No Longer a Room of Her Own

by Sophie Gordon

I wasn’t sad until I had to turn in my keys. I wasn’t sad when I got the email saying that we had to go. I wasn’t sad when my suitemate Emelia came into the kitchen telling me that they had boxes downstairs and the line was getting long. I think I was panicked and in shock. But when I had to give my keys to my RA, when I grabbed my last two succulents, when I walked out of the first place I had made a home for myself?  Then I was sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a home. But my dorm room, despite its small space shared with somebody else, was a slice of a life I had never had before, away from my family, from their joys and from their burdens. There, my only connection to them came in the form of calls to my phone. And if I wanted to, I could just tap decline.

I was probably the most panicked when I realized that this was real and would affect me. I was walking to the school where I work to attend a training meeting for student workers regarding COVID-19. When I first came into the small empty meeting room, there was an open box from Insomnia cookies. I experienced  a brief internal debate before snagging a chocolate cookie with mint chocolate chips. Within a couple of minutes, the room was full, and the meeting was starting. They said the school would probably shut down a week to sanitize everything. They weren’t sure what they were going to do with work-study yet, and they would let us know. What I knew for sure was that I wasn’t letting $950 go down the drain.

Today we had a Zoom meeting told us how this would look. There were a number of opportunities for student workers, so we could continue to make money and fulfill our responsibility. Before the meeting, I was planning on letting Maggie know I couldn’t work remotely, but I decided that more structured commitments would be good for me. And the money couldn’t hurt.

My mother is a fourth-grade teacher who is now expected to teach 16 ten-year-olds on Zoom. I can’t begin to explain the impossibility of this task, which is compounded by her ineptness with technology. I’m not exaggerating my own importance when I say, in all honesty, she could not be doing this without me.

Like her ineptness with technology, I’ve learned that my mother has a number of weaknesses. This is hard to accept. She is the one person in the whole world that I know has my back, but she is just as human as I am. When she came to pick me up from my dorm, she had to borrow my brother’s car to haul my stuff. Her’s still had boxes of books from her hastily-abandoned classroom. When we got the first round of boxes down from my little home and opened the trunk, we realized that my brother’s car, too, was half-full of books. I was pissed but not surprised.

When I arrived back at my family’s small apartment, the first thing I did was hide or label my food. I have learned the hard way throughout life that I need to be my own first priority. I also adjusted the sign on my door that detailed the $20 penalty for stealing from me, so it would be more visible to my 6’9’’ brother.

Within two days, my brother had eaten my neatly labeled yogurts, drunk my orange juice, and woken me up going through my nightstand to find a pen. On the third day, I had my final presentation for my Art of Poetry class. During it, despite the signs on my door saying that I was Zooming, my brother persistently and loudly knocked and tried to open it.

Again, I was pissed. Again, I was not surprised. This was my family, and while I had changed in the past months, they had not. And looking at the counter which held my empty yogurts, I realized that my current situation, no matter how utterly and completely crappy, was life right now. I could be sad and pissed. Or I could get over it and get to writing.

Copyright Sophie Gordon. Used by Permission.

Sophie Gordon is a first-year English and Literary Arts student at DU, where she discovered her love for creative non-fiction, and for writing in general. She is the proud mother of two cats and currently lives in Golden, Colorado. 

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