Sitting amongst my friends on Letch Field, vibrant orange and red sunlight warm me to my core. The accompanying clouds muffle the intensity so the colors splashed on the sky don’t blind us. The slight stench of manure and the sharp, clipped commands of Quidditch players fade. Staring past the twelve college kids with PVC pipes between their legs, it’s easy to envision college as a new world. It had more diversity, more opportunity, more growth than I could ever hope to achieve at home. The distance of 300-odd miles help. In this world, a new me can shine through.
It’s amazing what a year can do to someone. My personality has journeyed much since I first stepped foot on campus, like the red and orange wavelengths comprising sunsets travel the farthest. This time last year, my high school self would hold back tears, a frightened glint in her eyes. She’d take everything in, and avoid having the new environment overwhelm her.
Accompanied by this careful optimism, my high school self joined the college’s Quidditch team. After all, joining a sports team is one of the best ways to make friends. It worked in high school. It should work in college—high school with more freedom. Right?
…not always. If anything was harder than all the running drills, it was interaction with her new teammates. She’d spent almost two practices working up the courage to speak to other people. The captains and her roommate were friendly enough. That, and the possibility of other friends, emboldened her. She could do this. And not with “What’s your name”, “Where you from”, and “What’s your major.” No, those wouldn’t suffice. They were just used to fill the silence and awkwardness that meeting new people entailed. She could do better than that.
“Are you related to Tim Robbins?” Was that the best she could come up with as an ice-breaker? …Yes. Did it take that much effort just to look at him? Yes.
The boy preluded his response with an odd look, perhaps thinking this was a trick question. “…No, why?”
A chuckle escaped his lips. Was it a nervous chuckle? A polite one? Genuine? Why was socializing so hard? She returned the chuckle, then ducked next to her roommate. Two practices later, she was still kicking herself over her awkwardness. Her tied-up tongue, avoidance of eye contact, and meek demeanor further emphasized how awkward she was acting.
The red wavelengths in her, her personable yet unpredictable side, should not seep through. Not until she felt wanted among her teammates. Until then, they would get her green wavelengths. Amiable, timid, and quiet, unless someone spoke to her first.
A year later, no such nervousness cuts through my stomach as I sprint at a girl. She holds fast when I strike the dodgeball nestled in her arm. Damn. We grapple with each other, the girl trying to keep me at bay, me trying to steal the ball. It loosens from her grasp. Almost–
“Abbey! Ab.Bey!” Each repetition of my name becomes more high-pitched. Gobbledygook follows.
A quick glance over my shoulder reveals my fellow beater calling me, his voice rising into a screech.
A year ago, I’d run back to him and hear what he has to say. But I almost have it….
“I’m a little busy!” Was that laughter following my shout? “Be there in a sec!” Yup. Definitely some laughing. Looks like I finally hit my red wavelengths.
The girl’s beater-partner charges at me like a bull. I yank her in front of me to shield myself. No dice.
A year ago, I would’ve scrammed from anyone charging at me during scrimmages. Trip over myself with frantic apologies for pushing. Analyze and reanalyze every move I made, every breath I took, and every word I said.
I mutter a curse, glance at the opposing beaters as if to say, “Good job,” then jog back to my side and tag up at the goal posts.
Abbey Baulkwill is sitting on the edge of the gazebo. Photo credit goes to Marley DeRosia.