They smile to themselves as August light comes in the window.
First order of business is making the bed. University operations has put a flimsy mattress in the room, and the girls open their suitcases, pull out a pair of sheets, and set to work. Some know neat little hospital corners. Others are roughly tucking the fitted sheets under the mattress pad.
Then come the clothes into the three-drawer dresser. They sigh and go to orientation. They bring back stacks of books from the bookstore. Some things have changed; but not the need for books.
They go to class. Take notes. Meet friends. Lay alone at night staring at the ceiling wrapped in the sheets they packed. They think about what they learned in class, the friends they’ve made, and, on occasion, how gorgeous the boy in front was. They are naïve, not yet old enough to understand that the boy they’re eying is just that, a boy.
They lie there and dream—fantasize—about him—here—in their bed.
This is fairly new. This building went up when it was still a girls school, and there were no boys to fantasize about; just lessons and hopes; aspirations of a future not far in the distance. Back then, boys were gentlemen—well most of them—now, not so much.
Here, with the door locked, the girls can give way to their fantasizes, closing their eyes and moaning as they imagine the boy in their Shakespeare class caress their naked skin. This is their first safe place; this room with a bed, a desk, a mini fridge and microwave, surrounded by books; alone.
They explore their bodies late into the night, their voices making breathless sounds and sometimes muttering the name of someone who doesn’t know they exist. Yet.
In time they bring this person whose name slips from their lips over. They watch movies on their laptop or study together with the resident at the desk and the boy on the bed or the papasan purchased at a flea market.
It turns into more: a laugh turns into a glance, which turns into a kiss. They pull away and then kiss again, deeper. They end up on the bed; naked. Their bodies are close, but their movements are awkward. One of them pulls out a condom. Their limbs tangle together and their bodies rumple the sheets.
It’s over too quickly, and they fall asleep on the bed meant for one.
Weeks later; some of the girls are sad, feeling used, and crying over their textbooks as they read their books. Some girls are happy with the object of their affections returning to their bed after dates, and coffee, and meals in the dining hall. They spend weeks and sometimes months in a euphoric bubble of intimacy manufactured by four thin walls and scant furniture.
The happy ones are never happy for long; their affections influenced by naiveté and inexperience.
If it ends—when it ends, they lay in bed staring at the ceiling with silent tears sliding down their cheek. I wish I could protect them from this part, but they carry on; go to class, make it through to next year.
At the end of the year, they pack up their suitcases, put the papasan in storage, clean out their fridge, sell back the used textbooks. The morning of their departure, they turn to the bed; remove the sheets, and stuff them into the laundry bag. It always ends with the bed.
Year after year, the door opens and a new girl enters her abode. This is her first time away from home, all to herself.
She doesn’t know it yet, but this tired, jetlagged girl is going to discover herself here. She’ll fall in love and it may end terribly. She’ll spend each night tangled in the sheets she packed, sometimes alone and sometimes with someone; but that is all for her to find out.
Right now, she sets her key on the desk and opens her suitcase, and begins to make her bed.
Lauren Busser is an Associate Editor at Tell-Tale TV. Her work has also appeared in Brain Mill Press Voices, five::2::one magazine's #thesideshow, Bitch Media, and The Hartford Courant. She has also been a dog sitter, worked front end at a bakery, and helped out in a kindergarten classroom. She learned to knit when she was five-years-old and thus, can now complete sweaters at a superhuman speed. She’s currently working on a novel. You can find her at www.laurenbusser.com and on Twitter @LaurenBusser.