By: Cora Brent

“What the hell did I get myself into?” I muttered as I tried to scrub a crudely drawn four foot tall penis off my door.

When I realized I’d need something stronger than hand soap and tap water to get the job done I gave up and retreated to my room, hoping anyone who passed by wouldn’t be too upset over the sight of gigantic genitalia. Later I’d visit the janitor’s closet and find something that would scrub away Sharpie marker. Right now I just wanted to be left the fuck alone.

I sighed with relief as the door clicked shut. One significant perk of this arrangement was my own room and bathroom. During my first four semesters here at Central Arizona University I’d lived in a two-bedroom apartment in a questionable neighborhood a few miles away. With three party girl roommates there was rarely any privacy and the only relief I could count on were the thirty hours a week I worked at the university library.

Even though some features of this new situation were less than ideal, I was very glad to be finally living on campus. For one thing it was far more convenient to roll out of bed and stumble to class instead of inching through local traffic and then battling for a prime parking spot.

I grabbed my phone and searched through music, turning the volume way up when I found some good old fashioned classic rock. With The Doors keeping me company, I flipped up my laptop lid and got serious. Even though we were only a few weeks into the new semester I had several major papers to tackle in economics and international business.

At age twenty-five my road had been a bit bumpier and longer than most of the students who surrounded me but I’d gotten here and that’s what counted. Seven years ago I’d limped out of my vanishing Midwestern hometown as a broken hearted teenager with nothing but six hundred dollars borrowed from my mother and an old Honda Civic that was in dire need of some serious mechanical intervention. At the time I wasn’t sure what I had in mind. I just needed to find a new start. I ended up in Pittsburgh, living with my cousin Taylor and working double shifts at minimum wage jobs as I tried to forget the boy who had crushed my heart. For a while I felt like I was drowning. But when I resurfaced something important had hardened in me.

“Now you can go to art school, Cess.”

That’s what he’d said to me the day I shoved my belongings into black Hefty bags as I bit my tongue until I tasted blood. I couldn’t stand to let him see me cry. He’d uttered those words like he figured I might be grateful after what he’d done. I wasn’t grateful.

And I didn’t end up going to art school after all. Like a few other things it was always a useless dream. After three years in Pittsburgh I wasn’t getting anywhere by working shit jobs and shivering through the long winters. My best friend Antha had just graduated from college and was living in Phoenix. Between her stubborn pleas and all her pictures of sunshine and palm trees she convinced me that I ought to try life in a warmer climate. Even though I liked Phoenix, the entry level job market wasn’t much better than it had been in Pittsburgh. One morning I woke up and realized I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush for six months and somehow that was just fine with me. The creative euphoria that had been with me since I was a child had darkened and I was tired. I didn’t want to struggle forever. When Antha got married I felt a renewed sense of determination and enrolled in the business program at Central Arizona University.

Mostly I was proud of how hard I’d worked, how far I’d come. But sometimes when my mind wandered to dark corners I couldn’t help but feel like I’d lost something I couldn’t even put a name to. Maybe it was just because a piece of my heart had died the day I drove out of Hickeyville, Ohio.

The soft knock on my door jarred me out of my brooding thoughts. Sometimes I ignored the knocks at my door and I considered ignoring this one. Then I recalled yesterday’s Resident Advisor meeting and how the Campus Housing Director told us to think of our residents as little brothers and sisters. I’d never had any brothers or sisters of my own but what kind of person would I be if I left some sniffling kid out there to fend for herself?

Maura was on the other side of the door. She lived at the far end of the first floor hallway, habitually twisted her hair around one finger and always wore turquoise cowboy boots even when it was a hundred and ten degrees outside. She struck me as a nice enough girl though and she managed a watery smile when I invited her in.

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