Writers (in order): Eileen Hung, Eman Hussain, Kylie, Sadie Hicks, Emma Kochenderfer, Irene Tsen, Langston Wu, Chinyoung Shao, Ava Cheng, Emily Hwang, Claire Bing, Emi Bell, Eugene Cho, Joyce Lee, Megha Mummaneni, Keiss Chan, anonymous, Christina Ding, Noa B., Yuika Sun, Joyce Lee, Eman Hussain, Eileen Hung, Ava Cheng, and Irene Tsen. Editor: Irene Tsen.
It started small. At first, it was the RA leaving inspirational messages and reminders to clean up. Then, it started getting filled with various pieces of classwork, from discrete math to chemistry. Work would often stay on the board until the next person came and erased it, so the distinctive scrawls of several different people were evident on any given day. And every so often, on a really nice week, people would walk by and see a full-on art piece one of the art majors had mocked up.
The lounge wasn’t a place people often, well, lounged in. It was mostly people walking in and out to use the whiteboard for their classwork. As a result, even though it was a place frequented by most of the residents, it wasn’t actually doing much to build community.
That is, until the notes started.
Hello, how are you doing today?
There was nothing special about the person’s handwriting; it was hurriedly written and very off-center on the blank whiteboard. I must have been the first person to see the message. I had left my history notes in here earlier, and I had just come to grab them quickly and head back to my dorm. I hadn’t even noticed anything on the board until I was about to leave. I smiled and wrote back, tired, but okay :) how about you? I wondered if more people would respond tomorrow.
The next day I came around to the lounge, and my eyes immediately sought out the board for a response. From my angle, having just arrived into the room, I could see faded Expo marks on the board that once must have been some sort of equation, three intense tic-tac-toe matches that all ended in a draw, and a scribbled cat on the bottom left corner of the board. Once I situated myself in front of the board, however, the little alcove of text greeted me in all its expanded glory.
Ugh, so felt. School sucks. >:( It was bad and then I had the world’s best taco so now it’s good. My family got a cat without me. (Doodle in the corner for reference) :D
I giggled, taking a whiteboard marker from the tray on the bottom and uncapping it with a pop. Pleased that my note had gotten some attention, I contemplated a reply as I leaned forward.
Omg so cute. I wish I had a cat.
I considered leaving it at that, not sure what I should say. This was the most communication I had had with someone in a while. Well, it wasn’t even a real conversation, was it? They didn’t even know who I was. I didn’t know who they were.
While debating my next message, I popped the blue pen cap on and off with my thumb. The screeching noise echoed in the quiet room, ending with a loud snap.
I scribbled under my original message, Going to the school carnival Friday night? I hear they’ll have a taco truck :)
Maybe I could meet the mysterious writer. In an odd way, my pulse seemed to pick up at the thought, and my mind wandered, wondering about this enigmatic writer. What if I actually knew them?
I came back a day later to check if the anonymous writer had left a message. The newest addition to the whiteboard said, Yes and no… I’ll be working at one of the booths. Look for the bottle-ring one ;) I smiled to myself as I wrote a quick Ok.
The day had finally come, and I was already sweating. Not profusely, but I could feel the butterfinger syndrome coming on. The anonymous writer and I had been writing messages back and forth for the whole week, and checking the board to see if there was a new message for me quickly became the part of my day I looked forward to the most. I found out that they hated their math class, had a fear of pigeons, and that their dream was to become a novel writer. I told them my favorite animal (a skunk), how I got homesick every time I ate split pea soup, and that I hadn’t yet had my first kiss. At first I was nervous about leaving bare my soul for everyone to see on the common room whiteboard, but no one else seemed to have any interest in our correspondence in the corner of the board. And I couldn’t help responding to their sprawling script, the handwriting that made me laugh and think and smile. Even though it was crazy, I couldn’t help but be nervous to meet my mystery writer.
After having returned from the last calculus class of the week, I began to prepare myself. The weekend prior, I had found a beautiful white skirt filled with marigolds at the local thrift store. I put on a touch of makeup, grabbed my sandals, and walked out of the dorm. The night was quite young and there was still a splattering of color in the sky to complement the oncoming darkness. The sounds of laughter, high-pitched pings, and machines whirring all came from a wide open park, the centerpiece of the campus.
I made my way through the crowd of people. Some were with friends, others had candied apples, and parents scanned the sea of people for children who flew under their radar in all the chaos. My first stop was the taco truck. I ordered two beef tacos with all the works: pico de gallo, lettuce shreds, avocado slices, and melted cheese strings. I also swiped two salsa cups and continued my escapade once again. I just hoped the mysterious writer wasn’t vegetarian.