My Girls

Design by Yuen Ning Chang

It is late July. The heat in New York runs right through me. I’m on the phone with my mother; in an attempt to avoid extra stress, money, and time, I tell her I will drive down to Connecticut and move into my sophomore year dorm without my family’s help. 

It is late August. The heat in New Haven eats me from the inside out. I am sitting in a half-unpacked room without a pair of arms to crawl into. It seems impossible to call my mother and confess my reality. I know she will say, oh Mija, I wish I had come.

And I know that my heart will deflate under the weight of 900 miles. 

So instead, I bury the dread, forcing the feeling deep down into those untouchable places. I don’t know what’s bothering me. I can’t put it into words. It is a suffocating lack of belonging. The loss of control.

What is a return to college without the newness of college? It is simply a transition—one which I find myself trapped in, struggling to move through the liminal space of the in-between. I desperately hope that a small pinch of its magic might relieve the weight growing heavier by the hour. Instead, I return to my half-empty room 20 pounds heavier. By now, familiar faces have begun to funnel into campus, sharing perfectly crafted anecdotes from their summers. The bright spot within these insufferable arrivals are the girls with whom I share my home, roommates who were once randomly assigned, destined by an algorithm to be my fast friends. 

The suite excursion to Target in West Haven is a move-in staple. Hoards of hungry college students flock to the holy red doors to find the shelves picked clean of anything that can fit into a dorm room. We are no different. 

Piled into a ride-share clown car, we avert our eyes from each other during the fifteen-minute drive out of fear of exploding into a fit of laughter. When we arrive, we are reminded that we exist outside of the ivy-covered walls as people and not just students. 

We fill our cart to the brim, losing ourselves in the aisles as we shamelessly shout over the walls of colored candies and snacks. We descend into chaos, maniacal laughter, and—if the moment is right—joyous song. Sometimes we pause in quiet contemplation to ask ourselves, does Julia really need that many packages of Velveeta Mac and Cheese? The answer is always yes. What a sight we must be to the families in their minivans, doing their weekly grocery shopping. 

Back in the suite, there is a different air flowing through our space. ’80s songs blare from our speakers as we begin to decorate. We are homemakers. We are home. Prancing around in fuzzy socks that slide easily across the well-worn hardwoods. Singing, full-volume, heads thrown back in VMA-worthy performances. We are the eclectic cast in a John Hughes movie (that is, if John Hughes wrote movies about non-white college girls). We were not so much fast friends as fast sisters, the way they have become a constant dependable heartbeat under the suffocating stress of college. I don’t think much of it when we miss each other on the way out to carry on our separate lives. I know that when I come home at the end of the night, feeling empty from distance, or sleep deprivation, or for no reason at all, there will be a pair of arms to crawl into. They are a part of me as I exist in this space—a part without which I might not be fully functional and surely not sane, a part without which I would always be carrying the weight of 900 miles.

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