The car is topped high with boxes and bags, each one containing different parts of my life. In a container is the orange dress with the gold waist piece that I wore for my high school graduation. In a bag is my green blanket with blue polka dots that just hours before covered my bed. A box that hides faces behind glass frames. Behind the seat, in my backpack, papers containing my orientation paperwork and class schedule nestle together. I realize that it’s time to leave. I look back at the house where I grew up and say a silent goodbye. I turn in my seat facing the driver’s side.
“Alright, dad, I’m ready to go. Arizona, here we come!”
We speed along the highway listening to Justin Bieber with the speakers on high. Who doesn’t love a little Biebs? My dad and I sing along regardless of whether we sound good. I like to joke with him that he freestyles the lyrics way too much, but to him it just doesn’t matter. Miles start to separate the life I once knew and the future that awaits me.
I drift asleep about halfway through the trip only waking up to tires skidding of the side of the road. It’s about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and rain is pouring down. Apparently, this is the kind of weather Arizona often experiences this time of year. I can barely see the sign through the constant flow of rain against our windshield: Welcome to Arizona.
“I thought rain or not you’d like a picture by the sign since it’s your very first time crossing the state line into Arizona,” my dad explains.
“Of course!” I say grinning “Well, you ready to get a little wet?”
With that, we are dashing from the car and running towards the sign. After snapping a few pictures, we find ourselves drenched and playing in the rain on the side of Interstate 10. We arrive in Tucson late and exhausted. Tomorrow we will see the dorm where I’m staying for my first year of college. I fall asleep anxious.
My dad manages the big boxes while I carry bags of clothes and linens up the flight of stairs. I don’t have to worry about gaining the freshman fifteen at this rate. It’s a small room for two people to share. I start to miss my room back home. The lavender painted walls and the hallway that smells like vanilla cookies. We work diligently. In a few days, he’ll be gone, and I’ll be alone.
He makes sure that I have everything I need and that everything is where it’s supposed to be. I know it’s time, but I can’t bring myself to say goodbye. It’s the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to say. I know I’ll see him for Christmas, but that seems like a lifetime away. We stand on the curb hugging each other. I grip him tight, afraid to let go. He’s leaving his only child at some college miles away from home, and I’m starting college miles away from all that I know. The hug lasts long. I kiss him on the cheek, and he drives off. He’s gone.
I lay in a bed foreign to me. I look around at all my things in places that are new to them and me. I cry all night knowing my dad is heading home without me. I cry missing the only man in my life that I have trusted, loved, and understood. The one man who has done everything to make sure my life is everything I could want and more. I contemplate calling him but I think to myself: I can’t let him down. I can’t let my family down. They’re counting on me. They believe in me. I can do this.
Heels are busy clicking the pavement in search for the next party. The air reeks of perfume that smells of desperation. Girls are talking too loud about sexual experiences. I can hear them talk, and I’m sure those around me can, too. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe they want to be heard.
It’s a typical Thursday night at the University of Arizona. A night where people aren’t who they say they are and act in ways they would never want exposed. Just another night out on campus.
I go out every week with my friends, and this party is no different. I’m the conservative one in my group. I stick close to the wall and avoid advances.
I drink under pressure from my friends to keep up.
One. Two. Six.
A staircase wobbles underneath my feet, but an arm on my lower back stabilizes me. My hand reaches for the rail. I can feel his breath against my ear.
His hand brushes my hair aside.
I can feel the moisture on his palm as it grazes my face. He’s positioned above me using his weight to press my body against the navy blue sheets. The other two are busy holding down my arms and legs. Their grip is hard, and my limbs start to burn under the pressure. His sweat drips onto my cheek. Warm, stagnant air hits my uncovered flesh. I choke back salty tears, paralyzed. The laughs echo through the room. Each deep chuckle makes bile rise up in my throat, but nothing comes out.