On CVS, Gilmore Girls, and homesickness
I need to buy bandaids.
I’m walking home in ninety degree weather with the full force of the sun weighing down on me while an Usher tune plays from the speakers above a Metro PCS kiosk and effectively breaks through the sound barrier I’d tried to create by playing the same Spice Girls song on repeat.
I see a CVS across the street and I think about the back skin of my heels scraping against the too-small shoes I’m wearing and every survivalist instinct I’d kept tucked away for moments like this screams at me to go inside and buy those bandaids but a larger, less tucked-away part of me guides my eyes back down on the sidewalk pavement below and I continue walking the straight line back to my dorm.
I think about having to ice my feet tonight and about how I won’t be able to wear any other shoes but the Nike sandals I’d stolen from my little brother for the next week or so and I clamp my hand into a fist so my nails dig little crescents into the skin of my palms.
By the time I get back to my dorm I’m panicking, like heavy breathing, shaky hands panicking. I dial my moms number and I wait, the too-tight shoes still cutting off my circulation but I’m too scared to remove them. I stand in that position trying to focus simultaneously on the buzz of the A/C, the dial tone, and my breath.
The first three days of being a college student I’d walked that same straight line past the CVS almost five times. I stop first at the Starbucks and I spend six dollars on an iced chai like I have the bank account to do so and then I walk to the bougie coffee shop by the metro station and buy a muffin the size of my head and then walk past the CVS again and back home. It was an $8 dollar expense every day and I could hear my mother's voice in my head every time I made a purchase.
It’s daunting, it really is. I feel a hundred eyes following me down every cross-walk. And I know it’s inaccurate and partially narcissistic to assume that I’m the subject of all their attention but it’s enough to make me shove my earphones too far in and pray no one tries to speak to me.
It was an easy decision to go to college away from home and one I’d made for myself long ago. I wanted to be the type of person that I wanted to read about. It’s a weird kid’s lifelong dream to someday be surrounded by equally weird kids. And it felt like one too, like a dream. I romanticized every aspect of the process, from applications to filling up our rented SUV with everything I owned and driving the 18 hours down from Minneapolis. And maybe that’s why it was so easy for me to be disappointed.
In high school, I managed. In the most basic sense of the word, I managed. I was adequate, I was enough, I didn’t have to try to be softer or harder than I was, I existed in a realm that I created for myself and it was easy. I tried very hard not to think about my personhood and on the off chance that I’d try to make the cosmic leap into a realm other than my own, it was scary but it was temporary. I always had myself, I always had my room, I always had an escape pod.
And in college it isn’t easy. It isn’t easy because I’m constantly reminded of my personhood and I constantly need bandaids or granola bars or toothpaste and there isn’t anyone there to talk to the cashier for me or to whisper inside jokes to. It’s lonely and different.
In those first three days of college I managed to amass three more coping mechanisms than I was used to. I’d always hoarded coping mechanisms, usually cartoons or pop music or reality TV. This time around it was the Gilmore Girls, mainly. I spent all my time in my dorm room, teary-eyed and snacking on club crackers, pretending I could leap into the world of Rory Gilmore, of academic and financial security.
I should be excited. I should be secure in the fact that no one else here knows anybody, that everyone is also trying to make friends, but I’m not. In three days, I watched everyone around me adapt quickly to their surroundings. I watched people go to the dining hall alone and wondered why I didn’t possess that brand of bravery.
I think progress in that field comes in short bursts, so I haven’t totally given up on myself. Today, for example, I whispered a weird-shy hello to the girl across the hall and the felt an embarrassing amount of pride. Like, look at me! Saying hi to people!
So, I guess I’m waiting out. I’ll get used to it and maybe even develop social skills that stretch farther than sorta saying hello to the people I live with. It’s like that exposure theory that says something like the more you’re exposed to a stimulus the more you’ll tend to tolerate it, and hopefully, even start to enjoy it.
ARFIE is a Somali girl journalism major currently going to college in Washington, DC. She’s really passionate about superheroes, cartoons, afro-futurism, and positivity. She’s also a writer but spends most of her time trying to curate safe spaces for creative black kids and watching too much TV. Twitter // Tumblr