I remember rushing after class to meet them for coffee. One a fabulously gay man, the other an ex-sorority girl whose dog stole my heart just as much as she. “Venti iced coffee with half-and-half and a shot of toffee nut,” we both said. I got that order from Allison. She would always order the same thing, and it made me laugh. When she would switch it up, she usually only changed the flavor shot. She was predictable in that way, but I loved it. We had our coffee routine. I spent so much time outside of class and the office with Allison and Anthony. Anthony was the routine-breaker. He would be the one to order something a little different once in awhile, but he, too, had a fondness for iced coffee. I think the large iced coffees became extensions of our arms for awhile; I even felt withdrawals without them. But a college schedule rarely leaves room for sleep. On good or bad days, depending on perspective, I could even be seen with a trenta. The size of the cup even frightened me the first time I dared to order it.
Classes were interesting with them. I picked up new routines I had no idea I needed. I found new ways to define all-nighters. We had our own nook in the library that we called home. I let them into the office to hide from the outside world, like the rest of the editors often did. We confided in one another, we made each other laugh.
“I’m not used to having a swarm of friends, anymore,” I said. “I think sometimes they mostly just like me because I’m the editor so they are kissing up.” Allison laughed, but she could tell I was being serious. “I mean, yeah, probably,” she said honestly. “But they probably like you, too. You’re fun.” Allison saw that vulnerability in me and wouldn’t let me give in; she was a friend. I saw inside her world; it was a vortex of Greek letters and the rattiest bars in Remerton. I never did feel like one of the sorority girls, but she had friends on the other side who seemed tame. They let me into the weird dramas of their regular life and I thanked the stars that that wasn’t me. “Where do they find these girls?” I asked. They would laugh at that.
“She thinks she’s going to steal my boyfriend or something,” one of Alli’s friends said while we sat waiting for the barista to call our names. “But she doesn’t realize that we’re pretty much gonna’ get married.”
“Yeah,” Alli added.
“Yeah, I mean…. It’s like a done-deal,” the friend said again. “Everyone knows it.”
There were sagas and chronicles to these stories and I often had to play catch-up to find out more, but it was entertaining, at least. I knew I would always hear about it again in the library or at Starbucks. We frequented both of those places so often I knew the regulars and the workers well. Alli and her friends spent much of their time in both places and had long before I met them.
“I’ve been here for too long!” Allison and Anthony would exclaim. “It’s been like 7 years.” They made that joke regularly, but it wasn’t a joke. They really had been in school that long–in some way or another. Anthony had taken time off and Allison had switched majors and had to take classes over. They saw the university at its best and worse.
“No!” Allison said to me one day. “You have no idea…” I was vulnerable again, and we were facing a swarm of overwhelming finals. Graduating often leads a bit of doubt in the back of your mind if you’re worthy of such a diploma.
“Yeah, Jen,” Anthony interrupted. “You’re so good.”
“You can tell, just the way the professors look at your stuff compared to others,” Allison said. “There’s a huge difference. You were meant to do this.”
Part of me wanted to assume they were just being nice. That was something, without reason, I always assumed of people. But I knew that they were being sincere, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. “Thanks,” I said, slightly blushing, and took another sip of my coffee.