In Off to College, a young woman sitting at a bus stop watches her ex pick up his new girlfriend in his shiny car.
About the Author
Rachele Salvini is an Italian student living in Stillwater, Oklahoma while working on her PhD in English and Creative Writing.
Rachele’s English works have been published in Takahe Magazine, Erotic Review, Crack the Spine Magazine, Aerogramme Writers' Studio and others.
Off to College by Rachele Salvini
The first time Jared came to pick up Tabitha, I was doing homework for my English class.
When I heard his Kia approaching the parking lot in front of Gildan Theater, I pressed the tip of my pencil onto the paper and tried not to look up. I had thought about waiting for the bus somewhere else, but it was freezing, and I didn’t want to walk all the way to the next stop. After all, it wasn’t even a big deal. They were together now, and I was there waiting for the bus. I looked down and minded my own business.
The building door closed, and Tabitha’s footsteps crossed the pavement. After drama rehearsals, I didn’t hang out in the hallway to chat with the teacher or my classmates. It was too awkward now. At least, it was for Tabitha and me.
The Kia stopped. Jared was listening to a song by The Darkness, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, one of his favorites. I used to call them a douche-band but had started to like their music when I was dating Jared.
My pencil left some scratch marks on the worksheet, nothing coherent. My hands were shaking. I waited patiently.
The music boomed in the parking lot. Jared had opened one of the car windows. I imagined him leaning towards her, his elbow poking out and a cigarette between his lips, even though we weren’t allowed to smoke close to school. He would wink at Tabitha. “Always splendid to see you, ma’am,” he used to say to me, such a moron thing to say that we would crack up. Did he use that line with Tabitha too?
I tried hard to focus on my worksheet.
It is . . . it’s . . . its’ . . .
You are . . . you’re . . . your . . .
One of the Kia doors opened and closed, and for a second, I thought the torture was over. They would drive off, and I could finally look up and be normal, and my heart would stop feeling like someone had put it into a washing machine.
Instead, I heard his voice, loud and clear and sandy, talking to Tabitha from right behind the bus stop where I was sitting. “Baby doll! I couldn’t wait to see you!”
Well, at least the line he used with me was funnier, but he never got out of the car to greet me in the parking lot.
Stop stop stop.
I stared at the page in front of me. It wasn’t easy to grab the pencil while wearing gloves.
You are obsessing about nothing. You don’t want to be like Dad. You’re off to college soon. Everything is going to be fine.
Something had happened when I went to Stillwater to visit the campus. I had only stayed a couple of days, long enough to meet the softball team, but it was the night of the end-of-the-semester party at Tabitha’s house, which was always a big deal. I went to visit because Oklahoma State offered me an athletic scholarship.
Jared had told me to have fun, and kissed me on the lips, and squeezed my ass, and gave me his Snickers bar because I was hungry. I thought everything was fine.
But now he was with Tabitha. Please don’t get me started on the pathetic break-up scene, how I spent the next day crying, and wishing my dad would stop talking, and screaming in the towels or in my pillow. “Shut up,” I shouted. Then I felt bad, and I cried some more.
My father is bipolar, but he is doing a decent job of going to therapy and stuff. My mother left him when I was two. Sometimes, I think he sees women when he leaves me home alone to go on his so-called business trips. I think he meets them in some motel on the highway or something. He works for a marketing company in Denver, so maybe he meets women there. I don’t even know.
I heard Tabitha laugh, and then their sneakers squeaked on the cement of the parking lot. Then, a thump sounded against the car door. I closed my eyes again. As he always had with me, he would push her against the Kia, gently enough not to alarm her or hurt her, but hard enough to make her feel as if he couldn’t resist her. Then he would kiss her.
As I heard the familiar thump, I itched all over. I couldn’t stop scratching myself, as if I had lice, but all over my limbs, and my chest, and between my boobs, on my ears, everywhere.
If only they would finish soon. I wanted them to drive away so I could focus on my homework and not imagine them going to Taco Bell and feeding each other nachos and making out on Tabitha’s porch. There, instead of a crazy-ass dad talking about Mark Zuckerberg as the in-flesh ruin of our society, Jared would only encounter her roommates; three beautiful blond girls who liked to play volleyball in the yard while wearing shorts or something. Tabitha didn’t want to go to college, but she was already acting like a super-popular sorority girl.
I stopped scratching. I didn’t want to attract their attention in any way. After three terrible minutes of silence—I counted them—the car doors closed. I kept my head down, and the Kia drove off the parking lot. It slowed down dangerously close to me, and for a horrific instant, I thought they would open the window and tell me how pathetic I was or even just say hi, which would have killed me. But then I realized Jared had to pause next to the bus stop before entering Husband Street.
As they drove away, I forced myself not to look. Then I did, finally, and maybe it was all the pressure, or maybe it was just the cold and the wind hurting my cheeks, but I started crying immediately, as if someone had pushed a crying button under my chin or something. I cried on the worksheet and didn’t stop until the bus came. As its lights approached, I ran my gloved fingers over my eyes and cheeks and then got on the bus.
“Hello there,” I said cheerfully, smiling at the driver. I took a seat and tried to dry the worksheet with the tips of my fingers.
When I got home, dad was digging a hole in the front yard with a big shovel. He wore garden gloves and a cotton t-shirt stained with soil and sweat.
“Dad,” I said calmly. “What are you doing?”
Staring at the ground, he grunted, stomped the shovel, and said, “Friedman told me they found something in his backyard.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Gold? Oil, maybe?”
I looked at him. “It’s cold, Dad.”
“Friedman is rich now. I thought it was worth a shot.”
He shoveled soil onto a pile next to the hole.
I didn’t answer. “Is there some dinner or . . .”
“Just order Chinese,” he said, “or pizza, maybe?” He finally looked up. “I’m sure there is something under all this crap.”
You’re off to college, I thought. It’s going to be fine. You’re off to college.
I called Domino’s and ordered a large cheese pizza. He was still digging when I pulled out my worksheet and sat in my room to do my homework. When I had finished, my stomach hurt with hunger, and I imagined mozzarella and marinara sauce melting in my mouth. I looked out the window and saw that Dad was still at it. I didn’t want the pizza guy to see him like that.
I went to his room to get him a sweater. As I opened the door, though, I stopped abruptly. Pictures of my mother were scattered all over the bed, the floor, and everything. I swallowed, trying not to look at them, and then opened one of his drawers to grab the sweater. I had obsessed about Jared too: looking at pictures of us together, counting the minutes he kissed Tabitha, imagining them feeding each other Taco Bell. I was as crazy as Dad.
My body started itching again.
I went downstairs to take the sweater to him, but before I got to the front door, he came in holding a pizza box.
“The guy was weird,” he said with a snarl. “Told me there’s definitely a corpse in our yard. Why would you say something like that?”
I studied him. There was soil on his lip, and his skin was all red from the wind. For a second, I wanted to beat him to death and hug him tight at the same time.
You’re off to college.
“Let’s have some pizza,” I said, taking the box. “I’m sure it will taste good.”
About the Story
Off to College was written by Italian student Rachele Salvini.
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