Summer again. I am going to another program, this one at Northwestern near Chicago. It is a journalism program. I am the features editor of the school paper, so I feel like journalism is a possible career. I am happy to read my acceptance letter.
When I arrive, I meet my roommate, who is wonderful and dresses extraordinarily well. I feel my fashion sense skyrocketing just from being around her.
Classes are enjoyable, and I learn a lot, but the real highlight is the new place, this city where I know no one and therefore can be perceived however I want to be. I am outgoing, and I feel accepted, and this is fairly new. I volunteer to help organize a parade and am placed in charge of the section that contains the Grand Marshal. I love yelling orders and seeing people obey. I wonder what this indicates about me. Do I harbor closet dictatorial tendencies?
I spend a lot of time at the lake. I read the graffiti on the rocks and think about the people who left it here. I read books and watch the waves lap against the stones. I go to Chicago and allow myself to be a tourist. I ride the El for the first time.
On our last night, my roommate and I sneak out of the building through a friend’s first-floor window. He promises he will leave it open so we can get back inside without raising a ruckus. We go to Kafein, our favorite coffee house, and I order the freeze, a concoction that always hits me straight between the eyes and makes me giddily hyper.
We meet two guys there. One could have stepped out of the pages of GQ; the other is cute in an intellectual sort of way. We spend an hour talking with them, and when GQ Boy asks my roommate to go for a walk, she takes his hand and leads him out of the bar, tossing an “I’ll be back” over her shoulder. I sit and wait. I talk with the intellectual boy, who is not really interested in me, nor I in him, but we are together for this night. I am worried about my roommate. I picture her lying in an alleyway, dead and abandoned, or creeping back to the dorm with torn clothes. I am relieved to see her enter the bar, smiling broadly.
We walk back to the dorm along the empty street, slip through Rob’s window and up to the fourth floor, and go to bed. We are up before dawn, at the lake, and the waves are crashing on the rocks, sending up spray that covers us all in a fine mist. We leave, one by one, and then I am gone, too.