*I’m playing around with some creative writing and writing it in snippets as I find time over the long weekend.
Anne woke up to find something warm and sticky congealing on her face. Living in a university dorm had it’s perks, but after a month of living in the Shirley Baker residence (dubbed the Shitfaced & Baked building by both it’s residents & neighbours) the 24-7 partying had started to take its toll. The warm puddle of slimy after-party that had somehow come to rest on her face was the final straw. Anne moved her head slightly before opening her eyes to take in the huge round stain dripping through her roommates’ top bunk into her alcove below. The room smelled wrong and, while she scrambled to escape another drop from the bunk above, she knew she really didn’t want to know the cause of the effervescent post-party remains.
Anne grabbed at her pillow and tumbled to the floor beside her bunk in a clumsy roll. A large lumpy pile covered with the scratchy wool blankets that were standard in all the res rooms lay on top of the dripping mattress, the obvious cause of her wet awakening. The wool had also absorbed the moisture of the hidden mound which, like the mattress, had long since reached saturation and had turned the grey weave black. It was impossible to tell what was under the covers, and now that Anne was free of her claustrophobic and moist alcove, she was even less interested in what was causing the mess than finding out who had caused it. Furious, she untangled herself from her bed dressings that had followed her to the floor, pulled on her slippers and, still clutching her pillow, she pulled opened the door to her room in search of her RA.
The hallways were quiet and artificially bright, except for the far corridor lights which were flickering overhead. It must have been some party, Anne marvelled. Jenni, her floor’s resident advisor (RA) was gonna be pissed once she slept off her hangover. Anne stepped over a duo of drunk students adorning her room entrance like a pair of naughty & smelly garden gnomes, and she tripped over more than a few glass bottles on her trip to Jenni’s room. She (and her toes) quietly congratulated herself for remembering her slippers as she put her ear up to Jenni’s door. The grey door still smelled of paint from the summer’s slap-coat application in preparation for the new semester. It had taken less than a week for the building to shake off the outer layer of false real-estate staging, designed only to impress and calm parents dropping off their babies for the new semester. The paint had already begun to peel at the corners of Anne’s dorm room door, but Jenni’s entrance was still intact. The surface was cold and the invisible sticky dots that decorated the rectangle of wood like an alcoholic spin-paint picture stuck to Anne’s face. Shuddering, Anne peeled her face from the door and bent down. A breeze slipped under the door which she knew had come from a small horizontal sliding sash window identical to the one in her room. Thinking back to the cloying smell trapped in her bed-cubical, Anne’s temper flared again. While Jenni wasn’t the type to party, the after-math of the previous night’s shindig was everywhere and unless the cute, nerdy building supervisor had decided to take the night off, it was likely she had not escaped the belly of the party beast. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone had started Jenni off early in the evening so as to have her passed out or at least completely impaired before the real partying began. She wasn’t going to make any friends by waking anyone up before noon, but that had never been a goal of hers when applying for university. She was here to study. She was here to learn. She was here to graduate and then get the heck out. She was not here to pay for a room where her inconsiderate fellow inhabitants left squishy, soppy, smelly mounds of what she assumed was party trash.
Hearing the sound of breathing, Anne knocked softly on the door and waited to face her ineffectual and, likely very hungover, floor-baby-sitter.
When Paulette woke up, her eyes only registered black and white static. Her mouth was pasted together and she took desperate half-lungfuls of air in through her nose as she freed herself from sleep. She dragged herself onto her elbows and waited for her ocular inputs to reboot. Finally the fuzzy pixels cleared and she squinted at the room trying to keep her heavy head up as it jerkily settled on it’s furthest axis as if weighted with water.
The party had moved through 3 different dorm buildings over the course of the night, and she had woken up in one of the generic common entertainment rooms that all of the residences featured. In fact, all of the dorm building on campus had been built from the same blueprints, and even when sober, she had walked into the right room/wrong building a few times this semester. There were several other people scattered about the beige room, covering up the 3 couches, coffee table and balcony lawn chairs. Bright coloured panties dotted the room as they peered out from under belt-sized skirts. An unconscious boy was duct-tapped into one of the orange fabric common room chairs which had then been duct-tapped onto a white pole in the corner of the room. A sharpie-mustache had been drawn on more than half of the sleeping occupants and Paulette giggled until she paranoidly felt at her own face. The room smelled like unwashed bodies, booze, and hangover, and the open balcony door did nothing to alleviate the stench. She teetered unsteadily as she tiptoed her way across the scattered bodies. The alcohol had not yet exited her system and she was riding the pre-hangover wave where one could decide to drink more, pass out, or stay up and greet the impending headache head on. Like a viking, she giggled, I’m a hangover viking. Bring it on.
She slammed her shoulder into the doorframe as she misjudged her exit, whispered an apology to the scattered grunts of displeasure from the thick aired room, and stumbled down the hall in search of stairs. She had no idea which building she was in. Not important, she decided, as she drunkenly ping-ponged against doors on both sides of the hallway, blindly fumbling at doorknobs until she reached the stairwell. Hangover vikings needed bacon not beds, she decided. Fuelled by thoughts of salted pork, she cement-footed her way down the stairs into the front lobby.
Encouraged, Anne knocked again. The grunting language of the Hungover had a vocabulary with which Anne had become very familiar during the last month living with her roommate. So far, Anne had interpreted “fuck off”, “get lost”, and “if you don’t stop knocking I’ll kill you” from the series of grunts coming from under her RA’s dorm room, but the curses were flowing faster now and Anne stepped back just as the door whipped open.
Leaning against the door with her head pasted to the cool, sticky surface, Jenni stood with her eyes closed clutching a sheet around her middle. She wasn’t doing a great job of keeping covered as one end of the washed-out teal sheet, that looked like it would be more at home in a hospital room than a cozy bedroom, was still clutched in the hand of a supine form laying on the twin bed shoved up against the wall. In fact, Anne wasn’t sure which hand was reluctant to let go of the ersatz bathrobe as she counted more limbs in the bed than was usual for a single body. The pudding-fog hangover than clung to Jenni kept her from caring that a good portion of her leg and torso were on display for the hallway. It appeared that Jenni had expended all of her energy getting out of bed and wrenching the door open, and now she stood propped up only by the resistance of the sticky door against her skin, drooling and half-asleep.
“JENNI” Anne hissed and reached out a hand to steady the startled short blond woman as she jerked away and groaned in pain dropping to her knees. “Come on godDamn it. What the heck happened? You’re supposed to be the responsible one.” Anne rambled condescendingly as she attempted to get the wet-cement sack of naked Jenni back into her room. The sheet had been abandoned and Jenni sobbed as she curled into a naked pile on the hard-weave carpet. Gritting her teeth, Anne felt her temperature rising and her patience snuff out. She maliciously shook the bed frame with her foot before she stepped over the blubbering heap of Jenni and slammed the door shut behind her. The open window blew-in a breeze that caused the door to slam with such force that she heard several other cries in Hungover yell in protest from throughout the building. Screw this residence, thought Anne. Screw this entire school.
No. Not the school. Anne had been saving up to attend university since middle school. Her determination and focus made it hard for others to warm up to her, but she didn’t mind. She was saving friendships, relationships, and trysts for adulthood; an achievement, she believed, was awarded to those who had completed post-secondary and had left home. It boggled her mind how many of her fellow graduates had intended to stay in their home town and continue living with their parents as they pursued jobs out of high school. Infants. All of them.
She had assumed that university students embodied a mid-state between childhood and adulthood, seeking to better themselves and society in their pursuit of knowledge; however, she’d be horribly disappointed to find that university simply provided a change of scenery for privilege infants on their parent’s allowance. The first week of classes, she had told herself that if she just went to class, to the cafeteria, to the library and right back to her dorm room that she would weather this chapter of schooling much as she had high school. By the second week of classes, she had made herself an appropriate eating-schedule having chatted with the cafeteria staff regarding peak hours following the noodle incident. By week three, her roommate and she had created a schedule for studying as the woman cohabiting with her for the semester had a fondness for French pop music and played it loudly when in the room claiming that it was essential to her language degree. At the end of the third week, she had written the student housing department 12 times asking for a transfer or for a refund so that she could find alternative lodging for the semester. She had received a stock-note back at the end of last week stating that no refunds would be granted to underage students currently in residence without a note from their guardians. There had been no mention of moving her or of any plans to follow up on the list of issues she had detailed about her building. She had invested in industrial earplugs the next day and attempted to come to terms with her situation for the next 3 months. And then this.
Anne straight-armed the front entrance door open and cut across campus in the most direct route possible to campus security. She needed to get someone’s attention regarding the mess in her dorm room and she was tired of the ineffectual bureaucracy. She figured that a security report would likely be forwarded both to her RA and to student housing. She had not changed out of her PJs, dressing gown or slippers, nor had she returned to her room to drop off her pillow, in an attempt to drive home the urgency of her concern with campus security. It was a dramatic gesture, but she was out of aces. Let them archive the day a hysterical student in pink fleece pajama pants covered in sheep & rainbows (her younger sister had given them to her as a going-away gift), too concerned for her safety to return to her room to change, had ask the on-site security for rescue. By God, SOMEONE was going to listen to her. She reached the small grey building at the edge of the 2nd major public parking lot near the entrance to the university. 3 of the shack’s walls were made of tinted glass that reflected the early morning sun. It created an opaque shell through which the sheltered employees could monitor the parking lots and approaching visitors. She called back the anger and frustration that she had burned off by power-walking across campus. And then she rubbed her eyes for effect and pushed her way into the school-cop shop.
She blinked forcefully to acclimatize herself to the morning sun. It blared through the front entrance lobby and she saw prismatic sparklers at the edge of her vision. Squinting through one eye, Paulette saw a streak of pink and white smear across her vision as she spied her roommate half-running out of the adjacent building. She blinked harder to force her vision into focus as she took in the snobby little bitch as she powered across the lawn still dressed in her pajamas. If anyone had asked her before today, Paulette would have sworn that her roommate would never leave their room without her olive coloured side satchel, stuffed with books, or without her saddle brown penny-loafers, let alone in her pajamas. Anne was a stuck up brown-noser. Paulette hoped that Anne’s perpetual letter writing to the student housing would take and that she’d have a new roommate before the end of the semester. To help the process along, Paulette had even written a letter of complaint regarding Anne’s home chemistry set that she had stashed at the bottom of her clothing closet. Anne had tried to keep it secret, but more than once, the room had hosted a miasma of smells that simply didn’t come from dirty laundry. It had been her bargaining chip when Anne had tried to force a quiet study period everyday from 2PM-10PM during the week. When Paulette had boggled that anyone could come to a university unprepared for life on campus with movies like Animal House or any television show about university or college students from the past 40 years, Anne had explained that she hadn’t had a television growing up and that music was, while valuable, a distraction. The straightedge didn’t like film, had never dated, and thought that anything that wasn’t specifically designed to educate or ameliorate was a wasted effort. She was positive that the woman had never had a real friend and the only person who ever called her was her sister.
Once Anne had passed out of view, Paulette felt it was safe to exit the building without having to face her roommate. Her retinas squeezed into pinpricks as she left the building, but her stomach told her that everything would be better once she made it to the cafeteria. The student residence buildings were silent and the enclosed community wore the Saturday morning face of a ghost town. She lumbered over the grounds unevenly, the heel of the right stiletto aerating the grass as she walked.
The cafeteria was still closed, but she could smell the telltale signs of breakfast sneaking through the gates and Paulette fumbled for her purse to check the time. The small clam shaped clutch on a string of beads was still draped over her shoulders and she pulled out a mobile device skinned with the matching pattern to her bag. The time read 6:45AM contradicting the sun already ¾ of the way up the sky. The cafeteria opened in 15 minutes and she slid down the gate onto the ground. There was no way that they were going to be able to open without her moving and thus reassured, she closed her eyes and passed out.
“Can I help you – oh my God – not again!”
Seeing Anne, the large man who sat behind the desk attempted to stand up and failed, knocking over his wheeled office chair with him still in it in a clatter that caused a small bookshelf behind him to shudder. The racket brought a smaller woman with a thin nose and flat, mouse brown shoulder-length hair from around a freestanding partition splitting the single roomed structure into two. As she looked from her co-worker to Anne, she froze, her eyes darting around the room to take in the parameter of the security building. The exterior light that filtered in orange through the smoked panes fought with the cheap florescent cylinders that lined the ceiling. The contrast made it easier to see the parking lot than it did to see the interior of the room and she had a perfect view of the empty acreage of pavement.
Shaking herself, the guard exclaimed “Peter, get up and help the woman!” She headed back behind the partition. Anne felt her anger go up a notch as the heavy gentleman righted himself, and the chair, muttering a stream of curses and apologies. When everything had been settled he waddled around the desk sniffling, and dragging a chair and clipboard towards Anne.
“Please sit” he gently invited. “Do you need a hospital or doctor?”
“A doctor. Are you hurt? Do you speak English?”
“No. Yes. Wait. Pardon? I’m here to report an incident in my residence.”
“You mean the game is happening on the grounds?” The guard’s tone became stern. “The student union knows that paintball tournaments are not allowed on campus after…” Anne scowled at the man until he trailed off. The uniformed woman reappeared from behind the divider with one of the familiar grey wool blankets spread between her hands. She moved to put the blanket over Anne’s shoulders and attempted to gently push her down into the chair with the same motion. Anne stumbled back confused at the reception. “What is going on?” Anne questioned. “Is this how you treat everyone who comes in? I haven’t been attacked nor do I know about any kind of tournament. There is something dripping onto my bunk in my dorm room and I need help.” The two security personnel shared a look and Peter rolled his eyes.
The woman’s yellow metal name tag read Joanna and she had not removed her hand from Anne’s shoulder after having successfully forced her into the chair. “Joanna?” Anne tried again. “I am not hurt, but I do need help”
“It’s ok. It’s ok,” cooed Joanna in an accent that suggested that English was not her first language, “we can help you. You just need to tell Peter here what happened and we’ll take care of everything”. Joanna stayed where she was, hand continuing to pat her shoulder condescendingly.
Peter cleared his throat and sniffed again. “That’s right. I’m here to help you. We’ll figure everything out. I’m glad you’re not hurt” he tapped a pen at the clipboard that contained a single page. “We just need to get your information down on this sheet. If you decide that you need a doctor at any time, just let us know. Are you comfortable?”
“I’m sitting in campus security in my pyjamas surrounded by hyperactive security guards,” she grumbled, huffing back into the chair. “I’m about as comfortable as I’m going to get”.
“We can move you into the back room if you feel more…” Joanna began in a sugary falsetto. “No,” Anna interrupted her “I would just like to get this taken care of.” Frowning, Joanna clomped in her flatfooted steel boots back behind the desk. She continued to watch them as she sat down at the previously upended chair. Peter cleared his throat again “Ok – let’s start with your name…”
The heavy security guard became less and less interested in her problems as they completed the incident report. Even Joanna started to ignore them and took over the crossword puzzle that Peter had been solving before she had arrived. While she was glad that the campus police took abuse seriously, she began to lose confidence as to how effective her incident report would be in getting her moved to another building. Peter assured her that student housing would look into the incident and potentially fine her roommate, but he was unsympathetic to her personal plight. He shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot as he remained standing as he took Anne’s information. He twisted and readjusted his belt trying to make the constricting polyester fit more agreeably. He carried most of his weight around his middle and wore his belt cinched too tight just under his belly. His large, oval nose carried on a conversation of it’s own as he snuffed at regular intervals. A large, weighty inhale before he began a sentence and a quick dismissive one to end it. Peter’s sniffs had obviously become a common language between the two security staff members, and as Peter gave one final intake of breath through his ineffectual nasal cavities, Joanna stood up.
“Come on back here, ma bichette,” Joanna motioned to the back area. “We have a bathroom where you can clean up. Peter will call over to your floor adviser so she can meet you when you head back to your room.” Anne started to tell them not to bother, but at this point she didn’t care who or how many people she disturbed in her struggle to deal with the offensive carnage left in her bedroom. Pursing her lips as Peter lifted the phone receiver, Anne followed Joanna into the back.
The back “room” was a three metre wide area made more cramped by a folding plastic table that had been jammed up against the partition wall. Above the table, affixed to the wall, was a cork board. It looked like the boards used in workshops to hang and organize tools, but the campus security team had re-appropriated it for a combination dart-board, missing persons, information board & lost and found. A delicate pendant necklace hung from a hook beside a photo of a bald man in a suit speckled with pinpricks and stabbed through the eye with a plastic yellow dart. Flyers in neon colours called for any information regarding a cat named Muffin, a native girl named Marryl Frazer and a call to sign up for last month’s teambuilding potlatch. The sign up sheet was empty. There was a closet built into the back wall that had been formed out of two pieces of mismatched wood. Apparently this was the “bathroom” that Joanna was intending her to use and she passed by the petite French woman to enter the 1.5 x 1.5 metre cubby hole. The cheap accordion door that had probably come attached to the recycled wall wood didn’t provide any privacy as the bottom hinge refused to move and so the door closed on a diagonal. It did, however, let in light which appeared to be on purpose as the “room” didn’t have any light switch or fixtures. The shadowy closet had a toilet with a sink built into the back tank and a wrap-around mirror that had been glued to 3 of the walls. Anne looked at herself in the mirror, illuminated eerily from below by the borrowed light, and now understood the initial reaction from the security team.
Her straight black hair was matted to one side of her head and crusty smears of dark black and green scalloped along her hairline like mopped up paint. She had a large streak of the dark fluid down her right cheek which snaked down her neck and she revealed a large stain on her left collar when she pulled open her housecoat. The mattress excretions had been mostly green as the colour stood out boldly against her white top. While the lighting didn’t help, her reflection didn’t look well. She had deep depressions under her eyes and her delicate cheek bones poked out sharply. She tightly turned a circle and quietly stamped her foot in a mini tempest of anger. Of course, she didn’t look well. She had slept under, and in, apparently, a leaking pile of party garbage that, not only still remained in her room but may have stained her skin green. There also wasn’t any guarantee that this was the last time this was going to happen. She was fed up with university life and she had only been here for 30 days. There was no way she was going to make it sane, healthy or happy to term’s end. If her grades began to suffer, heads were going to roll.
She ran the toilet sink and tried to clean off as much of the goop from her face with moist toilet paper as possible. Small pills of wet paper clung to strands along her hairline and after one failed attempt to wipe out any of the crap from her hair, she abandoned her disheveled, infinite reflection and fought to get the corrugated door open. Not looking up from her workspace, Joanne called “Now, doesn’t that feel better?” still in a false high pitched tone as Anne headed into the main room.
“What did Jenni say?” Anne asked innocently.
“I couldn’t reach her.” Peter grumbled. “I’ll walk you back to your dorm and see if I can’t find her. You know it’s Saturday morning right? Most people aren’t up yet.”
Was he joking? What was with today? The security guard’s ignorant chastening her for her early-bird complaint was so unexpected that she sputtered. Peter had the decency to look embarrassed, but he said nothing as he lifted his girth off the squeaky office chair. He grabbed her pillow that she had left when she went to freshen up, headed to the door, and held it open for her as she exited the campus security office. They walked in silence as they headed back towards the student residences. As they approached her building, Peter took a large ring of keys off of the plastic clip affixed to his belt and found a key to open the door. He sniffed his disappointment at the foot of the staircase and asked Anne what floor she was on.
“3rd,” she replied, “boys on 2nd floor. Girls on the top”
“Of course,” he grumbled, “let’s go”. Wheezing, sniffing and grunting, Peter noisily led them up the stairs. She was trapped behind him through the slow ascent. Once they reached the top floor, Peter stepped to the side to allow her access to the hallway and put his hand to his chest wheezing. Good thing he was on hand to protect the campus, Anne thought snidely. Who was he fooling?
“Jenni’s room is to your right,” Anne pointed down the hall past him. “Room 315”.
“I am sorry -huff- about your bed,” Peter tried to shrug casually as he regained his breath. “I don’t know -huff- what they’re -huff- teaching kids these -huff- days. Usually things calm down after the first month or so. –sniff- You’re going to have to wait -huff- until Monday to talk with housing, but I’ll have this report -huff- filed by then. I photocopied the report -huff- so that you have it when you talk with them.” He passed the copied report over to her, symbolically washing his hands of the affair. Glad that she wouldn’t have to depend on the clerical skills of Peter & Joanna, she snatched the paper out of his hand, spun, and without a word, headed back into her post-secondary nightmare. She listened as his wheezing and sniffling faded like an asthmatic ambulance.