By Ash Kingery
Kora sits and watches movies in her dorm instead of doing homework. She does the homework eventually, about an hour before the deadline. She checks the course shell two days later and sees she’s gotten full marks. It’s not like she’s not doing the work.
Some of her classes are more participation-focused, and she doesn’t really… participate. She hates seminars. Hates talking to other people. Hates having to form opinions on the reading she skimmed at best. None of the reading interests her. Her participation grades are awful, but her essays are always so good that she gets decent grades anyway. She’d rather be watching movies.
She sits on her bed with her laptop across her legs, only moving it when it starts to burn her. Not like it hurts that much. Every day, she watches a movie, or at least half of one. Usually it’s more than one.
She does have a roommate, but they don’t talk. Their schedules aren’t aligned. When they are home at the same time, they don’t talk anyway. Kora goes to bed late and wakes up just barely in time for class, while Maria is all ‘early to bed, early to rise.’ Kora wears headphones, but she can sense Maria’s irritation at the blue light that poisons the room at 1 in the morning (the most unholy of hours). Maria’s too nice (or just too shy) to say anything, but more and more, she’s been spending the night at her boyfriend’s place. He has an actual apartment, not a dumpy dorm. That’s fine with Kora. She can stay up as late as she wants now, watching movies.
Tonight, she’s watching an action movie marathon when her mom calls unexpectedly. Reluctantly, she pauses the movie and answers.
“How are you, sweetie?” Good. “Are you enjoying your classes?” Yes. “How is your roommate?” Fine. “What’s her name again?” Maria. “Is she nice?” Sure. “Are you eating enough?” Yeah. “How are your grades?” Fine. “Are you doing your homework?” Yes. “Are you… doing alright?” Yeah. “Do you want to talk about anything?” No. “You sure?” Yes. “Okay. Feel free to call any time. Love you, sweetie.” Love you too.
There’s a hesitation on her mom’s end before she hangs up. Kora puts the phone down, puts her headphones back on, and unpauses the movie.
She hopes her voice was chipper enough, even if her responses were short. Her mom doesn’t need to know about the movies. There’s a lot she doesn’t have to know about: the pathetic excuses for meals, the crushing lack of friends, the gnawing terror that’s kept her indoors except to go to class (and even that’s a stretch), the hollow pit in her stomach. But when she watches a movie, that hollow feeling goes away. For two hours, she gets to feel happy, or sad, or angry, or anything else she ought to be feeling. So she watches them until the sun comes up, and she prays that the vague half-smile she pastes onto her face during class is enough to dissuade questions.
Part of her wants to shower. It’s been a couple days. But she can’t. The movie is still going.
* * *
Ash Kingery is a college student who types too fast and thinks about comics too much. When she’s not writing essays for class, she’s trying to write down everything else that comes into her head. She lives in the American Southwest.