“Frayed”

We couldn’t look. We saw, but we couldn’t look. We saw: the yellow police tape around the bridge, the frayed swinging rope, the abandoned white sock in the river below. We avoided each other; we’d done everything we could; we thought we’d done everything we could.

We wondered; he didn’t fit the profile. Lacrosse team captain, rush chair for his fraternity. In our darkest minutes, we thought these things unpredictable, and we searched for signs in one another.

Those of us who prayed, prayed.

We continued to give campus tours; we answered questions. How many students attended this school, whether students were required to have meal plans. Around 10,000 students, we told parents. In our heads we thought: 9,999. No, we said. Students are not required to have a meal plan.

We would have crossed the bridge to go to the dining hall. We found alternate routes. We wandered the local Target’s fluorescent linoleum, seeking twin XL sheets, bright plastic bath caddies. We stayed away longer than necessary. We invented reasons for our parents to stay, claimed we needed mini-fridges and couldn’t carry them up the stairs by ourselves.

We laughed at awkward moments with new roommates. We blushed at our laughter and stared at our shoes.

Those of us who could see the bridge from our dorms bought curtains. We told ourselves the curtains were for privacy. Actually, we didn’t want to look at his last view. Actually, we just wanted to buy curtains so we could close them.

Those of us who couldn’t sleep the first night, most of us, wrapped ourselves in our comforters and stood on dorm balconies. We hugged ourselves. Stood vigil. We felt the almost-fall breeze on our newly-dry faces. We watched the police tape flutter.

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About Allison Pinkerton

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