Season of Firsts Ch. 01byWFEATHER©
It looked like it would be an absolutely terrible Holiday Break for me.
As an orphan, having been abandoned by my mother just days after birth and having never known my father, I had no family to go home to, for I had never been adopted. Even though there were some 3,000 students at my college, it had just happened that all my friends were either from the southern or western states, and I could not afford the airfare and spending money to go with them for the Holiday Break to spend the time with their families. Without a vehicle, I could not venture any further away than walking distance, and with the snow and ice associated with winter in the northern states, biking was definitely not an option.
If there was any consolation, I would have the small dorm room to myself, for my roommate had barely done any work at all during our first semester of college, and the administration had forced him out until he had completed one full year elsewhere with at least a 3.0 GPA. I had been taking my final exam of Exam Week when he moved out, so we did not even have an opportunity to really say goodbye.
Fortunately, I already lived in the only dorm which would be open during the Holiday Break, so I did not need to haul my meager belongings and move into someone else's room for several weeks. A friend had given me her television and laptop for the Holiday Break to help me pass the time, but still, I could only look forward to several weeks of boredom.
It was Thursday night, December 13, but it felt very much like a Friday the Thirteenth given my gnawing apprehension of the long Holiday Break. As I slowly crossed the cold, snowy campus following my last final exam, each footstep was harder and harder to take, requiring more and more willpower on my part to finally arrive at the warmth and solitude of my dorm room. I stood at the door, staring at the Student ID card in my hand for several minutes before finally convincing myself that I had to swipe it through the reader to gain access to the building. With a heavy sigh as the lock disengaged, I opened the heavy double doors, the warmth whooshing out upon me, inviting me into my solitude.
I would rather have spent several lifetimes in Hell, but, having no choice, I stepped inside, the doors closing and relocking behind me with a sense of finality, the sound echoing in the still hallway, echoing in my heavy soul.
There was no relief in having finished the semester. There was no relief in the knowledge that I had aced yet another exam and would have a 4.0 GPA at the end of my first semester of college. There was only an emptiness accompanied by numerous tears throughout the night.
The dining hall was sparsely populated for breakfast, since only those students with classes at "off" hours during the semester, such as the 7:00AM classes or the night classes, had exams on Friday. Everyone else ate either alone or in small groups as they studied over pancakes and bacon. Clearly, I was the only person who was not part of the dining hall staff and was not preparing for one last final exam. Fortunately, I had thought to bring a sci-fi novel I had borrowed from the town library, but for once, I gained no pleasure in the futuristic tale of a sexaroid with an inexplicable sense of self.
Lunch was much the same – only the food and the number of studying students changed. It was quite depressing at best.
Dinner was even worse. There had only been one night class that semester, and a group of six astrophysics students sat at one of the round tables in the northeast corner conferring over their notes. I sat at the opposite corner of the large dining hall, alone, trying to force myself to finish the second chapter of the novel while holding back tears.
When I returned to my dorm room, the tears could no longer be held at bay. The solitude pressed in upon me like a vice, crushing me. Never had I felt so alone, for at the orphanage, there had always been a few others like me: children who were unwanted by their birth parents or whose birth parents had died, children who no one wanted to adopt, children cast away and ignored by society.
I was truly on my own for the very first time in my life, and it was more than I could bear.
I awoke during the night with tears still trickling down my cheeks. I could hear laughter and music from upstairs as the few remaining students celebrated the end of Exam Week and prepared to travel to see their families. By Noon the following day, they would all be gone, and the campus officially closed to all but the scant cleaning staff and the few students staying on campus for the Holiday Break.
My only hope was that I would not be the only student here.
The morning reminded me of part of a poem I had once read online:
Once again I awaken
to find an emptiness beside me
to hear the solitude deafening in the light of day.
Despite the rare bright sunny day outside, dark clouds of despair filled the illusory cell. There would be no more meals in the dining hall until mid-January, just before classes resumed, so I was truly on my own in every way possible. Yet, despite the rumbling of my empty stomach, I was not hungry. As I heard someone walk past my door with a rolling suitcase, the tears began to fall anew.
I posted to the student BBS, inquiring as to whether anyone else was staying on campus for the Holiday Break. By Noon, no one responded. By sunset, I had not heard a single sound within the building – not even Security had come through to ensure that everything was normal.
At last, I turned on the television, hoping that perhaps seeing people on a screen might help to lift my lonely spirits. I found the local evening news, and the lead story was about an impending blizzard likely to hit the state on Monday night.
While I was not looking forward to a blizzard, it did give me something else to think about: winter survival. While I had thought to buy food and drink to last me throughout the Holiday Break, much of the food was designed to be prepared in a microwave, but if the blizzard resulted in the building – or the entire campus – losing electricity for several days, or even longer, then I would need to buy more food, just in case. I would also want to have another blanket if possible, just in case. I would also want more books, for without electricity, I would not be able to watch television or access the Internet.
I had approximately forty-eight hours to prepare. That gave me approximately forty-eight hours of relief from my own mind.
Sunday morning, since we still had electricity, I specifically ate some microwavable beef stew for breakfast, so that I could save the non-perishable, non-cook food for later, if necessary. Instead of opening a warm can of Sprite, I borrowed a cup from the small kitchenette down the hall and drank water from the tap, still thinking ahead to what might happen as a result of the impending blizzard. I did the laundry as I had planned, but that took on additional significance, for I could very well need as many clothes as possible to stay warm.
At the orphanage, I had been through a major blizzard. For nearly thirty hours, there had been no electricity – nearly three days without electricity for that part of town, but we continued to have minimal power until the generator broke down. I remembered the cold, the shock at nine years old of being indoors yet seeing my own breath in the air. I remembered how my nose would run, and how I marveled at the trickle of warmth upon my cold face. I remembered how we were all huddled into a small room, so that our collective body heat would warm the air faster in the smaller space. I remembered how the adults kept instructing us to pace ourselves with the food and water we were given, to be only slightly hungry at the time so that we would not be absolutely starving in a few days if it took that long for the electricity to return. I remembered how even when the electricity did return, it still took considerable time for the indoor air to warm again.
This blizzard was to be even worse, and it was to last even longer. That was why I was in survival mode.
Around Noon, after eating microwavable spaghetti and again drinking water from the tap, I headed out into the winter cold. The sidewalk outside the dorm's main entrance was still a little icy, but I could see that someone had recently put down a fresh layer of salt. Looking around, I noted the expanse of white covering the area, the icicles hanging from the roof of each buildings. There was no activity in or around any of the nearby buildings, and not a single vehicle in the parking lot by my dorm.
Pulling the hood of my sweatshirt over my head, I made my way east toward the tiny shopping district of this tiny college town. At one point, I turned to look back toward my dorm, but, as expected, I saw no sign of anyone's presence other than the fact that I had accidentally left the main light on in my dorm room.
With some thirty hours before the blizzard hit, I went to the drug store and bought everything I could carry, and returned later for a second trip. I bought Pop Tarts, granola bars, beef jerky. I bought a second flashlight, several sets of batteries, several candles, a lighter. I bought a pair of Snoopy blankets which were on sale – with the students gone from the university, there was not much hope of anyone buying them except with this sale.
Dinner was ramen noodles and more tap water. I ate while watching the evening news again, and they were projecting the blizzard to hit Monday night around 8:00PM. That gave me about twenty-six hours, yet all that really remained was to go back to the town library and borrow a few more books, and perhaps a few DVDs to watch on the television in the basement lounge while we did have electricity available to us.
That night, I checked the student BBS again, and still no one had posted any new messages or responses. I had at least seen a Security team pass through the building when I was fixing the ramen, but most likely, I was the only person in the dorm for the Holiday Break.
...and that thought caused the loneliness to resurface with a vengeance.
I was very thankful to finally fall asleep, for that would allow me to escape my own mind, at least for a few hours.
I returned from the town library with a sense of trepidation mixed with a sense of adventure. The adventure was clearly linked with the impending blizzard, its approach marked by the graying sky, the thickening clouds, the stronger wind, the plummeting temperature.
The trepidation was clearly linked with lack of outside contact should the building or the town lose electricity. If we lost electricity, I would not even be able to call for help if necessary, since the college used a VoIP phone system, and I did not own a cell phone.
With the dimming natural daylight, one would assume that any light on in the dorm would be clearly visible, even with the shades drawn over a given window. Yet there were no lights on in any of the rooms, not even my own.
The trepidation grew.
The evening news again led with the blizzard as its main story. A live report from a sister station on the other side of the state showed just how bad this winter storm would be, for the journalist could barely stand erect against the onslaught of wind-driven snow. Watching her, I thought of watching people like Miles O'Brien and Chad Myers, attempting to stand upright against an onslaught of wind-driven salt water as they covered a hurricane in Florida. In the background, as she attempted to report on the blizzard, a semi jackknifed and slid along the road behind her. Already, more than two inches of snow had fallen in the three hours she had been at that location, which was a strong indication of what would soon arrive on campus.
I wished that I could turn up the heat, so that if the building did lose electricity, I would be warmer longer before the cold set in and reminded me all too well of that blizzard at the orphanage.
I had borrowed Princess Mononoke from the library, and when it ended about 10:30PM, I stood and stretched, enjoying the story itself but still not quite certain why Jeremy and Abby both made such a fuss over animation from Japan.
I rarely ever bought anything from the vending machines, since I needed to keep very close track of my meager scholarship-provided funds, but I decided that this once, I could "splurge" on myself. I had just unwrapped a Nestlé Crunch when I heard one of the stairwell doors open on the floor above me.
For the first time in more than twenty-four hours, there was a sign that I was not the only person in the building! Slowly eating the candy bar, I retrieved the DVD and made my way upstairs, moving slowly and softly, not wanting to startle the other person who might also be thinking he was alone in the building.
Emerging onto the ground floor, I looked around but did not see anyone, but could clearly hear the wind rattling the west-side windows. After quietly closing the stairwell door behind me, I headed toward the main lounge, but no one was there even though all the lights were beaming. Unless the other person was part of Security or was staying in one of the first-floor rooms, that left only three possible places on this floor to go: the men's restroom, the women's restroom, and the small library room.
The library room was closest to me, so I finished the candy bar, threw the wrapper in the trash, and went to the door. I peered through the small square of embedded glass and saw that, indeed, I was not alone in the dorm.
She leaned over the far end of the table, her face obscured by her hands and by the lengthy black hair. She was a small-framed person, fairly short, practically dwarfed by the tall-backed dark oak chairs in the library. From her body language, she was clearly crying, and a few moments later, the first sob permeated the heavy door.
My heart went out to her. After all, no student really wants to be locked away in a dorm during the holiday season, especially when a blizzard was bearing down on the campus. Given that it had taken well more than forty-eight hours for me to find any sign of another student in the dorm, she probably still thought that she was entirely alone in the building.
I was torn. I wanted to open the door and go to her an comfort her, this stranger, especially given that I definitely sympathized with her. However, she probably also needed this time to cry.
I hesitated. I lingered at the door.
Ultimately, I returned to my dorm room, putting the DVD away and retrieving the book before heading back downstairs to the main lounge, purposely selecting a chair near the library door but facing the opposite direction.
I was probably halfway through the fifth chapter of the sexaroid novel when I heard the library door slowly creak open. Instinctively, I turned around to look toward the source of the sound, even though I knew who I would see.
I saw a young, beautiful Japanese student, the cuffs of her college sweatshirt clearly stained with her copious tears. Her large hazel eyes were full of expression, of grief and disbelief, of sadness and hope, of resignation and surprise. Tears still streaked her cheeks, her lack of makeup quite fortunate. Her jeans had a noticeable rip just below the left knee, and it looked rather recent.
She stood in the doorway, holding the heavy door open, and we looked at each other for a long time, neither of us saying anything. It was a moment of connection, a moment of relief, and for a few minutes, the sounds of the howling wind and the rattling windows faded away into silence.
"You are here too?" she asked, her accent making her words soft yet crisp, her voice tugging at my heart.
I could only nod, trying to keep my eyes from roaming her form. I had known a few Asian girls – two in the orphanage and several in my classes – and the exotic vision before me was certainly the most beautiful to my eyes.
Very slowly, a smile turned up the corners of her mouth, providing a soft counterpoint to the tears still drying upon her cheeks.
Late into the night, we sat in the main lounge and talked. Her name was Megumi and she had been born in San Diego while her father was working in the States. By age three, the family had returned to Japan, to Kyoto, again because her father had been transferred due to a promotion. She had returned to San Diego for one year as an exchange student during high school, but with her father's death early in the past summer, there was just enough money to send her to the States for college as the family had long planned, but not enough to bring her home for the holidays.
"So my older sister went into acting," Megumi concluded. "Only now is becoming popular enough to get more than bare minimum money to live. I admire my sister."
A short silence passed as Megumi was clearly imagining her sister.
"If she is as beautiful as you," I commented softly, "then I am not surprised she is an actress."
The world seemed to stop as I realized the significance of what I had just said. I had never before said anything of the kind, not even to a friend, yet I had just said it to a quasi-stranger.
Sprawled across an upholstered sofa, the Asian student's eyes grew slightly wider for a moment, then softened, a small smile upon her lips. "I could not do as she does," Megumi said, a hint of regret or remorse in her voice, "which is why I admire sister so much."
"Does she do television? film? stage?" I asked, legitimately curious.
"Film," she replied, then she fell silent, looking at the floor, at my feet. "I am not so beautiful," she finally said. "I have too small breasts."
I had noticed her smallish breasts previously, but nonetheless found myself openly focusing on them for a moment before my brain realized what my eyes were looking at and forced my eyes to look elsewhere. A slight blush must have come to my face, for I felt suddenly warmer, which did not make sense given the impending blizzard.
My thoughts turned to the blizzard, and its implication: I could very well be snowed in with a beautiful young Japanese student as my companion to help pass the time.
Despite myself, I smiled, a smile which Megumi quickly returned.
Perhaps it was the fact that we were both in an unusual situation and would be utterly alone without each other, but, somehow, we connected, a bond forming between us, surrounding us and holding the blizzard at bay.
Setting the book down, I looked upon Megumi and could easily have mistaken her for an angel. Her arms tucked underneath her head, the sleeping student was the personification of innocence, complete with a slight smile upon her face.
Yet a slight shudder marred that angelic vision.
As quietly as possible, I retreated, ultimately returning with the two Snoopy blankets I had bought. After draping one over her prone form, I knelt beside the sofa, gazing upon her fondly, trying to resist the urge to brush a few stray strands away from her face.
I could feel a slight stirring in my loins. Somehow, even as I watched her sleep, I could "see" her standing before me, fully nude, her small breasts adorned with prominent large nipples beckoning for my attention...
I tried to push such thoughts from my mind. After all, I barely knew Megumi, and had not even known her a full night yet. I could not even remember having seen her on campus prior to this particular night, which was significant since there was not much of an Asian population on campus.
Yet, the stirring grew, lengthened. I hoped that she would not awaken and notice the growing bulge at the front of my jeans. After a few moments, I drew back from the sofa, from her, and returned to the cushioned chair, draping the second Snoopy blanket over me, thankful for the protection it afforded against any embarrassment.