The old building comprising the dormitory was in the shape of a medieval church, Miranda thought. Its garlanded windows, large and arched, were segmented into panes of stained glass. Inside, the walls were the color of sunset, a pastel citrus mesh that scented a beginning she could not quite figure. There was a carpeted spiral stairway connecting the building’s seven floors, conforming to her expectation, but also a crank elevator of which some buttons still faintly flickered, while most were out of light. A scene from a Greek myth colored the vault’s curvature–Zeus, Hermes, and maybe Hera. Miranda’s father unloaded her belongings in one trip. Being so close to home, she had the luxury not to overpack.
At the door of her new private space, a single room on the third floor as she had requested, her father pressed her tight in his embrace.
“Don’t just call us if you need something?” he said. “We need to know you’re doing well. Call us every day, or we’ll call you.”
“Ok, I will,” she said, her voice flat.
Her room pinnacled the end of a long hallway. She felt claustrophobic when she shut the door on herself. The room appeared smaller than before. A strange odor passed into her nostrils, something like a deep, stagnant ferment, as if these aged walls surrounding her had already begun to blend into the earth from which they once rose. She took her shoes off and lay straight on the bed, but she continued to feel breathless. Her heart throbbed. She rushed to the lonely window framing the center of the facing wall to open it, but it was locked. And there, a waft of cool air drifted from the ribbed vent beneath her feet and fanned her toes. She calmed down.
The dormitory was holding a socialization event in the evening time, but Miranda decided not to go. We do not need to be socially bound to those we live with, she thought. Real friendships were based on common interests, not shared roofs. Learning about her upcoming classes was a better way to conclude the day. Miranda snapped open her laptop lid. She logged into the learning management system and gazed at her schedule’s details against the background of the bright screen. The name of the intermediate German instructor caught her attention: Gertrude Lane.
In the bottom-most tier of the German department website, Miranda re-encountered the name, one of three adjunct professors. The corresponding picture displayed a plump face countered by short, straight black hair. The eyebrows were thick, but not bushy, the lips, thin. Overall, the face seemed familiar, but Miranda wasn’t sure whether she had actually seen her before somewhere, or Gertrude happened to have one of those homely faces familiar to everyone. From the year of her bachelor’s degree, Miranda surmised that Gertrude was 63 years old. At this moment, Miranda realized something new about college, something that so far had been unforeseen to her. College, like birth certificates and driving licenses, earmarked people–branded them until the end, as if by shelf-life stamp, with their real time on earth.
Producer: Eugenio Zorrilla.