Scenes from a dorm


The Fishbowl, we called it. It was supposed to be a study room. Just a conference table and a whiteboard, enclosed by a glass wall. Hardly anyone used it during the day, though there were always textbooks and papers strewn across the table. (Or the floor.) But at night, two, four, six, sometimes a dozen of us would jam in, mouths full of dirty jokes and vending machine snacks. Unlike the lounges, the Fishbowl had a door, so you could keep the noise in, not disturb those who had gone to bed. After all, you know how loud studying can be.


I got the letter on Valentine’s Day. “Thank you for your interest, but…” I had to move. The next year, I would not be allowed to live in the dorm that I thought of as my home. Numb, I walked into my room, looked around, dropped my backpack, and left again. I couldn’t stay there. Not as a sophomore, and not for the next few hours. So I walked. Out the door. Down the icy street. Up a steep hill of broken sidewalks. For half an hour, I wandered, weeping openly, with Avril Lavigne blasting through my iPod. My nose ran. My ears turned pink from the cold. I was homeless. I was heartbroken. I was the queen of melodrama.


Every Sunday night, six of us gathered from all corners of campus and met at the intersection of Morewood and Forbes. These were my closest friends, people I’d met on the first day of college, and would hug goodbye on the last. A lot of things had changed between us over the years, but this had not. This was a ritual. This was our thing.

It was a 15 minute walk down to Fuel and Fuddle for half-price food, past the museums and the Pitt gift shop. It was a 30-40 minute wait to get seated, standing outside with the frat boys and the smokers. Then it was 60 minutes of drinks and conversation, reliving the best and worst of our college careers.

After the bill was paid, it was another 15 minutes back to the dorms, 5 minutes of lingering and chatting on the street, and then 2 minutes to get upstairs to the fifth floor, where I often found my freshman residents creating their own bests and worsts. Usually I would sit with them for a while, before finally showering and going to bed. With their voices filtering through my door, I closed my eyes and fell asleep, smiling.

8 responses to “Scenes from a dorm”

  1. Sonje Avatar

    College was piecemeal for me and never involved living in a dorm. I’ve never wished that I got to do it the traditional way, but it does seem like an experience that many enjoy.

  2. Mike Chen Avatar

    I can tell you that 11 years after I graduated college, they’re still the best friends I could have even though some of us are separated by thousands of miles. With all of the insane family demands of Christmas, I think my favorite get-together was a quiet coffee with a close college pal I hadn’t talked to in person in probably three years. Treasure those memories and stories, you’ll never live that way in the real world. :)

  3. Juliann Wetz Avatar

    I really liked this. Thanks for transporting me to a college scene today. Those were the days…

  4. Joelle Wilson Avatar

    Thanks for sharing a wonderful memory.

  5. Les Avatar

    Makes me look forward to going back to school ;) never had the dorm experience though, I always lived at home.

  6. Kristan Avatar

    Many, yes, but definitely not all. Fortunately I had a great RA. (Erm, haha, it was Andy. For the record, we didn’t get romantically involved until almost a year later. :P) I like to think that, as an RA myself, I helped other freshmen have similarly wonderful experiences.

    You know what’s funny? I thought that would be the case for me, but my middle & high school friends have proven to be the ones that lasted. (We were an exceptional group, if I do say so myself.) That said, those friends (mentioned in #3) will always hold a special place in my heart, and I think we’ll always be able to pick up where we left off.

  7. Jon Avatar

    Love these sketches! I love how in the last line of the second one, you totally turn around the meaning of the vignette–“I was the queen of melodrama,” and introduce a new, maybe more nuanced perspective after the fact.