We Are Okay by Nina LaCour Read Online (FREE)
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BEFORE HANNAH LEFT, she asked if I was sure I’d be okay. She had already waited an hour past when the doors were closed for winter break, until everyone but the custodians were gone. She had folded a load of laundry, written an email, searched her massive psychology textbook for answers to the final exam questions to see if she had gotten them right. She had run out of ways to fill time, so when I said, “Yes, I’ll be fine,” she had nothing left to do except try to believe me.
I helped her carry a bag downstairs. She gave me a hug, tight and official, and said, “We’ll be back from my aunt’s on the twenty-eighth. Take the train down and we’ll go to shows.”
I said yes, not knowing if I meant it. When I returned to our room, I found she’d snuck a sealed envelope onto my pillow.
And now I’m alone in the building, staring at my name written in Hannah’s pretty cursive, trying to not let this tiny object undo me.
I have a thing about envelopes, I guess. I don’t want to open it. I don’t really even want to touch it, but I keep telling myself that it will only be something nice. A Christmas card. Maybe with a special message inside, maybe with nothing but a signature. Whatever it is, it will be harmless.
The dorms are closed for the monthlong semester break, but my adviser helped me arrange to stay here. The administration wasn’t happy about it. Don’t you have any family? they kept asking. What about friends you can stay with? This is where I live now, I told them. Where I will live until I graduate. Eventually, they surrendered. A note from the Residential Services Manager appeared under my door a couple days ago, saying the groundskeeper would be here throughout the holiday, giving me his contact information. Anything at all, she wrote. Contact him if you need anything at all.
Things I need: The California sunshine. A more convincing smile.
Without everyone’s voices, the TVs in their rooms, the faucets running and toilets flushing, the hums and dings of the microwaves, the footsteps and the doors slamming—without all of the sounds of living—this building is a new and strange place. I’ve been here for three months, but I hadn’t noticed the sound of the heater until now.
It clicks on: a gust of warmth.
I’m alone tonight. Tomorrow, Mabel will arrive and stay for three days, and then I’ll be alone again until the middle of January. “If I were spending a month alone,” Hannah said yesterday, “I would start a meditation practice. It’s clinically proven to lower blood pressure and boost brain activity. It even helps your immune system.” A few minutes later she pulled a book out of her backpack. “I saw this in the bookstore the other day. You can read it first if you want.”