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  • Arrival at college. Thousands of miles from home. Hot as hell (but not hot as home, just more humid).

    It's so green. Everyone is so pretty. They have expensive cars. There is no elevator up to my third-floor dorm room.

    "Where are you from? What did you get on your SATs?" Questions like this prepare you for polite adult conversation that will be how you categorize every new person you meet roughly from the age of 21 to 61, when you ask, "And what do you do?"

    On this day in August, years before I am supposed to become an adult, I move impossibly heavy suitcases up three flights of stairs in an old ("historic") brick building with no air conditioning.

    My mother and grandmother have come with me to settle me in at school. None of us knew what we were getting into. They left this college thing up to me. I got to pick where I wanted to go. I focused on the school that was furthest from home and that gave me the most financial aid. I'd never been close to that part of the country before.

    "Where did you go to high school?" Nobody has heard of my all-girls Catholic academy in west Texas. My roommate smokes cigarettes, even though we both checked the non-smoking box on our rooming forms. That which our parents know about us is quickly being eclipsed by what we do that is contrary to their wishes. We are ecstatic at being on our own. I do, however, cry when my caretakers leave the next day.

    I have just turned 17. I have never had sex. I have never had a boyfriend. I remember kissing my best friend Jason Sunga - closed lips, one second - on the playground in first grade. The rest of my experience is what I've read in books. Reading books got me this far - the #1 liberal arts college in the country. A baby Ivy. Cream of the crop. Nerdiness can get you anywhere; that is, except to prom with a proper date. Who cares - the past is past. This is my new life. I can be anyone I want.

    I am living in a co-ed dormitory. Room of boys next to a room of girls. Everyone sharing the bathroom. A couple of shower stalls, a few toilet stalls, a few sinks. I am supposed to shower with strange boys. Brush my teeth next to them. Have bowel movements and shave my legs and whatever else with just a plastic divider between one and another. What was more real: where I came from, or where I am now?

    The nuns who ran my school would have a fit. My mother and grandmother don't say anything although I'm certain it's the topic of conversation on their entire multi-plane ride home. I'm on my own to figure these things out.
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