Day one of my 'college' experience.  What a not awesome experience.  TL;DR below the cut

Call is for 7pm.  Bring your gear, duffle bag, backpack, and prayers.  I receive my gear last minute, wait in line for an hour with this two hundred pound bag, and I was even allowed to cut to the front of the line.  One last shower? my roommate and I joke.  But there isn't any time for that. Less time than we thought.  Everything has to be packed.  Shirt, shorts, socks, sneakers, hat, hair up.  6:30pm, let's get there early.

Duffle bag is so heavy on my back, the slightest sway of it makes me move in a whole new direction.  Back packs are on our chests.  I haul myself down to the field house, only to realize I'm late.  Everyone stands in lines at attention, their items neatly stacked at their feet.  I take the hint and start frantically unpacking my bags.  My roommate is done at warp speed.  I'm still stumbling, trying to get everything in order.

MTOs start yelling off names.  I'm still frantic, feeling disorganized.  Just when I think I'm done, an MTO informs me that my things should have been out of the packaging.  Someone helps me unwrap a rain slicker, markers, pens, shirt stays, flashlight, laundry bag.  Meanwhile they shout out items.  Hold it high above your head.  Write it down if it's missing.  My face is red while I write.  Stow it.  Hold it up. Write it down. Stow it. I fall behind.

Run and get what you need. Run, now! Do it now!  

I can't even keep up a jog.  A group of people cheer at us as the forgetful ones run.  It doesn't seem like a friendly cheer.  Worse, I have to turn back and get my keys.  Up the hill again - more cheering (or is it jeering?).  I'm already sweating when I go up the stairs.  Try to keep up a pace, but my legs already feel like lead. My lungs aren't doing their job.  These stairs are a killer.  Panting already as I head to my room.  Frantic searching.  I run back to the field house, out of breath already.

Pack your bags.  I need help stuffing the blankets, sheets, and pillow in with everything else.  Haul the heavy load onto my chest and back.  I'm just strong enough to stand upright.  As I walk into formation, I notice that everyone is slanted forward, their bags are so heavy.  I am no different.

Flashlight on, start marching.  Your left. Your left. Your left, right.  Still panting, this enormous bag nearly the same size as me weighing me down.

Your left. your left. Your left, right.  The ship is so far away.  Even level ground is hard to walk on.  I fall behind.

Fill in the hole, Mug!

I jog, trying to keep up.  Can't exert too much, though.  Keep a fast pace.  Falling behind again.  Can't go faster.  Please don't leave me behind.  Everyone else wants to go, but I can't keep up.  Can't catch my breath.

Fall out, Mug.

I can go slower now, but fuck, I feel ashamed.  Can't catch my breath.  Someone takes my duffle for me.  Still can't catch my breath.  This is upsetting.

You have asthma, Mug?  Sir, yes, sir.  You have an inhaler?  Sir, no, sir.  Breathe, Mug.

Wish I could.

We reach another crowd of people.  These ones are definitely jeering.  We pass them quickly.  The ship is so far away.  People in the town are stopped, some on the sidewalks, some in their cars.  All staring at us.  Some take pictures.  Can't help but think this is what hazing is.

We reach the pier.  Females, fall out.  Need to stand up straight and tall, but I feel ashamed.  Everyone else could hold their own weight.  A female officer brings my bag onto the ship and throws it into the room.  Our rooms are nicer than the boys - only two people, a private bath, plenty of storage space.  Even the mattresses are nicer here.

Keep your covers and flashlights with you, we're advised.  Someone also mentions that we should sleep in our clothes.  My new roommate and I rush to make our beds first.  It's unholy hard to make it look half decent when I have to lay on it to make it.  Lying down is such a relief, but there's battery acid twitching in my veins.  My blood pressure won't go down for a week, no doubt.

Get out now.

We rush out of the room, drop everything and try to remember the essentials.  Go, now.  We move blindly through corridors, trying not to trip, trying not to lose the person in front of us.  Dark outside.  Covers on!  Move it, Mug!  Try to be courteous.  Best plan is to shut up and move it.

More corridors, and then the outside deck again.  Now we go up.  And up.  And up.  The outer staircases frighten me a little.  Everything is damp, and a bit open, and steep.  I'm out of breath again trying to keep up.  Finally we reach the top.  Alpha, file up against the bulk head.  Bravo, Charlie, Delta.  Stand at attention.  I have no idea what is going on, what will happen.  They explain something to us.  All I understand is that someone Very Important is coming to see us, and when we hear "Attention on deck" we need to stand at attention for him.

They hand out a pocket-sized book called the Maine Brace.  Your Bible, they tell us.  I didn't realize how serious about that they were.  I barely thumb through it and stow it when I hear


Everyone repeats it in a shout, and then we stand there waiting, trying to be respectful.

Sit down, he tells us.  We eye the open deck for a moment.  He means it.  We all try to sit down on the floor.  There is nothing but this big, open, concrete floor, pillars, and roof.  Not even windows.  The cold and wind feels good, but the night is wet.  The rain soaks the people on the outside edge.

He welcomes us.  He tells us that we made the best choice by being here.  I'm excited, proud, but also nervous, confused, overwhelmed.  Why did I even come here?  How will I manage to get used to boats?

When his speech is over, he leaves and the MTOs command us onto our feet.  We all try to stand up at once, and in the process I am trapped and fall down.  Everyone around me tries to help, and I thank them.  They are so nice, and I feel like freaking Bella Swan.

Here's a list of things you need to pack in your bag.  The MTOs march us out by companies, and lead us back to our rooms.  The rain is thin, hardly noticeable as we head back down.  Females go all the way to the other side of the deck, and we go back into our quarters.  They feel like cages.

Time to pack our bags.  I hustle to get everything in order.  I feel like I'm going at a snail's pace no matter what I do.  Stencils, PT gear, water bottle, slicker, flashlight, notebook, pen, socks, cover.  I cross them off one by one.  My roommate fills her water bottle in the sink, and nearly pukes when she takes a sip.  The MTO comes by to make sure we're packing.  I ask her where we can fill our bottles.  The sink water is fine, she says.  We fill our bottles with it anyway.

Are we done for the night? I start to wonder.  My roommate and I both wait nervously, sorting out anything we can in the meantime.  What time is it?  Neither of us know.  Can we go to sleep?  Neither of us know.  What's next?

The MTO returns and yells at us to get outside.  We rush out with our bags and covers.  Head and feet up against the bulk head! My bag is too large for that to happen, but I try anyway.  Stand at attention, perfectly still.  Now move it.

We file out through corridors again.  Outside, and back into corridors.  We're late again.  I hurry to find a free space on the floor and copy was everyone else is doing - stencils out, back packs ready to be marked with a white marker.  The MTOs instruct us on what to do and what not to do.  Two-block the name, they tell us.  Don't push too hard.  Center it.  Level it.  If you screw up too badly you might have to buy a new bag.

I take care in my work. This is a pleasure, actually.  Possibly the closest I'll ever get to "art class" again. Yet mine does not look the nicest.  Not at all.  Another failure.  I run out of time.  Everyone else is done and leaving.  I try to hurry and put my stencil and marker away.  My group is already gone.  Thank god the way back is short, and I know it already.

Hurry back to the room.  I set my back pack down, the same black back pack that every other Mug has, but now this back pack has my last name in white.  Try to organize more things, square the room away.  Nothing can be left unsecured.  I shove my back pack into my locker, along with my cover.  When everything is away, we're not sure what to do.  I am definitely too afraid to go into the corridor, even to look around.  Eyes straight ahead, Mug.  Don't look at me, Mug.

My roommate and I lay down on our beds.  Shorts, shirt, sweat pants, sweat shirt, and even shoes on.  The mattress is so soft here.  I don't even want to get under the covers.  I'm warm enough.  I like to be cooler, but I'm afraid of taking off any layers and being caught off guard.  It's just relieving enough to finally get off my feet.

MTOs make their rounds again.  Lights out, they order.  I stumble out from the bottom bunk and turn off the lights, shut the door.  The room turns pitch black, with only the port window letting in a little light, and a strip of yellow under the door.  I find my way back to bed while the corridor rumbles with orders for the Mugs to get to bed.

I keep my glasses with me, right by my side.  It's so warm that I even lift my shirt a bit, hoping that no one will come into the room.  I didn't expect all of this.  Just try to obey orders and ignore everything else.

First day in college.
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