A/N: Track 2 on this album is New Soul by Yael Naim. Just as last time, please feel free to listen and read ^_^ Happy listening!
I’m a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit ‘bout how to give and take.
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake
My first impression of college was that it was very…gray, or at least the dormitory was. It was just this great, hulking, gray, thing looming on the horizon, and I had to admit the sight of it made my heart sink a little in disappointment.
What had I expected though? Marble pillars and gold?
No, obviously, I thought to myself, but not this either.
The inside, unfortunately, wasn’t all that much better. Seriously, what was it with gray? It made everything look so depressing that I immediately found myself missing home, but I forced the thought out of my mind. After all, how pathetic it was to already be feeling homesick when I’d only been here for five minutes!
Besides, despite all the gray, the dormitory was at least outfitted with many accoutrements, including public computers that anyone in the dorm could use, plenty of living spaces, a television, a kitchen, gym equipment, and even a pool table. Not to mention the sprawling yard that I could see out the windows, and that, at least, wasn’t the least bit gray. Instead, the grounds were a sprawling tapestry of greens and yellows. I could see other students lying out in the grass already.
I didn’t get to explore any of it yet though, because our first task, of course, was getting settled into our new room.
Moving all of our stuff in proved to be a nightmare. By the time Hannah and I had fully emptied the moving truck, our necks and backs were sore, a light layer of sweat forming on our brows. Still, we wanted to get all of this out of the way as soon as possible, so instead of taking a break, we set right to decorating our shared room.
“Do we have anymore posters?” Hannah asked, stepping back to look at our accomplishments.
“No, but even if we did I hardly see any space for them,” I noted, leaning against the wall and lifting my long hair off the back of my neck. It was horribly hot in here, but perhaps that was just because we’d spent the last four hours slaving away. I never wanted to see another piece of tape ever again, and if I saw another unpacked box I swore I was going to scream and never stop.
“Thank god,” Hannah said, leaning heavily against the wall as well. “I think everything came out okay though. I mean, I’m sure we’ll have back issues by the end of the year sleeping on those mattresses, but it could be worse.”
“Definitely. It could be gray like everything else,” I said with a roll of my eyes.
“RIGHT!?” Hannah exclaimed, and I grinned, loving that we always picked up on the same things.
I let go of my hair and then went to my mirror, brushing it and touching up my makeup.
“I think I’m going to go look for Oliver. He already got here two days ago,” I remarked as I studied my reflection in the mirror.
Hannah groaned. “Noooo, please don’t,” she begged. “Come exploring with me. There’s supposed to be some kind of Meet and Greet going on, and then we should totally go out tonight. See where everyone likes to hang out,” she said, her eyes glittering with excitement.
“Go out?” I asked dubiously.
“Yes. Go out. Eat, drink, dance, socialize,” Hannah answered, her voice one that you would use with someone very dense. “You know—the only real benefits to having to attend school for another four years.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “I don’t know, Hannah. We have classes tomorrow.”
“UMM, not until noon! Hell, on Mondays your first class isn’t even until 4! You could literally sleep in all day.”
“I don’t know….” I said skeptically.
“Pleaseeee? Oh come on, you know it’ll be fun,” Hannah said, her smile bright and her eyes shining once more.
I looked back at my best friend and knew then I’d never be able to say no to that face. “Oh, alright,” I said with a sigh. “But this better be fun!”
See I’m a young soul in this very strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit ‘bout what is true and fake.
But why all this hate? Try to communicate
Finding trust and love is not always easy to make.
It wasn’t—or at least the Meet and Greet wasn’t.
The first people we ran into were a bespectacled mascot, who immediately broke out into a spastic dance in front of us, a lumberjack, and a girl who was wearing so much makeup that I surmised she might actually be a performer in Cirque du Soleil. The girl made no sense anyway though, because she was wearing shorts that were so short her pockets stuck out of them, and yet she was also wearing a hoodie. Was that a popular college fashion?
I turned to say something to Hannah, but then was startled to see that she was nowhere to be seen.
“Oh, nice! Free stuff!” I suddenly heard her call from behind me.
I turned just in time to see her snatch a Frisbee off of one of the welcome tables. She turned to face me with a grin, but then immediately dropped the Frisbee, the small, plastic disc bouncing away from her.
“Oh my god, he is so hot!” she squealed, barely able to contain herself.
I turned to look in the direction Hannah was and frowned, scratching my head.
“I don’t know. He looks rather angry,” I said skeptically. I turned toward my friend to see her response, but I didn’t think she heard me because she was still looking at him all bright-eyed and smitten. I sighed quietly. Hannah thought every boy was ‘hot’.
I jumped when she suddenly let out a little squeak of fear. “He’s coming over here!” she said, her voice so high-pitched that I thought I’d heard a stray outside barking.
I turned, only to come face to face with the grumpy male that Hannah was nearly wetting herself over.
“Hey,” he said, tucking a strand of blue-dyed hair out of his face and then holding out a hand to me. “I’m Cid.”
I winced internally, already picturing the look on Hannah’s face as I took his hand to be polite. “I’m Jo,” I said with a bit of a smile, wishing I were anywhere else at that moment.
“Jo? Isn’t that a guy’s name?” he asked with a laugh.
I forced myself to keep my smile on my face as I let go of his hand. “It’s short for Joanne,” I informed him as pleasantly as I possibly could.
“Hi, I’m Hannah!” my friend suddenly said, rushing up to the both of us. “It’s a very feminine name,” she added with a giggle, standing up a bit straighter so as to enhance her breasts. I groaned internally, pretending to be fascinated with my shoes. I mean, I really did like them. So comfortable, really.
“Uhh, hey,” Cid said uncertainly, and I nearly died as the two then just stood there, staring at each other awkwardly.
“Oh, hello! Joanne right? That’s my sister’s name! I mean, not that you remind me of my sister…at all. Ahem…I’m Walter!”
Oh god, why?
I turned to face “Walter,” but then caught a glimpse of someone else by the other freebie table—someone who would actually take the time to read everything on the board, rather than just raid it for free candy bars and kicky bags.
“Oliver!” I cried out in relief, immediately running up to him. He turned around, looking at me in surprise and then smiled a grin that instantly made my heart melt.
“Hey Jo, how are—”
“Please kiss me back,” I said in a rush, my eyes wide.
Oliver looked as if he wanted to question it, but I suppose my face must have looked pretty urgent because he finally just chuckled a bit and pulled me in for a much more passionate kiss than I’d actually been expecting. I felt my cheeks burning as we kissed; my body unnaturally warm now.
I wasn’t usually one for public displays of affection honestly, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
When Oliver pulled away, I was positively breathless, my heart beating hard in my chest.
“What was that about?” he asked me with a laugh.
“What?” I asked stupidly, my brain still fuzzy from the kiss.
“Why’d you want me to kiss you so badly?”
“Oh,” I said, shaking my head a bit. “Well, two reasons. The first is, I missed you very much,” I said with a soft smile. Oliver smiled too, his cheeks pink. I laughed lightly, and then continued explaining myself, “the second, is that I had two testosterone driven males after me. You know, the ones behind me,” I said, opening my eyes wide, but not daring to turn around.
Oliver raised an eyebrow at me and then looked over my shoulder. “Hmm, yes, they both look distinctly put off now that you’ve established you’re off the market.”
“Good riddance,” I hissed. “What are they doing now?”
“Well, one of them, I shit you not, appears to be crying.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“I’m serious! Anyway, the other just seems to want to get away from Hannah, not that I blame him.”
“Oh no, why?” I asked, feeling sad for my friend.
“It could be because she just picked a crushed candy bar off the floor and stuffed it into her mouth. I can’t make this shit up.”
“Oh,” I said. “She’s trying to impress him. She does things like that every now and then, to prove she’s up for anything, you know? Anyway, how’d the gesture go?” I asked, too nervous to look behind me still.
“Terribly. He’s looks as revolted as I feel. I think someone stepped on that candy bar, Jo. That’s just nasty.”
“Oh, no. I’ll talk to you later!” I squeaked, and then ran back over to Hannah, hormonal males be damned. At least I had demonstrated that I wasn’t there for a date though, unlike many of the others, apparently.
After fifteen minutes of assuring Hannah that her failure in wooing Cid was for the best, the two of us continued our exploration of the campus by ending up at a place called The Grotto.
The Grotto was a little bit of everything. One side of it had televisions and couches for hanging out and a little corner to buy coffee and pastries, while the other side had a fully stocked bar and pool tables.
This is a happy end ‘cause you don’t understand
Everything you have done,
Why is everything so wrong?
Hannah was, unfortunately and unsurprisingly, immediately drawn in by the bar.
“One round of drinks, on me!” she called out to the bartender, looking as pleased as punch.
“Oh, come ON, Hannah!” I cried. “Seriously?!”
I watched as the bartender fulfilled her request, a bitter taste forming in my mouth already. Could there be a substance in existence that I could possibly loathe more?
“Oh, relax, Jo, just because your father’s an alcoholic doesn’t mean you’ll be.”
I felt a flash of anger race up my spine, my fists balling up at my sides, but just as I was about to snap at Hannah, she placed two of her fingers on my lips, silencing me. Her sparkling gray eyes were wide with regret.
“Don’t!” she said hastily. “I’m sorry. That was a stupid thing to say. I didn’t mean that. I just meant that I don’t think you should hold yourself back just because of other people. Look, I don’t want to get drunk anyway. I just want to have a couple drinks with my friend just like any other person, okay?” She gave me a sad puppy dog face then, her bottom lip jutting out. “Don’t be mad,” she said in a soft, cajoling voice, and I sighed, gently pushing her hand away from my face.
“Okay, okay, but I swear to everything, Hannah, if you lie and get drunk off your ass and/or encourage me to do the same, I will never speak to you again,” I said in a low voice.
“You have my word,” she said with a bright smile, and then grabbed a drink off the bar counter. “Cheers!” she added with a wink.
To her credit, Hannah stayed true to her word. I had two drinks, more out of thirst than anything else, and while my best friend had three, she was by no means drunk off her ass, although I wasn’t too impressed by how giggly she’d suddenly gotten.
As for me, I guess my head felt a little bit fuzzy and I was smiling a bit more than I might have, but mostly I found that the drinks just made me feel sleepy, or maybe that was because it was starting to get late.
I was about to suggest that we head back when Hannah’s mouth suddenly dropped open and she let out an ear-splitting shriek.
“What in the world?” I asked, turning toward my friend in annoyance.
“Look!” she cried out, pointing.
This is a happy end
Come and give me your hand
I’ll take you far away
I glanced tiredly in the direction she was pointing and then felt a slow smile spread across my lips. “Oh yes,” I said with a laugh. “Let’s go!”
“Hey everyone, we’re closing up!” the bartender announced after we’d finished performing a couple songs.
“Really? What time is it?” I asked, thrown off by the seemingly early closing time.
“Um, 2:00 AM?”
“Oh shit!” Hannah cried out, and then we both burst into laughter, racing out of the bar and running all the way back to our dorm room.
When we finally got back to our dorm we snuck soundlessly upstairs, barely having enough energy to change into our pajamas before slipping into bed. Despite having felt so awake at the bar, as soon as my head touched the pillow I felt the weight of exhaustion hit me like a wrecking ball, and I fell effortlessly into sleep.
Just one day at college and I felt like I’d already lived several weeks of it.
I woke up the next morning feeling disoriented. Not because I was hung over or anything, but because for a moment I wasn’t even sure where I was. I sat up slowly and then rubbed my eyes, glancing around the room.
My eyes came to rest on Hannah and I sighed. Ah, yes, of course, college…and today was the first day of classes!
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake
I grabbed my phone from my bedside table, my heart immediately sinking as I noticed I had a bunch of missed messages. I’d been so exhausted last night that I hadn’t even bothered to check my phone before going to sleep.
There were a handful of messages from Oliver asking if I was okay, a couple from my mom, two from unknown numbers, and another couple from my Dad.
“Crap,” I muttered, reading quickly through them all. As I’d suspected, all of the texts were basically light and fluffy hellos, followed by texts of concern when I didn’t answer them even after several hours. I hastily sent replies to everyone to assure them that I was still alive, also adding the two unknown numbers to my contacts since they turned out to be Gemma and Augustus. They’d evidently been gifted those cell phones that can only accept calls and texts from a list my parents pre-programmed, and of course, as one of their few contacts, they’d been eager to test it out and text me.
Afterward, I glanced at the time, only to realize that it was already 11:45. Wow. I’d really slept in late. Wait…11:45?
“Hey, Hannah! Hannah!” I called, shaking her awake. “You have class in 15 minutes!”
“What?” she groaned sleepily.
“Motherfucker!” Hannah yelped, jumping out of her bed like a spring. She grabbed a pair of shoes, her toiletries, and then raced into the bathroom, all the while continuing to let out a string of curses.
I shook my head in disapproval and then went to gather my bathroom supplies in the shower caddy I had. I rummaged through my dresser afterward, trying to decide what to wear today.
I still hadn’t chosen when Hannah came back into the room, threw on the clothes she’d been wearing yesterday, grabbed her backpack, and then hurried out of the room once more.
Perhaps I didn’t have to worry about my outfit too much after all…..
Classes were…okay. As a Fine Arts major, the majority of my classes took place in the Thomas School of Art, which was actually a very large, and very beautiful building on campus. The only thing was the classes were rather…general. I supposed that that was to be expected, considering I was only a freshman, but I found it made classes less enjoyable than I’d typically find them.
I paid attention, of course, and took notes, of course, but sometimes despite my best efforts I’d find my mind drifting as I gazed out the window, imagining myself performing on a massive stage. I didn’t see how understanding the history of art or sculpting or the advent of music would help me achieve this either, so my classes remained just that: “okay”.
Hannah pretty much agreed with me. She was studying Physical Education and hoped to be either a physical therapist or a personal trainer once she left school—she hadn’t actually decided yet.
As such, her classes were all the way in the Schmidt Memorial Stadium & Annex, and she too found hers rather lackluster. Then again, Hannah had never been much interested in school and pretty much went to college solely because her parents told her she’d have to move out and get a job right away if she didn’t.
Still, like me, she didn’t hate it, and always did go to class, often coming back to test and develop her own methods of strength training, or cardio, or whatever have you.
Oliver, however, loved his classes. He was a Physics major and as such had classes in the Busche School of Science. It wasn’t actually too far from the Thomas School of Art, but we still rarely saw each other during the day as he was always busy.
If Oliver wasn’t in class, then he was studying in the library, doing homework, or running experiments in the campus lab or the School of Science Proving Ground. He was extremely passionate about his studies, but I rarely ever knew what he was talking about.
Not because I was stupid, but because the kind of science he was into was so far beyond the realm of high school science courses that I typically only understood bits and pieces of what he discussed. Regardless, it made me happy to see him happy, and that, I think, is what matters in the end.
Due to our entirely different schedules and studies though, I often found myself alone.
Sometimes I didn’t mind, like when I’d be painting or working on a new song, but at other times it could get rather lonely, especially when it came to eating meals. I found that the only thing more depressing than eating cheap cereal for dinner was eating cheap cereal for dinner alone.
It was an unfortunate discovery, but as we realized how little time we were able to spend together, we became better at managing our time, even scheduling certain times when we would make sure we were free.
Sure, it wasn’t ideal to have to “pencil in” time with your friends, but it was better than spending no time at all with them, so “pencil in” we would.
In this very strange world
“I’m literally crying, Jo. Could you possibly look any younger than you do right now, in this moment?” Hannah asked, giving me a despairing look. She was sitting in the grass, enjoying one of our shorter appointments between classes, when each of the three of us had exactly one hour to spare together before running off to our afternoon classes.
“You don’t know the meaning of ‘literally,’ do you?” Oliver asked her coolly from beside me, raising an eyebrow. I bit my lip. It wasn’t exactly a secret that my boyfriend didn’t care much for my best friend, and if I could help it I tried to schedule separate appointments with each of them, but sometimes there just wasn’t enough time in the day to do so.
“I’m sorry, was I talking to you? Because I could of sworn I said ‘Jo,’” she bit back, glaring in his direction.
“It’s could have not could of,” he muttered, staring fixedly at a small buttercup in the grass, perhaps in a small effort to control his temper.
“Oh…my god,” Hannah gagged, looking away from him.
“I don’t look that young…do I?” I asked. I ran a hand through my hair, suddenly self-conscious.
“All I’m saying is that your boyfriend probably feels a little bit like a pedophile when he’s hitting that,” Hannah remarked, pressing her lips together grimly.
I blushed hotly, avoiding her gaze and rearranging my hair once again. From beside me Oliver looked up at the sky, letting out a slow breath and most likely praying for patience. Hannah looked from me, to Oliver, and then groaned loudly, falling back onto the grass with her limbs spread out like a starfish. I looked away from her, trying to ignore the fact that she was probably flashing half of the courtyard right now.
“Lord help me you guys still haven’t done it, have you? You’ve been going out for how long now, a year?”
“Nearly two,” I said quietly, staring intently at a cloud that looked like kind of like a quarter note, if you squinted.
Hannah let out a cry of agony and then pretended to stake herself, her tongue lolling out of her mouth as she let her arms fall limply, one by her side and the other on her heart.
“Oh blessed day, we are saved,” Oliver remarked dryly as he glanced at Hannah’s seemingly lifeless form with only the vaguest sense of interest.
He sighed and then lay down fully on the ground, tilting his head toward the sky so that the sun shone on his face. When the sunlight hit his hair it looked like a million canary diamonds.
I began to bite my thumbnail, an annoying, nervous habit I had. He never said anything about it, but what if Oliver was secretly angry that we still hadn’t taken that next step, despite having been in a prime position to do so countless times. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to—I did, I really did, I would just get so…nervous. I sighed, glancing back at Hannah, who seemed to be enjoying the afterlife at this point.
Every possible mistake
“We do plan to,” I found myself saying as I sat up a bit, the words spilling out of my mouth before I had the chance to even think about their consequences. “On our second anniversary,” I clarified, and then had half a mind to slap myself silly. I averted my gaze, ashamed.
Hannah sprang back to life like a possum and then began screaming giddily, almost loud enough to drown out the sound of Oliver coughing up one of his lungs. My face felt as though it were on fire. I was such an idiot.
“Well, girl, maybe there’s hope for you yet!” Hannah announced with a laugh, while Oliver stood up beside me, brushing off his jeans.
“Come on, Jo. We have to get to class,” he said quietly, his face expressionless, but a little bit pink from his coughing fit. I glanced at my phone. We still had 15 minutes left before the next set of classes began. I bit my lip.
“Okay,” I said, not stupid enough at least to not take the hint. He held out a hand to me and I took it, suddenly feeling like a puppy that had just chewed up her owner’s favorite pumps.
“Alright, alright,” Hannah sighed. “Take care you two,” she giggled, and then pulled out her phone to answer the multiple texts she’d received as we’d lay there.
I avoided Oliver’s gaze as we walked far away from Hannah. I wasn’t exactly sure where we were going because our classes were in completely different directions. I almost asked, but decided it would probably be better not to. It was a lovely, warm day and there were lots of students sprawled out on the grass just as we had been, enjoying whatever brief respite they had before it was back to the daily grind again.
We passed by the coffee shop and I took a deep breath to better smell the fragrant spices and coffee scent that always lingered about it no matter what time of day it was. I was just wondering if I should go purchase a skinny vanilla latte when Oliver stopped in his tracks, turning to face me. My heart sunk. This couldn’t possibly be good.
“Jo…” he started, sounding rather frustrated, “why do you always let her get to you?”
I took in a sharp intake of breath. I wasn’t quite expecting that question. “I don’t,” I argued, “I-I really do…want to take that next step with you,” I whispered, averting my gaze. Oliver was quiet for a moment, but I didn’t dare look at his face.
“If this is because of Hannah…” he began, but I looked up at him then, shaking my head vigorously, and he fell quiet again. His blue eyes were soft, his brows furrowed slightly in concern, and I could feel my heart fluttering.
“This is because I love you,” I said, and then held onto his hands tightly, as if the gesture could possibly calm my now frantically beating heart.
Oliver took in a sharp intake of breath and then touched his forehead to mine, his eyes closed. The silence was murder, even though it had probably only been a matter of seconds.
I probably shouldn’t have thrown those words out like that, to be fair; especially when I’d never said them back to him before. It’d only been a few months into the relationship that Oliver had said them to me, and I’d been so thoroughly thrown off that all I could manage was an “oh, wow.” It was not one of my shining moments, and I could tell Oliver had been a little hurt, but he’d said it was okay—that I didn’t have to say them back yet, not if I wasn’t ready.
He even stopped saying them for a time, until our one year anniversary, when we’d been skating in the park. That time I was also thrown off, but not quite as much, and what came out of my mouth was ‘I really like you.’ Again, not a shining moment, but at least it had been a step up from before.
He tried one more time at the end of our first week on campus, when I’d snuck into the boy’s dorms upstairs and into his bed because I’d been feeling so horribly homesick. That time I just cried, and Oliver held me and didn’t say a word, and eventually we’d both fallen asleep. He hadn’t tried again since.
“Joanne, I swear to God if you’re just saying this because—” Oliver began in a low voice, but I cut him off again, placing three of my fingers gently on his lips and shaking my head.
“I’m not just saying it. I love you, Oliver. I really, really do.” I looked up into his eyes, feeling nervous tingles all throughout my body as he looked at me. He looked like he desperately wanted to believe my words were true, but it also looked like he wasn’t sure if they were. “I love you,” I repeated, the words making me feel warm and happy. I lifted my head and kissed him softly. “I love you,” I murmured once more, trying to convince him.
“I love you too,” he finally said softly. He held my face between his hands, his palms warm against my cheeks. “I really mean that, you know,” he continued quietly, his glasses bumping my face as he kissed my nose.
I flushed, nodding a bit. “Yes, I know,” I said quietly, looking away.
He took a step back from me, lifting my chin gently so that I was looking into his eyes again. “But, Jo,” he said softly, “I don’t want to take that next step with you until I know you’re ready, and don’t lie to me again and tell me that you are because you love me, because I see right through that. I know you’re not ready. As for whether or not you mean it when you say you love me…” he sighed, taking his hands away from my face, “I hope so,” he finished quietly, and then cleared his throat. “I have to get to class.”
I opened my mouth to say something in response, but I honestly didn’t know what to say, and soon enough Oliver was turning away from me, walking in the complete opposite direction of where I needed to go.
Of course, that was when I realized what I should have said: “I do mean it, Oliver—with every fiber of my soul, I mean it.”
La-la la la, la-la-la-la la la
Every possible mistake.