“College Stories” — Abby 5


College stories sig

Gavin Colton

This is the final installment “College Stories” is a weekly column by MFA student Gavin Colton. Read last week’s installment here.


When Abby gets back to her apartment, she plugs her phone in to charge and gets in the shower, watches the dirtied soles of her feet wash back to their pink color. She rubs soap into the scrapes and scuffs on her skin then turns the water cold and braces herself against the stream.

She towel-dries her hair and sits on the floor at the end of her bed, following the line of sunlight carving into the carpet and up the mirror until it’s reflected back onto her face. The light blares on her, but she feels no warmth.

Outside the apartment, construction workers plough into the ground with bulldozers to make space for foundations for a new fourplex. Abby rolls the towel around her hair, scrunches it together then lets it fall free in a damp nest. She discards the towel on Kara’s bed. Kara will lose it when she sees it there, sprawled and soggy on the sharp, hotel-like corner of her bed.

Abby makes it to her first class and waits outside eating her Pop-Tart breakfast, where a guy asks her if she’s bought the textbook yet. She pretends not to hear him, goes on watching the student traffic disperse into lecture halls in Kastle. People are dressed up for the first day; she hates that. She takes a seat in the front row of the room, far away from the guy who’s joined some friends near the back. Two TAs set their bags down at the front table and walk up and down the aisles, smiling and saying, isn’t it good to be up this early? The professor for the class arrives five-minutes late. She fixes the microphone to the collar of her shirt and tests it. Can you hear me in the back?

Once she finishes introducing herself and outlining the syllabus, she asks the class to get up, walk around and learn the names of at least three people in the room and one interesting fact about them. The professor announces there’ll be a quiz on it. Abby stays sat where she is until one of the TAs hunkers down and repeats the professor’s instructions, adding that the professor is brilliant and that she teaches his seminar course.

Abby stands up, which seems to satisfy the TA. She shoulders her book bag and picks up the required textbook, it cost her $89 at the bookstore, used and rented. It’s about the weight of an open-toed shoe. On her way out she hands it to the guy from before.

She walks outside and takes in the trees, still mostly full of orange and brown foliage. She tails a group of girls across campus, enjoying the wake of scented shampoo and coffee. She walks to the beat of a girl’s ponytail rocking out the back of a baseball cap. She follows it all the way to Whitehall, into another lecture hall, where she takes a seat in the front row again. She sets a yellow legal pad on the foldout table, begins scribbling concentric circles on the page, not lifting the nib as she completes one circle and moves into another. After a few minutes, she stops to observe the result. She can’t tell where the first circle begins or where the final one ends. She examines the circles for a blot of ink that might indicate the beginning of something.  

The professor arrives and introduces himself. He’s overdressed, his shoulders stiff and posture unyielding in his suit. He compensates for his nervousness by using his hands to accentuate his words, balling his fist in moments when he wants students to really get it. Abby takes out the fifty-dollar bill from her wallet (the one that Collins left) and notices a phone number on it now. She makes a mental note to send a text later.

She sits in the lecture hall until lunchtime, as students and professors pour in and out. When the lecture hall empties, she stands up, laces her fingers and pushes them up to the ceiling them creases her body at the hips, feeling the pull of the top half of her body on the bottom. When students file in again, some in chatty clusters, others in more forlorn states, she introduces herself over and over, asking people how much they paid for the textbook.

Disclaimer: All characters and events in these stories are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.