After several hours of physics on a Monday afternoon, I decide to retreat to my dorm when I can’t quite keep up the smile that I’ve been faking.
I hesitantly open the door to my room; scared he might be there.
But neither are my bed sheets, my blankets, or the clothes that had been strewn on my floor. I find a note on my desk from my incredible friend (Michelle): “Sorry for intruding. I put everything in the laundry. I also cleaned your room. I just know how nice it can be to have things feel a little cleaner”.
I don’t know about y’all, but I have a hard time getting my own laundry done. No way I’d ever do someone else’s laundry for them – except for that one time a guy on my freshman hall paid me to wash his clothes. Basically, this was the most amazing thing to come home to. Especially, since 36 hours earlier it had happened here, to me, in my own room. And I had no idea how to begin to pick up the pieces.
Fortunately, I wasn’t on my own.
The morning after it happened, I sent an email to a close guy friend who was abroad at the time. Sensing something was up, he got on Skype and I told him what I could remember. Later that afternoon, over a meal in upstairs proctor, I mentioned something to my friend Michelle. Within 24 hours of that first conversation, I had an army of support building around me.
The next day, two friends sat in the waiting room in Parton while I talked to a SANE nurse. They made sure I had an appointment to see someone in the counseling center, and walked me in to see my commons dean, where I requested a no-contact order.
Frequently throughout the next five months, I returned to my room to find fruit waiting for me in the shape of a smiley faces, chocolates in the shape of hearts, post-it-notes filled with positive messages covering my walls, and even hilarious, photo-shopped pictures taped to my mirror.
These small acts of kindness were insanely helpful, but there were other things, too—friends who sat and listened, compassionately and lovingly, leaving judgment aside, as I tried my best to explain –over email, through text, on the phone, or face to face. One even just listened to me cry for an hour in the middle of Battell beach. Another simply held me in a hug when I walked into his room and tried to explain what happened, but just started bawling instead. Friends from home called friends here to make sure I was okay and had the support I needed. My sister called my parents so I wouldn’t have to.
Deans and counselors enabled extensions; professors happily obliged. I got a class dropped without question.
Friends would happily go off-campus for meals, or have picnics with me in my room just so I wouldn’t have to run into him in the dining hall.
Others would sit in my room on Friday and Saturday nights, building 3-D puzzles with me while listening to Beyoncé, because I no longer went out.
A friend from home sent me cupcakes; another flew to meet me in Iceland.
The list goes on and on.
None of this changed what had happened, but all of it helped immensely in dealing with the aftermath when it happened here. Each person handles situations and heals from traumas differently. These are just some of the many ways in which my friends, family, and others at Middlebury have helped with mine.
And I am so, so grateful for that.