the freshman fifteen
by ean weslynn
chloe clark, editor
thomas h. jones, publishing assistant
you took a trip and climbed a tree at robert sledge’s party
and there you stayed, until morning came,
and you were not the same after that
-ben folds, not the same
great auditorium in gardner hall
the first day of class
the freshman sat in the back row of the lecture hall by himself and smiled. most students would have seen a thunderstorm on the first day of class as a bad sign, but this was no ordinary freshman.
this storm was a long time coming, the first rain since the freshman had been a senior in high school. not one drop of precipitation had hit wisconsin soil in over three months. june's drought became july's wildfires, became august's rolling blackouts. for almost three hours now, winds swept the waters over the campus. it was a midwestern mess, and that's the way the freshman liked it.
the first of his future classmates walked in, a timid-looking girl with unkempt bangs and a ponytail. her rain-water slick shoes squeaked a harsh reminder at the freshman. probably one of those types that was habitually early to everything, not like the freshman. the freshman liked to show up exactly when he wanted to—early, late, sometimes even on time. it was another one of the prophecy perks—an easily accessed internal clock. he always knew what time it was, down to the second.
the girl sat uncomfortably close to him considering they were the only two in the entire building at the moment. he could feel the smack of her gum through his entire body. most people wouldn't have a problem with this, but then again most people weren’t synestheses.
worried, he looked down to his hands, but they weren't glowing. so he shrugged, reached into his backpack under his chair, and grabbed a tiny case containing two clear custom-fit ear plugs. like most people, the freshman loved the sound of thunderstorms, of running water. unlike most people, he needed it for his sanity.
the freshman's ipod had become a necessity during the drought. it worked two-fold. it evened out his senses, and it stopped people from talking to him all together. there was little that the freshman disliked more than explaining how his senses worked, how he could hear taste and see sound. ‘it’s like a freight train constantly running through my frontal lobe. right now you’re the conductor.’ that usually answered any further questions. this is why the freshman didn't tell people about all the crazy stuff that came along with his existence, being in accordance with a prophecy.
the freshman tried to avoid the ear plugs for as long as possible, taking to focusing on the blank projection screen at the front of the lecture hall. he ignored the incoming students as they began to populate the seats ahead of him. he covered his nose with the hood of his sweatshirt and concentrated his ears past the rattle of the window panes.