Writers (in order): Irene Hong, Alyssa Tang, Annabel Willa Smith, Audrey Paleczny, Avik Belenje, Binny Park, Charles Halas, Eman Hussain, Joyce Lee, Keiss Chan, Lina Youn, Lucas Fredronic, Lyra Thompson, M.S., Madeleine (:, nim, Sophia H, and M.S.. Editor: Irene Tsen.
Okay yes, I got locked out of the dorm for the third time in as many hours, but would you believe me if I said I had a good reason this time?
About a month ago, I lost my first dorm room key only two hours after I moved in, so I had to have a new lock made. I made two copies of the key—one to put under my shoe sole, the other one under the doormat. When my physics professor threw my shoe (the one with my key) into the Madison River near the university campus, I lost my key for the second time. What a relief that I hadn’t carried the third key with me that day—my backpack that would have carried it was stolen while I almost drowned attempting to get my shoe. What a shame that I happened to have my Mac, my iPad Pro (with an Apple Pencil), and the adorable Alabama postcard from my granny in that backpack.
This lunch, I had my key in the back pocket of my jeans when I rushed into the tutoring center bathroom. When I pulled down my pants to sit on the toilet, I heard a plop, but I just assumed that my big waste came out a little earlier than expected. After my business, I flushed the toilet and saw something metal—something golden—swirling down in the water. I didn’t think it was natural that the big waste was shining, but oh well, you know.
So I was down to zero again. I ended up taking a walk down to the river to kill some time and figure out what to do. I didn’t want to swim, seeing what had happened yesterday, so I just brought some food and ate. Eventually, I went back to the school, and tried to fall asleep in the hallway. When it became too embarrassing to loiter in front of the RA’s dorm waiting for them to show up, and I’d already looked through all the advertisements tacked to the cork board outside enough times to memorize the numbers to call by heart, I found myself in Hema’s dorm instead.
I slumped onto her bed, tucking her spare key into my pocket. She had bestowed it upon me after I safely accompanied her drunk friend home from a party as a token of friendship and trust. I wandered here more often than not to steal her ridiculously bougie rosewater essence spray, or to cry a storm as I recounted my art professor’s criticism of the piece I spent three entire months on. I rolled over, hugging her scratchy satin bolster closely and making a mess of her made sheets and the loose papers scattered over it. But, a worse feeling than my destructiveness was boiling in my gut.
I wondered if I’d angered some sort of spirit. Either by being a pretty crap excuse of a person in general, or if it was the manifestation of some ancient generational curse. I was weighing the possibilities of each and considering the purchase of an evil eye bracelet for protection when Hema burst through the door, a plastic bag that I recognized from the nearest boba spot swinging wildly in her hand.
“Sasha texted, said she saw you letting yourself in here to steal my rosewater again.” Hema sent me a dark look under her thick eyebrows. “But judging by how you smell, I’m guessing that’s not it.”
She thrust a drink towards me. I inspected the label—jasmine milk tea with egg pudding and caramel boba—then looked up at her with such unfiltered adoration that I was sure my eyes watered. Despite her calling out my lack of proper hygiene after my depressive slump last week, her presence instantly made me feel a million times better.
The ****day turned to night after a handful of therapeutic hours spent on Hema’s bed. I was swept into a deep slumber before I could lug myself back to my hopeless dorm door. When the morning approached, the intruding burden of a day’s worth of excessive responsibilities flooded my wandering mind, causing me to toss and turn more vigorously than usual. Right as another sleep cycle was within an ace of settling in, the bitter morning floor had other plans. THUD! My weary body scrambled to find myself pressed against the ground, thick splinters shooting through my knit sweater, and I was up.
Stumbling out of Hema’s room, my sleeping legs carried me to the place I called “home.” I mindlessly clutched the doorknob and thrusted all my weight against the door, which once again left me forced against a wooden barrier, and that’s when the memory of old Professor Talk-A-Lot and my shoe streamed through my head. My key had once again abandoned me in front of that door and in that moment, I was sure someone had cursed me. My whole life had been a series of recurring unfortunate events, from frequent bird droppings on my nicest coats, to spilled coffee before I was even granted a sip. For once in my time here on this rotten earth, I was motivated to make a change. But how?
I racked my brain for possible options on how to remove myself from my predicament. When no new ideas came to mind, I settled for my initial thought of buying an evil eye bracelet to ward off my misfortune. I set off into the bustling street and made my way towards the store with the amulets, hoping it was still open. Along the way, I somehow managed to slip in a muddy puddle, cover myself with dirt, and lose my phone, but I had finally arrived. As I calmed my breathing and looked up at the store, I was devastated to see that it had closed just a minute before my arrival. I really couldn’t imagine how my day could get any worse.
Maybe, just maybe it was bad karma? I thought extensively about what I could change or what I had done that was so bad, but the only thing that came to mind was this whole situation.
If I couldn’t buy myself some good luck, the only thing I could think of was to make some luck for myself. I ran back to my dorm building, careful to avoid the muddy puddles while gripping my dripping phone in my hand, and knocked on the door a couple rooms down. As I heard the footsteps heading towards the door, I hoped this girl would finally help me turn my life around. Then, the door creaked open.
“Hi. We met at orientation and you mentioned you liked crystals? Could you help me out with getting some for good luck? I’ve just been having a really rough week, er, a rough year—a rough life to be honest.”
She looked at me dead in the eyes, grabbed me by the arm, and yanked me into her dorm room.
The room was fascinating, and a mess. The walls were covered in canvases filled with mysterious and unrecognizable sketches, many that made my spine shiver out of some fear of blurry ominous shapes. I saw thirty or more multi-hundred page books precariously working their way up toward the ceiling in great stacks. I squinted. Dorm rooms were small, or at least all our dorm rooms were small. This place seemed big, far bigger than any dorm room ought to be. The floor of the room was scattered with crystals, unused candles, and fifty small stuffed donkeys—each wearing an expression of great bewilderment. I saw a table in the center of the “dorm” covered in, you guessed it, crystals.
I, unbid, approached the table, carefully navigating the books and stuffed donkeys. Then, all at once, the books fell on me.