College can be a bewildering, scary time for new students. For many, it's the first time they have ever been away from home for an extended period of time. And it's often also the first time that they have responsibilities beyond those of a teenager in high school. When you factor in that many more of them are going to new cities far from their hometown, it's no wonder that they sometimes feel overwhelmed. I must admit that I felt that way for the first few months when I was a new student. And I wasn't alone, apparently.
It was early in the semester the first time I heard her. The Freshman dorms consisted of two beds, a small kitchen area, and two more beds in another room. I shared a room with a girl who majored in Biochemistry and was almost always either studying or sleeping. That first night, she was fast asleep. I wasn't sure where the other two were, or if they were even there that night. They both liked to party and were quickly going down the path of “wild college kids” that many often do. I was reading some stuff for my Sociology class, while sitting on my bed with some earbuds in. I was always able to focus more if I was listening to music while studying. It helped keep out distractions, but not that first night.
As I was arm deep into the chapter, a song ended and there was a moment of silence before the next one began. That's when I first heard the sound of what seemed to be heavy sobbing. I pulled out my headphones and looked towards my roommates bed. She was fast asleep, snoring even, so the crying wasn't coming from her. I slid out of bed, and walked into the kitchen area. The neighbors door was cracked a bit, but I could see that no lights were on in their room. The crying sounded more sad than anything else. I thought that maybe someone just couldn't handle being away from home and decided that I shouldn't bother them.
A bit later, I heard the roommates door open and the two of them came in loud and obnoxious, as they had been out drinking at a house party I would learn the next morning. It sounded as though it was both of them, which didn't register to me until later that night when I was trying to sleep. If neither of them had been in their room, who did I hear crying?
A few nights went by, and I was so focused on my new classes that I sort of forgot about what I had heard. It was a Friday night, and my roommate's parents were visiting her to see the campus and the dorms. They ended up staying in a hotel, so I had the room to myself for the weekend. The neighbors were also out for the night, of course, so I was basically alone. I thought I was, anyway. A cold chill echoed throughout my body when I heard the crying coming from the other room again. I knew for sure that nobody should have been in there but that didn't stop the sounds.
I must have sat on my bed, stone faced, for ten minutes before mustering up every bit of courage I had to stand up and turn on my lights in my room and the kitchen area. The sobbing didn't stop with the lights turning on, and I could see that the door to their room was cracked a bit with the lights off, as it had been the other night. I had really hoped that the old “turning on the light” trick would have worked.
“Hello? Are you okay?”
I found myself saying, somehow. I'm not even sure it was me who said it, but rather it seemed like something normal people would say when in that situation. Part of me thought that I might be able to help someone who was clearly in some kind of anguish, while the other 98% of me was creeped out and wanted to run out of the entire building. I had hoped that by saying that, the crying would stop. But instead, it only seemed to make the sobbing louder. I inched my way towards door, with some sort of plan of reaching in and turning the light on.
To say that I was going slow would be an understatement. Snail-like might be a better term. My eyes were like saucers when I finally reached my arm in through the crack in the door to find the light switch. All kinds of awful things were running through my head about what I was going to see when I finally flipped the switch. But I just wanted the crying to stop. And to my surprise, it did once the lights were on. The trick finally worked. I put my head in, half ready to run back the other way and took a look around. The room was empty.
I was relieved, but also frightened. I didn't want to be there anymore, so I turned around to collect my things and go...somewhere for the night. When I turned, I saw someone move from my doorway into my room.
It was a girl, with long brown hair and a sad looking face. She started to sob again as she moved out of the doorway. It was the girl that had been crying, only now she was in my room. I started to panic and cry a bit too.
I did all I could think to do and said out loud: “Please, just go! You're scaring me.”
That's when the crying stopped again. I can't say for how long I stood there, tears in my own eyes, before walking back into my room. My empty room. I never told anyone about what happened. I didn't want my roommate or my neighbors being freaked out, or worse: thinking that I'm crazy. I never heard or saw the sad girl again, thankfully. But I do sometimes wonder who she was, who she is. And why was she so upset?