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“CHLOE! CHLOE! HELP!”

Anastasia was shrieking my name as if the only thing separating me from her was not a singular door. 

It was our very first day of college and I had somehow gotten entirely lost and fried by the Texas heat within 10 minutes of being on campus. I’d returned home to my not-yet-comfortable apartment, traded niceties with my new roommates, and quickly escaped into my room to shower and collapse into my bed. 

I hadn’t expected either of my roommates to talk to me once I had locked myself away. When people asked why I chose to move in with them, I simply said ‘I know them well enough to trust that they won’t try to murder me.’ After all, we attended the same high school, but we were really just acquaintances; Karly and Anastasia were best friends. Their other friend Jeremy had already somehow attached himself to our living room couch the day after we moved in. I was decidedly the outlier here.

But now, Anastasia was screaming for me as if something was on fire. As I rushed out, I braced myself for just that. I fully anticipated that someone had set my brand new kitchen alight through some misguided attempt to reheat pizza rolls.  

“Can I help you?” I asked as I walked into the living room, feigning nonchalance.

“She’s stuck outside! And the doorknob is broken. And we’re trapped.”

“What?”

“Karly. Is. Stuck. Outside.”

Jeremy turned to me, kneeling on the floor to inspect the offensive doorknob. He moved aside to let me try it, and sure enough, the knob turned but the door stayed firmly shut. I peered through the peephole to see Karly standing on the stoop, jiggling the doorknob with all her might. I stifled a laugh at the pure preposterousness of my existence. 

After a few more minutes of Anastasia’s futile pacing and Jeremy panicking that he had to get out of our apartment somehow, Karly had walked around the building to our patio to converse with us and we had all found some humor in our shared predicament.

No one wanted to call emergency maintenance, so I did the honors. Between bursts of exhausted, delirious laughter, we managed to explain to the operator that one of us was trapped inside and another out, and they had to send someone because neither was willing to climb over the patio railing and spider-infested bushes to safety. 

Once the kindly maintenance worker replaced the doorknob, we all sat on the couch with tears streaming down our faces, cracking up about our own bad luck. When the dust settled, I asked them about the show they were watching and what was on the stove, and they invited me to hang out with them. We spent the night cooking and cleaning together, watching a new Netflix show, and breaking back down into giggles about the incident.

As if the traumatic experience had christened our friendships anew, that is how we spent almost every following evening together. We were an inseparable quartet, always trying to get through our work before dinner so that we could pitch in with the cooking and pile onto the couch to watch whatever show we were hooked on at the moment. We cracked ourselves up judging the characters about how much better we could’ve handled being kidnapped by a stalker (You), or how simple it would be to find expendable people to eat if our diets demanded it (Santa Clarita Diet), or how we really should’ve been contacted as guest judges for each and every reality show that’s ever existed (Too Hot to Handle, The Great British Bake Off, The Bachelorette).

Our apartment was always filled with laughter, excited shouting, and too-loud TikTok songs. When deciding what to make for dinner, we would often just throw out things we felt like eating, and if a cohesive meal didn’t fall into place, we would simply make all the mismatched dishes. There were always popsicles and brownies and Dr. Pepper in the fridge, and if there weren’t, we were already piling into someone’s car to go to HEB. 

On nights when we had nothing to do, we would invite friends from our hometown to drive up and sleep on our couch, even if it was already ten and their drive was an hour and a half long. We would go to campus and ride Veo bikes through the deserted parking lots as fast as we could, until someone inevitably fell off of theirs and we went home laughing to bandage up the scraped knees and elbows. Sometimes we would just stay up talking into the early morning. 

They were the first friends to ever surprise me for my birthday. They decorated my bedroom door with streamers, bought me a small basket of gifts, and even constructed an impressive donut-hole tower because I’m not a fan of cake. I beamed all day.

I proudly facilitated Anastasia and Jeremy’s first time watching Harry Potter. They were so excited that it took us under two weeks to get through the entire series over dinners. When Dumbledore died, I held Jeremy through his genuine sobs. 

We put up our Christmas tree in early November. It seemed fair, since at that point when one of us was stressed our general go-to soothing method was to let Mariah Carey tell us about her Christmas wishes. As soon as there was Christmas décor in stores, we decked out our living room with an obnoxious amount of tinsel. Karly thought it was tacky, but I insisted that tinsel was the optimal and most affordable seasonal décor for the resourceful college student. We were quite proud of our seasonal haven; there’s nothing quite like stepping out of 80 degree weather and into a room with a Christmas tree covered in all-pink ornaments.

I can’t honestly say that I can identify when exactly things started to go wrong. There was an ever-growing rift that seemingly started in early December. Karly and Anastasia, once equals in our circle, suddenly became closer than ever. It didn’t bother me much at first. After all, I counted myself lucky that I was so close to all of them in the first place. Slowly but surely though, they began to keep secrets. They whispered when I walked into the living room unannounced, they watched shows we had started together even on nights when I was working, they talked about me behind my back to our other friends. I felt like an imposter in my own home.

I turned to Jeremy for help, but he was never the confrontational type. I scrambled to play it cool, to appear unbothered and continue hanging out with them. It would not be so easy for them to push me away, I told myself. How could they forget how good things were before?

As hard as I tried to cover up my hurt, it all began to wear on me. I started to spend more nights in my room alone and going home to my parents’ house more often. It felt like defeat, but I knew that if I went to them and pleaded for them to let me back into their circle, they would only weaponize my feelings against me. 

Our communication became more and more strained by the day. Polite questions about each others’ days turned into passive hellos turned into full on ignoring each other. When I came into the kitchen to get myself food, they fell silent and squirmed out of my way until I returned to the safety of my own space. I would come home from work and dutifully shut and lock the door behind me without making eye contact, walking down the hall to my room through the palpable silence that was riddled with unsaid things. It was like walking through jello. 

When I told them that I wasn’t going to live with them in the coming year, they somehow managed to get angry with me for not telling them. I nearly laughed. How strange for them to think I would want to live with them again when they so clearly did not want to live with me. That night was the last one I bothered to spend on the couch with them.

The day I moved out, Karly sat on the couch and surveyed the stream of my family and I carrying things out of my room. She and I dutifully carried out our non-speaking roles, right down to me walking past her and out the door for the final time without so much as a polite goodbye. 

How peculiar it was, I thought as I left, that 6 months prior we would’ve both cried at the prospect of us not living together. When the door fell closed behind me, my parents looked at me rather expectantly.

“Well? How do you feel?”

I shrugged my shoulders and just said, “Good riddance.”

Author’s Note: This piece is based on true events, but certain names and details were changed for the protection of involved parties.

Hi! I'm Chloe and I'm a sophomore communications major. When I'm not doing school or working you can find me in bed reading a book and listening to music, surrounded by an embarrassing amount of stuffed animals or thrifting for more clothes that I definitely don't need.