Small town. Texas. Cows. And a random Liberal Arts University in the middle of all those endless pastures.
Southwestern University. Georgetown, Texas. You have never heard of it. Barely 1000 students and, to my delight, 750 of them are female.
Move-in day. My mom and dad load up the huge trunk of my dad’s black Pontiac and we drive the 12.8 miles from their house to my dorm room, taking country roads the whole way. I will come home every weekend to do laundry.
Huge parking lot filled with too many cars. Young daughters and their parents and their desktop computers and boxes of clothes and posters and memorabilia from back home.
Into my dorm room and my roommate Jessica is already there with her parents as they, too, help her move in. We live in a nice dorm, one that is one of the newer buildings on this campus that dates back to 1840. White halls white walls white floors white girls. They will all join a sorority and they will all wear white on Mondays. I won’t. I will try to join a fraternity just to say a woman infiltrated a frat. The notion will be voted down. I will never join a fraternity or a sorority, and I will be very happy about that.
But this is two years before that and I’m in my first dorm room introducing myself to Jessica. The school paired us up together. She’s a swimmer. I’m a runner. We both chose the same yoga class to take for our first semester. I am meeting Jessica for the first time, though during the summer the school gave us each other’s contact information, and so we have talked online before. I already told her I’m gay. She’s already said that’s awesome and I’m cool with that.
In the next year I will come to some of Jessica’s swim meets. Her toned legs and strong shoulders propelling her through the chlorinated water. In one year she will break three school records.
We decide to turn our beds into bunk beds so we can have more floor space and more desk space. Jessica wants the top. I want the bottom. Already we are perfect roommates.
Even when later on that year Jessica and her boyfriend Austin will spend most nights in our all-female dorm (no men past ten!) and I will crawl out of bed a few different mornings and step on a condom wrapper on the floor, we still get along. Jessica will not like the woman who was my first girlfriend, but she will like my best friend Sabrina. And Sabrina will ogle Jessica’s thick brown hair and perfectly shaped nose and become hooked on her infectious laugh, but we will not hit on Jessica because she is my roommate. Though we will pop her pot-smoking cherry later on that year. And I will get a picture of it.
My parents help me unload my things. And then they leave. No long hugs goodbye. I only live 12.8 miles away. I will see them soon.
They leave and I explore the dorm. So many women, half of whom I peg as dykes because they dress like hippies, and the only hippies I have ever known have all been dykes.
I will find out in a few weeks that I am wrong most of the time, that my gaydar is garbled here.
After I am all moved in, after I have roamed the halls just saying high, I call my best friend Sabrina and she comes over to see my dorm. She only lives 9.3 miles away.
What I do my first night of being a college student: get high and go to a playground with Sabrina. I do the money bars. She goes down the slide. We sit in two swings and stare up at the sky, watch the stars as our feet swing up to meet them.
Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in THIS, The Rumpus, Atticus Review, Sleet, The Coachella Review and Make/shift among many others. She received the Nonfiction Editor’s Pick Award 2012 from both Revolution House and Cobalt, as well as a Pushcart Prize nomination. Clammer is a weekly columnist for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as the assistant nonfiction editor for both Eckleburg and The Dying Goose. She is currently finishing up a collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body, as well as a memoir about sexuality and mental illness. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.