Word Count 453
By Anne Nassar
He was happy, sleeping on Gosia’s dorm room floor, in the narrow passage in between her bed and her roomate’s. Her friends were nice to him. They stole him food from the cafeteria. They fought over who would take him to class as their guest. They took him to house parties in Cambridge and Brookline, and concerts at the Ratskellar, where they didn’t proof. He’d never really had a group of friends before. Travelling as part of a pack corrected his insecurity, his self-consciousness.
And then, there was Charlotte.
She was Gosia’s roommate. Charlotte made herself up like a Geisha and wore lace dresses and pointy boots every day. She carried a parasol. When she turned her gaze on Alek, he felt weak in the knees.
Initially he was afraid that she didn’t like him, but then she made him a mix tape. It was all bands he’d never heard of: The Birthday Party, The Swans, Rites of Spring, The Cramps, Fishbone. Listening to it made him feel like she was an emissary from a different planet. She was going to be a photographer, and she took him with her to various churches to take pictures. One day, out of habit, he knelt at an altar and crossed himself, and she took his picture. Once she’d developed it, she showed it to him. He didn’t recognize himself.
He didn’t ever want to go home. But, somehow, the RA found out that he’d been staying in the dorm. She could turn a blind eye for a few days, she said, but then he had to leave. Gosia told him, I’m required to live in a dorm this year, she told him, but next year, I’ll get an apartment, and you can come and live with me then, all right?
He was afraid that he might start crying, so he didn’t say anything. I’ve got some money, I’ll buy you a bus ticket home. And he realized that he’d neglected to tell her: he hadn’t taken the bus.
I stole Babcia’s car, he said.
I stole Babcia’s car, and I drove here.
Oh, Gosia said, I didn’t know you could drive.
It’s pretty easy, he said.
I wonder if Babcia even noticed. She called, you know, and I told her you were visiting. She asked if you had been eating. She didn’t say anything about her car being missing.
But of course Babcia knew that he’d taken her car. She drove to church on Saturday, she would have noticed it then. Apparently she had not said anything to anyone; she was protecting him.
He felt sick, thinking about facing his grandmother. He thought that it might be better to just never see her again.