I’ve almost reached the end of my journey here at FSU. Just a few more months and I won’t be a student anymore, for the first time in a very, very long time. I’ve lived in Tallahassee for three years, with month-or-so-long gaps every now and then to remind myself what a curfew is and what the air feels like when you live close to the beach. I don’t remember the exact moment when Tallahassee stopped feeling like sleep-away camp. When did this place start to feel like home? Florida State’s campus was home, too. A place I walked at night after panic attacks or late-night movies. Every meal, every nap, every book I read, for a time, was there. These are the moments, I think, that made the place feel close and comfortable. FSU was my place and it was my home.
EXTerior OWEN F. SELLERS MUSIC AMPHITHEATER – NIGHT
SHELBY, a lanky, tan 18-year-old leans back on the concrete steps of an empty amphitheater. With her legs crossed, she bobs one Doc Marten boot in the air and closes her eyes. A crescendo of applause bleeds from the headphones in her ears. Street lights glow orange against the smoky clouds and dark blue sky. A cool October breeze rustles the surrounding foliage, shaking down leaves and tangled moss.
Lord, hear me now. Jump outside English boys. Crushin it, in super ma. Electric fences and guns.
Hong Kong Live at Manchester Opera House by Gorillaz plays louder, as if not just from her headphones.
Shelby does cartwheels across the amphitheater stage and lays on her back, knees pointed up. She climbs the wide steps towards the sidewalk, ripping a leaf and tossing the shreds like you would a paper airplane.
EXT. MINA JO POWELL GREEN – CONTINUOUS
A clustered island of bushes and trees that used to have flowers spikes up from a hole in the sidewalk. The remaining leaves and a few dying flowers rustle with a gust of wind. Shelby walks by, plucking a bundle of rubbery pink petals. She plops herself down under a tree on the green, tossing the flower up and down in her bowl-shaped hands. It breaks apart. A group of blonde girls wearing the same shirt and white shorts walk by and jabber among themselves.
Yeah, I haven’t started studying either. She said she would go over the test the class before and like give us practice questions so I dunno, I’m not really worried about it.
I haven’t been to class in so long. It’s been like two weeks. She’s just so boring.
A guy with a small dog on a leash walks by and the girls move toward him. Some of them crouch down to pet the dog, others remain standing and just look and one, maybe one and a half, actually talk to the guy. Shelby dumps the bits of flower into a pile, stands and continues down the sidewalk.
EXT. KEEN BUILDING – CONTINUOUS
Chamber of Reflection by Mac DeMarco wails from the headphones.
Shelby sits on the edge of a still fountain, centered in a grass-covered plus-shaped depression in the concrete courtyard. Moving her lips to the lyrics, she removes one boot and sock. She rolls up her pant leg and sticks her bare foot into the fountain, kicking around a bit. Shelby pulls her phone from the pocket of her army jacket and pauses the music. Silence settles over the courtyard. She sits and listens.
I don’t think she realized it, but she had a bean stuck in her teeth. It covered the whole tooth so I don’t know how she didn’t feel it sittin there, but it was there the whole night.
Shelby turns from the fountain to see a group of students gathered on the grass and sidewalks with notebooks and black metal equipment. Some start to set up tripods and telescopes, while others stand around, talking. Shelby resumes the music, lifting her foot from the fountain. She shakes it like a dog wagging water from its face and slips it into her sock and boot.
INT. WILLIAM HUDSON ROGERS HALL ROOM 718 – CONTINUOUS
Two beds sit split in a narrow dorm room. A cluttered nightstand in the space between holds an alarm clock, speaker, lamp, books, two charging iPhones, Buddha’s head and a stress ball. One wall is a sliding glass window and beyond it one foot, lays a brick matrix like a net. Small squares of green light shine in from the Burger King across the street. It patterns kaleidoscope shadows on the other walls of Shelby and CHARLI’s bedroom. Red Christmas lights trace the lines of designated decoration cork in the cinder block walls. Underneath, tapped-down posters show a full-bodied version of Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love album, the Bear Flag and the cover of the Beastie Boys’ anthology DVD. Photographs clipped from a magazine show paintings and works of art. Pinned in the cork with flat purple plastic stars, a scarf hangs down. In it is stitched the constellations and a goat.
(replaces the cap to her deodorant)
Do you wanna watch Broad City?
(sits up in bed)
INT. KITCHEN/LIVING ROOM – CONTINUOUS
Charli moves dishes in the skin to make space for the water filter. The faucet runs while she leans on the counter facing Shelby. The episode of Broad City where Abbi and Ilana switch places for the co-op is paused on Hulu and the T.V. sits in front of a burgundy tapestry. Underneath, a daisy-covered table cloth drapes over the round table and two metal chairs.
(tucks a fuzzy blue blanket into the cracks of the sofa)
Do you wanna go to Eternal Sunshine with me on Friday?
Uhm, what time?
Uhh, yeah maybe. I dunno, I was trying to go out on Friday.
Charli lifts the full water-filter out of the sink, replaces the lid and put it in the refrigerator. Flat rectangular magnets of Elvis or SPAM and brown spots of missing paint mark the white exterior. Shelby sits on the blanket gingerly, careful not to disrupt the freshly improvised couch cover. Charli falls into the couch, pulling the blanket free from the crevices.
(sucks her teeth)
Time passes. The credits roll on the television.
Alright, I’m about to pass out. I’m gonna go to bed.
Okay, I still gotta shower. Can you leave the red lights on?
Yeah, sure. Night dude.
Later, Shelby walks out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her body and another around her head. She turns off the bathroom light. Street lights shimmer through the window onto the upper walls and ceiling. Shelby opens the door to the bedroom where Charli lays above the covers on her back, chin to shoulder, hand on stomach, snoring in wind-up roars. Shelby unplugs the red lights. The room is striped with light and shadow by the crooked vertical blinds between Charli’s bed and the window.
(scofts, pulls pajamas from dresser)
Charli, no. Charli. Please don’t do this tonight. Charli, stop snoring, please.
Pulling on shorts and a tank top, Shelby climbs into her own bed. Charli continues to snore loudly while Shelby tosses and turns. With a huff, Shelby settles down facing her roommate.
(grabs the globe-shaped foam stress ball from the nightstand and throws it at Charli’s face)
Charli rolls over to her side with a displeased groan and falls silent. Shelby rolls over to face the wall.
INT. BEDROOM – MORNING
On the nightstand, an old GW radio/alarm clock with wood panels and corners thick with whitish gray dust turns on, to the frequency of 89.7 FM. Shelby opens her eyes, now facing Charli’s bed, and see it empty. After letting the unenthusiastic V89 morning announcements play for a few minutes, Shelby reaches to the radio and shuts it off.
INT. DODD HALL – DAY
Shelby rushes through a narrow hallway with a backpack and a bag of Dunkin Donuts. The burgundy walls jut out and recede at odd intervals like the remaining teeth in a broken comb. At the end of the hallway, a piece of paper hangs from a bulletin board, fluttering slightly as a door falls shut nearby. It’s a flyer for Philosophy Club. “Meeting Friday, 4-5 pm. Werkmeister Room. What is Consciousness?” Shelby observes the flyer.
Friday, 4 o’clock. Friday, 4 o’clock. Friday, 4 o’clock. Friday, 4 o’clock.
Shelby continues down the labyrinth hallway, walks past a door and realizes it’s the room she’s looking for. She opens it. Two windows at the back of the class show a brick wall. Cramped rows of brown wood desks face the two entrances at the front. A door on the opposite end of the front wall opens at the same time. Shelby and another student walk in and take a seat.
You’re gonna need to buy the Poet’s Companion for this class. We’ll be reading from it most days and it’ll help you out a lot.
(rises their hand)
So, we’re gonna have to make our own portfolio for this class?
Yes. We’ll be work-shopping your poems as a class. You’ll revise them along the way and at the end of the semester you’ll give me a portfolio with four to six poems.
What, can we write about anything?
Of course. Who’s excited to write rhymed poems? Does anybody like poetry that rhymes?
Shelby and a few other students raise their hands.
Okay, that’s cool. Just keep in mind that sometimes rhyme can be a little restricting, so make sure you’re saying what you want to say so you’re not sitting there like
(moves hands furiously in the air, as if typing on a keyboard)
‘oh crap I gotta get from cat to bat.’
Shelby bursts out laughing, much louder than anyone else. The professor smiles in her direction for a moment then continues talking. His voice fades to a murmur while Shelby looks down at her desk, trying and failing to contain further giggles. Smiling to herself, silently bouncing her head up and down to release the chuckles that just keep coming, she peels back the wrapper of her egg and cheese croissant and takes a bite.