Emma had lived in the dorm for six days, five nights, and four hours. Each day built on the next, and the pendulum of her emotions was always in movement. During the first hour she felt free, finally her parents had left campus and were no longer embarrassing her (her mom in the cafeteria asking the cook how often they cleaned the plastic compartment of the cereal dispenser, practically had her on the floor begging her legs to turn into scales so she could slither away). When she got into her small single bed that first night she suddenly felt nauseous. She couldn’t leave her door cracked to let the hallway light sneak in. This wasn’t home, her open door no longer meant the same thing. It didn’t signify the fact that her parents could walk by and make sure she was there, nor did it mean their dog Buggy could sniff his way in and join her under the covers. It meant strangers might hear her snore, steal her belongings, or make fun of her. What was once safety now felt dangerous.
On the third day she made a friend in her Intro to Lit class, Kate. Kate was strong, with tanned shoulders and amazing calves. She said she was captain of her hometown soccer team, and would be playing varsity in her sophomore year. Emma felt her eyes widen when Kate numerically proposed all the things she would do in college. I have no plans. I don’t even remember where my dorm building is, Emma thought. Emma who had shied away from team sports, or group actives of any kind was suddenly regretful. Kate said she already met 12 girls from playing pick up. Am I already behind everyone? 12 FRIENDS? Emma hid her surprise and jealousy, if Kate knew she was the first person she had talked to in three days, she might think something was wrong with her. And there wasn’t. You are totally normal. Normal. Normal. NORMAL. Emma repeated the mantra Doctor Schiffer suggested she try when she felt like an alien from Mars. “You are just like everyone else,” he often reminded her. Though, she was skeptical.
As class ended, Kate handed Emma a piece of notebook paper with her number on it, “you’ve gotta come play with us on these new fields. The grass is so green it’s almost fake! The kind that stains your shorts instantly, I love it.” Emma nodded and played it off like she too had kicked some balls around in her day. Realistically she couldn’t remember the last time she was on a field. She had avoided all sports since freshman year in high school. Scarred from her second day in P.E. when the star cheerleader threw a football directly at her face. Emma was busy checking out a lady bug on her shirt. The football made contact with her nose, bounced down and landed on her chest. After a few blinks the blood started, and as she looked down her peach shirt was stained with red droplets and the smushed wings of a dead insect. She burst into tears, and from that day forward most of the athletes knew her as the Crying Bug Girl.
On the fifth day she wanted to call it quits. She called her mom to beg if she could come home, but there was no answer. Before leaving a message forever demonstrating the baby she was, she hung up. She secretly wanted to put on her most ragged pajamas, which she still fit into since middle school, and hide under the covers. But her dad’s voice suddenly came into her head, and she knew if she hid now, she might be hiding forever. Emma put on her torn Levi jean shorts, grabbed her black pleather purse, and left the room. It was going to be now or never. As she crossed campus she debated where to go. There were various lounges and activity centers, but she decided a cafe would be best. If she got coffee and sat at a table she would have something to do with her hands. The cafe she chose was off campus––but just around the corner. It had green seats and dark brown wooden tables inside, but since it was such a nice day she took her coffee and chose a seat at the two tables on the sidewalk. The chairs weren’t nearly as comfortable as her bed, but she was pleased to be out of the room.
When the barista brought her coffee, she noticed an older but young man go into the cafe. Good lord! He could be on 90210. Emma was caught off guard by how good looking he was, and bout threw up when he came back out and took a seat right next to her’s so their backs were practically touching. In a few minutes, after taking two books out of his bag he shuffled his seat, so they were sitting right next to each other.
A book. I should have brought a book! Emma, who suddenly felt naked with nothing to fill the time, started picking through her split ends. The barista came back out, her butt cheeks practically hanging out of her shorts, and her boobs inching their way from behind a red bra. The man smiled at her, obviously, she was gorgeous. Emma looked down and was displeased to find that her boobs hadn’t grown at all in the last thirty minutes. She still wore training bras, and double a’s, and often wondered if she could get away with the sock trick she had seen in movies. With nothing to occupy her time, Emma inched her bony butt back in the metal chair and closed her eyes. She thought she felt the man move closer, but then decided she had made it up. She began a to-do-list in her head: How To Make Friends. 1. Leave the house (so far not producing results). 2. Join a team. 3. Get a job. 4. Run for student council (did they even have that in college?)
“I don’t know how you sit on these chairs in shorts. Doesn’t it hurt your legs?” Emma stopped counting and opened her eyes. The man near her wasn’t looking at her––had be been talking to her? She quickly scanned the area, decided she was hearing things, and again felt her spine relax into the chair.
“I’d personally choose somewhere else to nap if it was me.” She quickly opened her eyes and saw the man looking right at her, handsome smile and all. Emma couldn’t recall a time that such a beautiful human had directed their gaze at her––her insides felt like they were glowing.
“I- I-I,” she began the stutter she knew all too well and decided against it. “I just had to get out of my dorm room,” she offered.
“Ah yes, an endeavor I know all too well. Noisy dorm-mate?” He asked.
“No, I live alone. In fact, I wish I had a noisy-anything. I haven’t really met anyone yet,” she was surprised by her own admission, it had been something she was desperately trying to hide from anyone.
“Is this your first year?” Emma nodded. He looked surprised, “really?! I thought you were at least a junior! You hold yourself so mature.” At this Emma blushed, a junior? Best thing she had heard in weeks!
She suddenly felt more sure of herself, and giggled, “no, no. This is all new to me.”
“Soon you’ll be begging for it to be novel, believe me the mundane has a funny way of settling in very quickly.”
An hour later, Emma began the slow walk back to her dorm room, though this time she felt five inches taller. She had made a friend, and an incredibly handsome one at that. He gave her a book, and scribbled a note inside the front cover: meet me here next Saturday, at the same time. She yearned to tell Kate all about the tall man with green eyes and tan skin who had spent an hour looking directly at her. He even told her she was beautiful and couldn’t believe she was only eighteen. It had taken everything inside of her to hold her blushes back.
Next Saturday felt like it took years to come. And she took every precaution to be prepared. This time she would not be found empty handed. She would bring a book of her own, and FINISH the one he had given her so could maintain his undivided attention with her thoughts and questions on the novel. Her new friend had ignited a dormant confidence that apparently had been waiting to be unleashed. This week she bravely talked to two girls in the hallway, and even made plans with one for Sunday. Things were looking up, and the Emma she knew who was once blubbering to go home, had slowly dissolved.
When she arrived at the cafe, there he was. As she got closer and crossed the street she noticed he had two cups in front of him: her stomach lurched. Has he already met someone else? Or worse: did he bring a girl with him? Her insides churned as she moved closer, attempting to scope the chairs around him. Turn back. Just go home. Her cheeks burned, and before she had a chance to decide what to do, he turned around.
“Emma! I was starting to worry you weren’t going to show, and that my taste in literature had absolutely disgusted you!” He stood up as she reached the table. Emma looked at the other chairs and noticed all were empty, no bags were propped on them by whomever owned the second cup. She felt the red hue of her face soften as she exhaled. He moved a chair out for her and eased her shoulder bag off her body, “here,” he offered, “I already got you a cup.” Before she even took a sip she felt her insides warm, which doubled when he reached out and touched her naked shoulder.
That day they talked for three hours. He told her about his hometown, his favorite novels, and the best late night pubs to eat at; Emma shared about her high school, and her many fears: what should she major in? What if she failed a class? Should she have played sports? What if her professors disliked her? No matter the concern he quickly resuscitated the confidence he had already sparked in her, and made all of it seem irrelevant. Three times he reached across the table and touched her knee, “there is nothing to be scared of. You are beautiful and brilliant.” The tips of his fingers would linger, thank god I shaved my legs. Is anyone else seeing this?! Please let someone from one of my classes walk by and see this!
Five Saturday’s in a row they met like this, it had become her favorite part of college. Because with him she felt different. In his presence she wasn’t the Emma she hated, no. She was beautiful, brilliant, confident, charming. She was everything Doctor Schiffer always said she was, but now she believed it. And saw it when she looked in the mirror. The t-shirts she once adorned were suddenly not good enough, “she had gorgeous shoulders, and should show them off” He often said. Her training bras she once gave no thought to were suddenly heinous. She needed lace, she needed a push up. Emma’s boobs were now her main focus, begging them to grow and hoping He noticed them too.
Over Christmas break she allowed her mom to take her shopping, and was pleased when she had no qualms about getting her different bras, and clothes that had less and less material. Emma was worried her mom would ask why, and this made her stomach knot. She didn’t want her mom to know about Him, which was odd since at school she hoped EVERYONE would see them together. She knew what it meant to be seen with such a good looking older man. A senior. Or was he a junior? She had yet asked him what grade he was, “age is an illusion,” he’d often say. How lame would he think she was if she bought into such bullshit?
Before heading back to campus she tried on everything she owned, and wrote in a journal what each outfit said about her. This was important, because every time they met she had an identity, a story to uphold. She couldn’t wear the shirts she had since middle school, gross. She tossed away everything that made her look younger, and vowed to stop acting like a baby. She was a beautiful woman, she must dress and act like it. Emma’s parents noticed the change, and couldn’t be more thankful, minus her use of their first names instead of Mom and Dad. But alone at night they chuckled, Emma was growing up and shifting. She would weave and bounce out of identities like all teenagers do. They had little cause for concern—she was finding herself, and it might take awhile.
Emma returned to campus with bigger “boobs”, highlights, and even more confidence. She was no longer a girl. A senior liked her. Though fall classes were okay, she had been dying to get beyond any titled with “Intro.” They too easily reminded her of her freshman status, her age, and how little she actually knew. On the first day of classes she had second year Spanish, Algebra 1, and Music Theory. Kate was in none of her classes this semester, but they had a standing lunch date every Wednesday––thank god her new schedule allowed for it. On her second day of classes she had American Literature, the one class she was most looking forward to. She not only excelled in English and loved to read, but knew that whatever she picked up here she could charm Him with.
Emma wore a plaid skirt, a black v-neck sweater, and sheer tights. She had yet made much of a dent on her shoe collection, and knew her ratty boots didn’t quite go, but whatever, the skirt was short enough to take away anyone’s attention from what was happening below. It was her first course in a lecture hall, and she wasn’t expected to be so impacted by its size. The room was massive, and she couldn’t imagine being the professor of a class like this. How odd it would be to stare down at hundreds of faces. But also how exciting— if you were up there, behind that podium––you had to be impressive. She was shuffling behind a few other students, and stuck her neck out of the line to pick a seat. If I sit in front I will have to strain my neck, best go about this like the movie theatre. Emma chose a near middle row and found the most central seat. She put her bag beneath her chair and pulled out her laptop. As it sat on her upper thighs, she felt the warmth of it’s breath as she powered it on. Getting comfortable in her seat, Emma scanned the room. So far it was mostly female, and many of them were whispering and scanning the stage. “I hear he’s gorgeous;” “I don’t even like American lit, but my roommates said I had to take his class.”
Emma was suddenly intrigued: who was this professor everyone was mumbling about? She bent forward to retrieve her water bottle, and as she sat back up she almost choked: there He was! Pacing on the stage, dressed in a corduroy coat, and jeans. I didn’t know he was a TA. Emma was overcome with joy, not only could she discuss the class with him, but perhaps he would be her TA. Extra instances of going to meet him rushed through her. This was perfect. She began to concoct exactly what she would say to him Saturday, the first time they would meet since Christmas break. As the banter was forming in her mind, the professor cleared his throat. Emma looked ahead and was shocked to see no one else on stage but Him. Her senior began to talk, welcoming everyone and naming the course in case anyone accidentally came in and was meant to be elsewhere (the room for the course had changed at the last minute). Waiting for him to stop talking and for the professor to enter, Emma began to scan the sides of the stage. Where was the professor?
“Alright, now that logistics are settled. Let’s begin. Everyone please pass the syllabus along, I am Professor Reed, but if it so pleases you, feel free to use my first name:––.” Wait, no! He didn’t say He was a professor. And that’s what I call him! Emma scooched to the back of her chair and suddenly felt her spine retract. Eyes dodging, she felt sick. Why didn’t he tell me he was a professor? I’ve told him everything. Betrayal was the only word that came to mind, and she spent the entire first class sinking further and further into it. Unable to hear the words being used, or the discussion at hand, she spent the majority of the class starring at her laptop, terrified to look up and catch eyes with him.
Finally the bell sung out, Emma packed up her bag slowly. At first she wanted to avoid him, but then she realized she would have to wait until Saturday to tell him how upset she felt. She dawdled in her seat, waiting to stand. When there were all but three students left in the room she got up and walked toward the stage. She hadn’t felt this small in months. Standing at the bottom of the lecture hall, he with his back to her, five feet above on the stage. She cleared her throat, afraid how tiny her voice might sound if she had to speak first.
It worked. “Emma! Hi!” He said as made his way to the edge.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked.
“Tell you what?”
“That you were a professor here! I thought you were a senior, maybe a junior!” Emma’s lips curled as she fought her anger. She wanted to show how mad she was, but she also didn’t want to seem like a child mid tantrum.
“I didn’t realize you didn’t know. I’m sorry. Here come up, the stairs are there,” he said as he pointed to the right. “I want to show you something.”
Emma felt trapped. She wanted to stay angry, but her legs had already lost control and began toward the stairs. Reaching the top she still felt small, like a kid on the way to their parent’s room after coming in late. As she reached him he stuck out his right arm and touched her shoulder, “hi,” he whispered, “here come take a look.” He motioned her to the front and center of the stage. Never taking his hand away from her arm. Emma looked out, and was pleased to see that no one else was in the lecture hall. They were alone. The size of the room enveloped her anger, and she forgot the betrayal.
A “wow” was all she could offer.
“I know, it’s great right? It’s my favorite room to teach in.” As he talked he stepped behind her, until he was directly at her backside, with both hands resting on her elbows. Emma felt his breath on the back of her neck, and was thankful to be wearing a sweater, so he couldn’t see or feel the goosebumps he was causing. “You know, you could be up here some day. You would be an amazing professor,” at this he leaned in and whispered in her ear: “I can help you.” Emma’s entire body felt like static, as if someone had switched her on. Her cheeks flushed, as she lost all the saliva in her mouth. She felt like mush, as her back relaxed against him. What is that? Both of his hands were around her elbows, but something was poking her tailbone. She attempted to turn back and look, but as she maneuvered his right hand brushed her hair back from her face. The warmth of goosebumps traveled down her spine and she could feel them in-between her legs.
College was amazing. On Wednesday’s she’d have lunch with Kate, and on Friday’s she would go watch her pick-up games. They begged her to come down from the bleachers and play with them, and as much as she wanted to please everyone by accepting, she reveled in their desire to include her. Afraid of what might happen if she finally stepped onto the field and was terrible, she kept up the grandeur of disinterest and let them entreat. On Saturday’s she would sleep in, and then spend an hour deciding what to wear before heading to the cafe. Emma worried that being his student would change everything––she couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact she felt he liked her more because of it. On this particular Saturday she wore a maroon sweater, and black pants. She had toyed with a beret, and although she believed she looked sexy, she yanked it off at the last minute, convinced she was over doing––whatever it was.
Today they were meeting at His office, it was a first, and had surged her nerves. But who could spot them in the office? Half the thrill of spending time was the chance that someone might see them, might see how beautiful and brilliant she was to be spending her Saturday afternoons with a professor. Inside. What was the point? She couldn’t smirk at the barista who glared at her each time He bought her another cup, or catch eyes with older students as they walked up, clearly wondering who this girl was. She reached his building and was annoyed to see the place completely empty. So empty in fact that the doors were locked and He was standing in the foyer waiting to let her in.
“Emma, you look fantastic” He said as he grabbed her books and led her up the stairs. As they reached his office, she smiled, it was exactly how she had imagined it: one big mahogany desk, with two fat leather chairs facing it. “Here, take a seat.” She dropped her bag and fell into the right hand chair which had a tad brighter hue than its matching counterpart. Emma smelt coffee brewing behind her, and settled in. No one would see them, but at least the coffee was still free.
An hour went by, and after they had discussed the book at length, He started asking about her dorm life. She shared about Kate, the soccer fields, and her other classes. Emma asked about his house, and his parents whom He often mentioned. While sharing a story about his childhood He got up from his chair, and refilled their coffee. Returning with a steaming cup He sat on the arm rest of her chair and put his right arm on the back cushion. Emma placed her cup on the desk in front of her, to give him her full attention. She noticed how thick his legs were, and the waves his hair forged underneath the gel that kept them intact. She also quickly peeked down and saw how tight this stance made his pants, and she suddenly became very aware of what was underneath them. Quickly looking away before he caught her, she realized she had never been alone with an older man that wasn’t her father.
“What about you? What was your most embarrassing high school moment?” His voice lowered as he inquired. Pretty much every day, she thought.
“I don’t know… can’t really think of any,” as Emma offered up the lie, she noticed his left hand cross his chest and rest near her own. The football to the face in P.E. came to mind, and as she debated sharing the moment she felt his left index finger make contact with her sweater. Her face felt as hot as it had that day in P.E., she suddenly had no moisture in her mouth. In an attempt to generate saliva she cleared her throat. The noice echoed in the otherwise quiet room as he began moving his fingers along the side of her breast. Emma became very aware of her wardrobe choice, and thanked the heavens she hadn’t worn a padded bra, would he have been able to tell? Concentrating on her thumbs which rested on her lap she felt anxious.
“Just breath,” he whispered. Emma looked out the window and remembered just how alone they were. No one would see this. No one would see any of this.
About a minute passed while he caressed her boobs with his left hand, and then out of no where he stood up and walked behind the chair, “lift up your arms.” Without giving it too much thought, she did as she was told. Or had she been asked? As her limbs came to complete length he reached down and eased her sweater off, brushing his fingertips against her ribcage. Emma felt her breath get jagged and begged her heart beat to slow down. Closing her eyes in hopes of catching her breath, she felt him bend over her, brush her hair back, and begin to kiss her neck and shoulders. He moved in front of the chair, got down on his knees, and began to kiss her belly.
Emma’s mind darted from the present to the past like a boomerang, and all of a sudden she was picturing the way mothers kiss their baby’s belly when they are changing them. She imagined him blowing on hers the way mothers do, and wished that’s what was happening. Instead he was moving his tongue down her abdomen and past the line of her pants, which he slowly pulled down. Please let me disappear, please let me disappear. Words and actions escaped her, and she felt devoid of control. She wanted to scream No, she wanted to push him away, but she wanted him to like her––and the desire to seem cool overcame her inclination to kick him off. How could her mind say no, when her body was screaming yes? As his tongue moved further down, Emma’s body suddenly let go of its clinch, and sunk into the chair. Sunk into itself, sunk into heat and moisture. In the distance she heard her mind say no, whilst the inside of her thighs exuded yes.
Emma rolled over and reached for her clothes. She felt sick. She wanted to puke. She wanted to run. She wanted to hit him and scream, but wasn’t this her fault? She had come here alone, she had let him touch her, she had felt her body melt underneath him. While looking for her bra she had to stable her arm against the chair, as her vision went dizzy. Getting her clothes in order, and her back pack zipped up, she reached for the door knob.
“Can’t wait to see you here next week,” he said as she pushed the door ajar.
She felt the vomit reaching its plateau and swallowed it down to speak, though she knew the words couldn’t possibly be true.