By the middle of Welcome Week, my desire to whine to Mark had dwindled. I was by no means happy in Rome, but my feelings of misery turned into a numb acceptance. The sorority girls were friendly to us and the feelings of newly found freedom were sinking in. One night Rachel and I stayed with the off campus boys until 3 AM. When we drove back to school and the only repercussion was the judgmental look of the night guard. I felt exhilarated for a moment. I was at college.
Sometime that week we went to lunch with one of the off campus boys and his friend. A town favorite was Harvest Moon Cafe on Broad Street. I think the fraternity President waited tables there and they served salads that vaguely resembled something from California Pizza Kitchen. For some, Harvest Moon was the hippest.
I’ll never forget that lunch because it was the first time I felt The Numbness. That afternoon at Harvest Moon, Off Campus and his friend (who I’d later learn was Austin’s roommate) sat across the table from Rachel and me and discussed hunting.
My mind wandered for a moment, and I realized I was no longer hearing their words. I’m from the South, but I’m not so southern that twang is immediately comprehensible. As they drawled at one another the words blurred together.
“So, lay-ust Wednesday we were hunting’ and ah saw the cahrayziest thang, it wuz lahk a durdurdurduhduh….”
“Aw, Hay-uhl naw! Sheeeee-ut!”
I do love the South. I love rednecks, BBQ and I have the letters ‘ATL’ tattooed to my wrist. I have a lot of Southern pride, but, in this moment, the South felt alien.
It got worse. “Say-uh, Tiff-nay. What’d ew git on your S-Ay-Tee-uhs?” One quick note about me at 18 – I was an intellectual snob. I didn’t have any luck in other areas of my life so I clung to the idea that, at the very least, I was smart. I used this to justify my being incredibly judgmental towards anyone who wasn’t. I told Austin’s roommate my SAT score. I knew by intellectual snob standards that it was just OK. It may have been the reason Harvard didn’t welcome me with open arms.
Austin’s roommate’s jaw dropped,
“Shee-yut. Why are yew here?” His score was roughly half mine. I was under the impression that’s the amount you got for filling out the Scantron form. I paused briefly, I had come up with a lot of answers to that question in my first week at Shorter; I got a full scholarship; I’m going to be a musician; It’s God’s Will. Usually one of them would pop out of my mouth before I had a chance to consider whether or not I believed it. This time it didn’t.
“I have no idea.”
On Friday night, Rachel and I decided to go to our first Welcome Week activity, which happened to be the last activity scheduled for Welcome Week – the Fitton Student Union party. Why, you ask, did we finally want to go to Welcome Week activity? Boys. Definitely just for boys. Earlier in the week I’d seen this boy walking with a group of Freshman participating in a scavenger hunt. He was tall, and wearing a cross t-shirt. Because I went to the International School, I’d rarely found a Christian boy to have a crush on. I daydreamed about meeting a Christian boy with a Jeep Wrangler who liked DC Talk and would take me on picnics and pray before our meal. Christian boyfriend would stop at second base and maybe one day he’d wash my feet before telling me he loved me like I’d read about in True Love Waits books. This boy looked like my imagined Christian boyfriend, and I pointed him out to Rachel.
He also had a cool name. I’ll mention at this point that I’ve changed the names of anyone with whom I’m no longer close who might not want stories of what they were like in college on the internet. So I’ve changed them, but only slightly.
“Do you know what his name is?” Rachel asked me while we picked tank tops to match our denim mini skirts.
“Ok, so either his name is Amsterdam or he lived in Amsterdam and now his nickname is Amsterdam. Whatever, he’s tall.”
“That’s cool. Some of the baseball players are cute.”
We pranced across campus to the student union, ready for our first weekend at college. As we walked through the parking lots, we noticed a suspiciously low number of cars and several students loading laundry bags into the trunks of their cars. The student union was practically deserted, save for a DJ playing edited rap songs and a couple of the foreign exchange students. That was the moment we learned that Shorter was a ‘suitcase campus,’ meaning that most of the students would leave each Friday afternoon and return each Sunday evening. Rachel and I sighed for a second and talked about all the fun things we could be doing if we were back in Atlanta.
Then it hit us… home was only an hour and a half away. We were on the road by 10 PM. We drove down highway 411, through Cartersville and over Lake Allatoona for only the third time. I was about to develop a very close relationship with that country highway.