I say goodbye, I love you too—and just like that, my parents disappear for the next two months. I don't know where they'll go, but Mom and Dad never run out of places to be, whether they decide to chase after West Coast sunshine or something more elusive overseas. That's just a taste of what it's like, to grow up in a family that's constantly on the move.
Evening descends from the mountaintops, coloring the air dusky and purple. I drop off my bags in my dorm room where two of the three beds have already been made and a few suitcases unpacked, evidence that my two longtime friends and roommates Delia and Lee have already arrived. After leaving the residence hall in a hurry, I stop by the on-campus cafe for a hot chocolate and find my friends at the Library and Student Lounge.
The Lounge is a spacious, ordinary room occupied by bizarre teenagers—they speak with hollow voices and copy morbid song lyrics onto their notebook covers. I wouldn't consider the Academy student body to be clique-y, but the weird and neurotic kids don't like to venture past their own claimed territory.
My friends hang out here, but we never try to fit in with the crowd of tortured souls and "nonconformists". For one thing, our group doesn't have a reputation to maintain. We play by the rules and wear comfortable clothing. We watch reality TV and listen to mainstream music. In many ways, our lifestyles are simple, conventional. And I love that about us.
Delia, Nico, and Lee share the faded blue couch, with their feet propped up on the coffee table. Jason reclines on a patchwork beanbag, skimming through an arts magazine. There's an intricate Celtic knot on the back of his hand done in black Sharpie.
"Hi, you guys," I manage to say, before my friends jump to their feet (Nico leaping over the coffee table) and smother me in a tight group hug. "I missed all your obnoxious faces," I add helpfully when we let go of each other. Jason grins at me before throwing his arms around me again. I wrap my arms around his waist, glad to see him again. The two of us have known each other the longest, and grew up together in the city before he moved upstate.
"How was your summer?" Lee asks me, as I take a seat on the couch between her and Delia. Nico collapses onto the oatmeal-colored carpet next to Jason, playfully snatching away his magazine. The only familiar face not present was Tommy, the resident prankster and easily the friendliest guy in our grade.
"I had a good time. You know the usual gallivanting across the globe and contracting tropical diseases. What about you?"
The five of us chat for a few minutes about which acquaintances we've encountered earlier during the day before I ask, "Hey, has anyone seen Tommy yet?"
"He texted me to say he's getting dinner with his new roommate," Nico says. "Sounds like they really hit it off."
"Is it anyone we know?" I ask. Maybe a local kid from one of the neighboring small towns, or someone from summer camp.
"Nah," Jason replies. "Apparently he's here from out of state, on an academic scholarship, by the name of Luke Arthurs. He's exactly what Lee needs—a bit of friendly competition for the Top Scholar Award." He smirks, receiving a playful kick in the head from Lee's sneakered foot.
We spend the rest of the evening exchanging jokes and wisecracks; soon enough, someone pops a CD into the stereo. Raw, thoughtful music surrounds us, sometimes in carefully measured whispers, other times in angsty, voice-cracking shouts— the kind of music that other kids would typecast as hipster, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. I'm pretty sure the artsy twenty-somethings from Williamsburg, Brooklyn have no interest in teen garage bands.
During occasional lulls in the conversation, I lean my head back and close my eyes, wondering vaguely what tomorrow will be like. I can't help but ask myself, what kind of person is Tommy's new roommate, this Luke Arthurs?