This was my final bout of self-discovery writing I did in college. It is in the form of an interrogation. I am repeatedly asked who can vouch for me and, throughout the essay, I finally learn that I can vouch for myself. Please read with respect and enjoy. For all you writers out there, this is a hermit crab style lyric essay. Give it a try!
I: Where were you the night of September 15, 2009?
K: I had just moved into my dorm room for the first time.
I: Can anyone vouch for you?
K: I was alone. My parents left me with a half empty pizza box, a head full of anxiety, and eighteen years of wisdom. Despite this, I was excited. Even the cold pizza box felt like possibility.
I: You say you were alone.
K: Yes. I was that night. I went back to my dorm, gleeful at the way the worn key fit and spun the chipped lock on the other side of what was now my door, along with a friend’s.
My room was mostly tidied up. It seems, even when a child moves away, mothering doesn’t end. She had even made my bed like she used to, tucking in all the sheets. After I put away my clothes and shoved the pizza box in the fridge, the excitement wore off. I paced the room, walked toward the window because in it I could see company, even if it was just myself. “Hi,” I said. “You’re a college kid now. Congratulations…”
Yes. I was alone.
I: When was the next time you saw your parents?
K: They visited often. They would take me out to lunch and made sure I had enough food in our mini fridge in the dorm.
I: And did you go home for the holidays?
K: Yes. I counted down the days and packed my bags in advance. Thanksgiving was only a four day affair but when Christmas came around…
I: Was Christmas important to you?
K: Every Christmas is as important as the last. Every year, no matter where I was, I left for home as soon as I could.
I: Didn’t you have anything at school you wanted to stay for? Clubs, friends, activities, a boyfriend?
K: I loved my friends but we practically lived together and most of them were from back home anyway. I didn’t have a boyfriend for years…it wasn’t in the cards; didn’t want one, didn’t need one. Swing dance club was fun while I lived on campus. I loved to dance and I still do. But being in a house full of good food and company with the promise of Christmas is more special to me.
I: Is that where you were Wednesday nights between 7 and 9? Swing dance club?
K: It is.
I: And you have a witness to this?
K: I do.
I: Very good. Now, tell me a little about your evening activities. You were seen traversing the campus in every combination of weather from your dorm to a dining hall at 9 in the evening sometimes staying for up to two hours. What were you doing there?
K: Warm cookie night became my religion while I lived on campus. It happened every Tuesday and Thursday and it was a dreadful tragedy if none of my friends could go at least one of those days.
I: I don’t understand this warm cookie night…is it simply eating cookies?
K: Yes and no. They were delicious. Better than that stereotypical grandmother in the rocking chair cookie. Most of us would get up to grab five or six plates each night, the plates containing two or three cookies. It wasn’t just the cookies though. It was the inane fun in analyzing the colors of the plates and how each of our colors made a pattern. It was sitting around a table, the four of us who lived together with no textbook in sight, no computer, no papers. It was us talking, laughing so hard I once spit my milk out all over the table. And in some child-like way, it may have been us four kids sitting around a table with no curfew and no limit on how many cookies we were allowed to have. It was us slowly warming, with each gooey chocolate chip cookie, to the idea of growing up.
I: What were the names of these witnesses?
K: They were my best friends. No, they were my family. That’s all you need to know.
I: How long were the four of you close?
K: Eventually we parted ways. We all lived in separate places and, though we met up for lunch once a week, we couldn’t stay close. One of us chose to push away and find herself on her own. Instead of letting us be the soil for her to make her roots and grow from, she chose to find new land. Another found herself buried in essays and the world’s violence which fueled her desire to pursue a degree that would let her help those like her mother, a victim of domestic abuse. The third was always steady and so we still saw each other often. When we first moved in together she was just a whisper, a wallflower with thoughts and dreams that no one heard but she became a splash of color in the art building, a soon-to-be apprentice to a tattoo artist and, most importantly, a force to be reckoned with.
But as my friends grew strong, I grew weak.
I: Did you resent this?
K: Of course not. By then, my best friend from high school had moved up and was more similar to me than anyone else. I guess I would rather try to relate to her than to those who seemed to grow past me.
I: Did this happen around September 17, 2011?
K: Around then, yes. I had just moved in to a new place. A four bedroom apartment where everyone stayed to themselves because we didn’t choose each other. It was a step up from a dorm and a step down from an apartment.
I: Can anyone vouch for you?
K: No. Not this time.
I: What did you do?
K: When I went to bed I turned on a nightlight because the walls were new to me. The shadows the light cast scared me into sleep and the very next day I called my best friend.
I: Did you spent much time together?
K: We spent a lot of time together. I didn’t know it then but I was lonely. She was in her weak spot of life so sometimes she would just come over and take a nap on my bed while I read or did homework. Even asleep, a person can be company.
I: Let’s fast forward to October. Do you remember the fire alarm?
K: Fire night. Yes, I remember. I was in my room when the fire alarm went off. I slipped on some shoes and realized it was the whole building, not just my room. My neighbor, a Korean exchange student introduced himself and together we went to the front of the building. It was cold and all I wore were my mother’s old sweats, a t-shirt, and long hair turning frizzy from the moisture in the air. This, I will never forget. One tenant had brought his harp, apparently a prized possession and began playing music. I watched as he spoke to interested listeners, watched as the video game nerd exchanged numbers with a long-legged beauty. I saw two friends hug gleefully as they realized they lived in the same building. Music put us all in a bubble and the busses that roared by on the main road didn’t make a sound, at least, nothing that could defeat the harp, nothing that could pierce the bubble. My new friend turned to me and, with no intention other than friendship, asked me to go to Starbucks with him. I said yes and as I watched the word travel to his ears, I wondered who had said it. It was certainly past ten, I hadn’t known this boy for more than half an hour and I had homework to do. So, I was at Starbucks that night and yes, someone can vouch for me.
I: One of my sources tells me you were seen treading through snow with a large group of people in January with some meetings in December. We are particularly interested in the dark haired man you often stood by. Why don’t you tell me about that?
K: I met someone who soon became my friend and was in a couple of my writing classes. She decided one day that I should meet one of her roommates.
“He’s sweet,” she told me. “He just needs a girl who can treat him right.”
I was surprised that she didn’t just introduce me to a boy, but the entire household. In this group of people, I found a new family to replace those I felt I had lost. They were very different than the people I was used to surrounding myself with. Some things were not for me but some things made me glow inside. Because the first time I was at the house baking Christmas cookies with my friend from class, the four boys barreled in, began introducing themselves, singing, laughing, asking questions and I felt something new. I felt welcomed. Behind all the excitement stood a boy with dark skin and a shy smile, eyes unable to rest anywhere near me. Now we are in love.
I: Can you explain the weakness you mentioned earlier?
K: It can’t be explained. All I can tell you is that I began coming across obstacles that had been there all along but now the walls were higher, the barbed wire spikier and the holes deeper.
I: When did this occur?
K: Sometime after my birthday. The problem was that it got harder to traverse the terrain and I slipped into a hole I couldn’t get out of.
I: Can anyone vouch for you during this time?
K: That’s a complicated question.
I: Okay. We’ll move on. Where were you the night of March 6, 2012?
K: I was at the Temple Bar, Casa Que Pasa and the Up & Up.
I: For what reason?
K: It was my 21st birthday and I was with people I loved who cared for me and loved me back. And before you ask, yes, they can vouch for me.
I: Where are you now?
K: I have my own place that creaks at night but doesn’t scare me because company is with me in every memory. I dance when I hear music, partner or no and I make cookies ten times worse than those in the dining hall but it was never about the cookies anyway. The one who offered a place for my heart with a shy smile and a nervous glance is with me every day so that empty corners aren’t so empty anymore. I sit at the top of the hole, legs dangling down and, every so often I worry I might fall as my shoe slips a little, precariously resting on my toes; but I know the families I’ve made and the ones I’ll make will throw me a rope if I do.
I: Can anyone vouch for you?
K: I can.