Freshman Year - Fall Semester:
Lesson Number One: these are not your siblings
These are not your siblings. If you were lucky enough to grow up with a room of your own, that time is over. The room you share with two strangers may not be much bigger than your bedroom at home. Don't worry, the furniture is equipped to deal with all three of you, but you have no idea who these people are. You know the blond girl's name because she showed up on time. You arranged the room together and your mother ran cat8 under both bunks and behind the desks to give you all an ethernet connection. Orientation clearly stated that wifi in the dorms was dubious at best. You don't like this because you have a lot research that will be followed by a lot of writing. Your roommates aren't much bothered. The other blond came equipped with a toolbox. You find this soothing but have not connected the dots to your mother.
The girl who came late brought a diffuser. Her mother set it up on the dresser closest to her bed. You have never smelled Patchouli and you rub your nose. In the beginning, you are too polite to tell her. She stays up all night and sleeps late. You tiptoe around her in the morning because she can be cranky as hell if you wake her up. As the first weeks progress, you are cranky in the morning because you have not learned to sleep through the noise and the constant knocks at the door. You don't question who comes in and out of the room because you assume there's something you just don't know. You are still too polite to say anything. You are the youngest child at home and your assumption is your siblings will smother you in your sleep if you irritate them. For the record, you were never smothered but I know perfectly well you were tortured very much the way you lovingly tortured the cat.
You get to know the other blond. She is not an academic, but apparently you are the only academic. You are reminded that you are attending an art school. It might have an accredited Anthropology program, but that doesn't change the environment. You came looking for diversity. Upon closer examination you realize you are in another ocean of white. You do not know about Food Insecurity yet. You have only seen it once and even then, you were sheltered. It was not your hunger, it was your mother's and she would never have let you see the truth. There is no hunger on this campus. When you finally come face to face with the other half of America, it will break your heart and light the first fire of rage. But not yet.
Lesson Number Two: That boy is not looking for sex and your mother is a bigger pain in the ass than you thought possible
There is a reason that door opens and closes all night and the reason is directly related to the Patchouli diffuser, which you still don't understand. You weren't completely sheltered, were you? Not intentionally.
It was Julia who enlightened Elizabeth. Julia was gentle and only laughed a little. She has the diffuser because she is getting high and doesn't want to get caught. Elizabeth struggles with this. The issue isn't the smoking so much as the diffuser. It's disgusting and it gives her a headache. If that girl wants to smoke all night long, that's not Elizabeth's problem. She just wants to sleep migraine free.
Julia was still awake one night when the first knock came and the door opened. A boy met Diffuser Girl in the middle of the room. He gave her some money, and she put something in his hand. In the morning she told Elizabeth. They weren't concerned about the legal issues so much as the disrupted sleep. If you want to sell drugs from the room, please do it during the day. They were too afraid to talk to her. They don't talk to her, instead, they launch a campaign.
Diffuser Girl likes the room to be dark. Elizabeth and Julia want all the light they can get. There is a constant battle for control over the blinds. Elizabeth and Julia start putting post-its on the glass. What they write is not so relevant as the fact that they cover the glass in yellow squares that can be read by anyone. Diffuser Girl comes two inches from losing her shit and they back off. A little.
Elizabeth has breakfast with her mother. It is mid-October and her mother has become an absolute pest. She is using the fact that she has not appeared on campus, even though she could because campus is only forty minutes from home, to excuse the constant barrage of packages from Amazon and Walmart. Anything she could possibly need is delivered to a building somewhere on the other side of campus, with the rest of her mail. She doesn't have mail unless you count the thirty-eight handmade postcards created and sent by her mother in the name of her dog and cat. The only useful thing her mother sent was the two gallon paint bucket with lid, otherwise known as the freshman year barf bucket.
Elizabeth has breakfast with her mother at a pancake house in White Plains, she leans in and says: I don't think I should tell you, but there's something I should tell you. Now her mother is wide awake. Elizabeth! You wouldn't have brought it up if you didn't want to talk about it.
Mom. Are you are aware that you're attempting to smother me?
Are you aware that I've gotten more attention from you in the last nine weeks then I got in the second half of 2017? Are you aware?!
No, you're not.
OK. I recognize that I should be sorry even if I'm not actually sorry, does that help?
So what do you want to tell me?
Christ on a bike, Elizabeth, how bad can it be?
I don't actually know.
Lesson Number Three: Accessory to a Felony
To her credit (and she is short on credits), Elizabeth's mother said absolutely nothing until Elizabeth was done talking. When Elizabeth was done talking, her mother started asking questions.
Elizabeth, how much pot (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MOTHER, IT'S WEED!) is this child actually keeping in the room? I mean, just a guess, OK, couple of ounces, half a pound? What are we looking at.
I don't know.
OK. What do you see.
I see her take money and hand product to people five or six times a night.
How much product?
Only what can fit in your hand.
No big bags, but, Mom, we don't have big bags anymore.
Sigh. Yeah, fine. OK, so she just has a little bit at a time.
I don't know.
You don't know? Do you know how often her supply is replenished?
What do you mean, it's not?
It comes from under her bed.
(Elizabeth's mother has to rely on back up oxygen for the next five minutes)
Can you tell me what's under her bed?
OK, Elizabeth, what do you see?
I see a bunch of ziplock bags.
OK, what size?
(fuck my life) How many bags are under the bed?
I don't know, maybe twenty, thirty?
Elizabeth, I have to pee, I'll be right back.
Mom. Your face is all red and there's a big welt on your forehead. Did you break the tile?
OK, Elizabeth, I have to tell you something. That much marijuana in the state of New York, with intent to distribute, is a felony. Anything over a pound is automatically intent to distribute and it sounds like twenty to thirty pounds. I don't know how many years it will get you, but that's driven by your social demographic. You're a white girl from Fairfield County; you will survive this. If you are a black boy from anywhere else, your life just ended.
But I'm not doing anything.
Yes you are.
You are observing and not obstructing. I realize that doesn't sound fair and the definition I'm about to give you isn't exactly what you'll find in the law books, but it will still be interpreted as the rule of law.
Whoa. OK, so what's that?
Elizabeth, you are an accessory to a felony.
Yes. It's your roommate dealing, but the quantity is egregious. You are aware. Even if she got caught tomorrow and you said you had no idea, you're still in deep shit. Elizabeth? How are you going to handle this?
I don't know.
OK, let me give you a nudge, it has to stop. You have to get out or she has to get out. With that much investment, she can't stop selling.
Mom? Why do you know this?
The conversation went back and forth for about an hour. It was determined that ratting her out would result in an untenable retaliation. It was determined that confrontation was likely to produce similar results. It was determined that the RA and the school were useless. If it was OK for students to walk through the halls with lit joints, then the tolerance was too high to be helpful. She'd have to be running a meth lab in the dorm to qualify for assistance.
Elizabeth's mom dropped her off after breakfast and drove home where she fantasized about several yards of piano wire. Then she let it go. Sort of.
Lesson Number Four: There is Power in Numbers and DON'T FUCK WITH US, BITCH!
Not Julia, not Elizabeth, neither are Disney Princesses but apparently both of them know ALL THE WORDS TO EVERY DISNEY PRINCESS MOVIE EVER MADE. In the end, the solution was simple and elegant. It was brilliant. They're lucky they're still breathing.
Julia and Elizabeth moved one of the dressers to the middle of the room. They moved Elizabeth's monitor with trailing cable, and set it on the dresser. They connected the HDMI cable to the monitor and the other to the Macbook. They queued up six or seven Disney princess movies and moved their rocking chairs (that went with the non-rocking desks) in front of the dresser.
I don't know how long it took. I don't know how many classes were missed. I don't know how many hours they sang. I don't know how many movies they went through before she broke, but she broke. They could see it. They got up and left the room. They were famished and thirsty. When they returned, it was as if she'd never been there.
They waited all semester to see who would land in their room because there was backlog off campus. No one landed in their room. They lived in the sort of bubble where young people learn to trust and care for each other.
Elizabeth's mother is no longer in the fetal position under the dining room table, but she is still driving Elizabeth batshit.