The other night on my way home from Emily's, I stopped at Dairy Queen to get my mother a little ice cream treat/thank-you for making me one heck of a top-shelf dinner. After placing Donna's standard order of a Peanut Buster Parfait, extra fudge, one of the girls behind the counter noticed my black hoodie with the green ROCK scribed across the chest and asked if I knew...and began naming people who I can only assume currently go to Slippery Rock University. Not wanting to waste her time I cut her short and told her that I had graduated three years ago and that those people came in well after my four year stint at the Rock. She then told me she was going to be a freshman elementary education major at SRU, was going to live in Building B, and that classes were starting in two weeks. There were other people waiting in line behind me so I quickly paid my tab, flashed a smile, and said have fun and good luck.
But I wish I could have said more.
I wish I could have said that everything she knew about the world was going to change, and maybe not for the good in some instances.
I wish I could have said that she was going to drift apart if not completely lose almost all contact with all of her friends from high school; that she was going to abandon all of her sistas and BFFs and, in turn, was going to be abandoned as well.
I wish I could have said to her that no matter how special she was in high school, no matter how stellar of an athlete she was or how high her G.P.A. was, she is a freshman bottom feeder that does not matter in the scheme of how the university functions. To them she is simply a number...a very, very high number. In all honesty, she had more pull as a high school junior on an educational visit than she does as a freshmen.
I wish I could have said that she was going to be given a nickname. Everyone does. We had Sexual Mike, the Captain, D-Money, Big Jess, Little Jess, Big Megan/Megan Hagan, Little Megan, the Nightmare, Fat Boy/Corky, Dark Mark, Bitches, Bacon, Big B/Brains/Charlie Brown, S.T./Pigpen, Jumping Curt, Branca Snake, the Riedler, Verbasaur, and a handful of other characters that I'm not just not remembering at the moment all living on the same floor. And if you're not given a nickname, you're known by your last name, or by a catchphrase such as "Huh" (and that's not a question, it's a statement) and "Youngboo." My nicknames were Tall Sean and Stumpy.
I wish I could have said that she should forget the idea of having a roommate. No, she's going to have about forty-or-so people living with her; borrowing her clothes and DVDs and not getting any of them back until the end of the year; eating the brownies that her Grandma Marion sent up to her in a care package along with her favorite candy, a roll of quarters and a twenty; talking behind her back one minute, then gladly splitting a handle of the good stuff, Vladimir Vodka, with her and about six other eighteen year olds who are looking to grow up one shot at a time; being hung over together on a Saturday afternoon and watching The Hangover and Step Brothers on an endless loop until it's time to start it all over again; and having the same sleep, showering, eating, and bowel movement schedule as the rest of her floor.
I wish I could have said that she is going to get fat. And I mean f-a-t fat. Don't worry-it happens to everybody. With all of the beer, all-you-can-eat breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, and midnight Sheetz runs, it's near impossible not to gain a few l.b's...or twenty. Oh, and she'll eat ice cream. Loads of it. Every night. And she won't be vanilla about it, either. No, she will get three scoops of Birthday Cake Ice Cream with hot fudge, butterscotch, whipped cream on top, and maybe some type of new sprinkle that bursts in her mouth like Pop Rocks (I don't know-I've been out of the ice cream game for quite a while). Maybe take a handful of cookies back to her dorm room, you know...just in case. And the trips home are far more worse. Every food she's ever loved, the egg casserole with sausage and peppers for breakfast, the red sauce with meatballs over linguine for lunch, maybe a trip to the Cheesecake Factory, will all be ready upon her arrival with enough leftover, and probably a few batches of white oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, to take back with you for a late night snack. Yeah, she'll go to the gym to keep it off...at first. But that master plan will be thrown out the door quicker than the promise her and her boyfriend made to each other to remain faithful (don't worry-he broke that promise weeks ago).
I wish I could have said that she was going to drink, but that's an understatement, too. She will drink a lot and push her tolerance the way marathon runners make a mad dash to the finish; only she will lose this race. Miserably. She will have a near death experience with alcohol one night and wake up the next morning feeling more ill and more vile than any flu, disease or plague has ever made her feel before. She will look in the mirror and feel shame at the sight of both the running mascara down her cheeks and and the bad decisions written in invisible ink that only she can see all over her face. She will try to wash away the regret with a hot shower. She will brush her teeth over and over again only to discover that Colgate merely washes away the taste of alcohol but overly intensifies the sweet sting of vomit on her teeth. She will cry and wish she were dead somewhere on the side of the road. This will be her first scars in a long war that she will knowingly not win but simply hope to make it out alive. Oddly enough, this all will occur on a Tuesday night during midterm week.
I wish I could have said that the friends she'll meet on the floor of her dorm building were going to be her soul mates-somewhat of a catch twenty-two because even though she is going to need those soul mates everyday for the rest of her life, she's only going to get four years with them. That's bitter and hard to stomach but it happens. Everyone will grow up and head in their separate directions. The kid from Greensburg who drank 151 and Keystone Ice everyday for a solid year and pissed in the hall on a regular basis because he honestly couldn't make it ten more feet to the bathroom will start a rather successful Internet company. The girl from Erie who made out with a kid on Halloween who had butter knives taped to his hands to look like Wolverine from X-Men will become a teacher and look beautiful in her wedding dress. The guy from Meadville who bought everyone beer with his fake I.D. and got your asses kicked behind McDonalds one night for no sensible reason other than because will be a great father to a little boy. And the guy who skinny dipped in the Atlantic Ocean in Lahinch, Ireland drunk at 2:30 a.m. in the middle of November will admit all of these feelings in a tear-soaked letter that will be handed out at a Quaker Steak and Lube five days before graduation, blog about it before it becomes too far of a distant memory, and miss each of them every Valentine's Day, during Hanukkah, and any time he has a movement to reminisce.
Truth be told, I envy that girl at Dairy Queen who made my mother's Peanut Buster Parfait, extra fudge, the other night. Think about it: how many times in your life will you be able to move away from your family and friends, from your childhood, from your comfort; meet complete strangers from different cultures, religions, ways of life, social and economical groups, people that are all on the level as you despite your many differences; and start something new, fresh and exciting-something none of you have ever experienced in any of your eighteen years?
I wish I could have shared any one of these bits of information with her to help steer her ship in the right direction; to help calm her feelings of fear, excitement, curiousity, and general not knowing of what she's getting her self into.
On second thought...nah, she'll have to figure this one out on her own. That's half the fun.