Screen Shot 2023 07 18 At 10.35.00 PM

988 miles and 26 days

Story by
Fiona Zhou sits on her bed, waiting for her mom to pick up a call. Photo by Christina Lin

I want to leave. Tossing and turning in my squeaky twin-XL, I kept falling through sleep’s fingers. I told myself to think about numbers. 11 sheep, 12 sheep … how many dead gnats were on my desk now? 20? 30? It was 1:45 a.m. 26 days left. Just 26, Fiona, you’re going to be OK.

With only a couple sheets, a single pillow and two suitcases, the cavern in my stomach felt like my empty room. The pitch black, was a never-ending pit that I was slowly falling into. Just close your eyes. I was falling deeper.

I had built a dependency on familiarity, and now the unfamiliarity was breaking down my independence. Finally, out of desperation, I dialed the number I knew by heart. One. Two. After two rings, my mom picked up. It was 2:50 a.m. in Boston.

“You’re not alone,” she reminded me, but the 850 miles of distance between us didn’t feel any closer. 

 The next morning at Allison Dining Hall, a couple of familiar faces from the previous day greeted me like buoys in a sea of uncertainty. I introduced myself; as I shoved food into my mouth, the pit inside my stomach started to shrink. 

Minnesota. D.C. California. Names and states filled my ears as I calculated distances and numbers. 566. 717. 2,148. They were just like me, miles away from home. I wasn’t alone.

I’m still counting down, but now I wish the numbers would stop.

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