It is May 19, 2017, 9:30AM. The inside of the walls that make up Hutchens House room 809 are uncharacteristically blank, empty except for the bright morning sun that creeps through the windows. White paint is chipping off of them in some places, and atop a fluorescent light fixture sits a canvas painting of a llama wearing a pink party hat. Inside room A lie three girls, all of them asleep, one of them on a mattress dragged in from the other room. They are about to wake up here for the last time.
It is May 19, 2017, about 1PM. A girl runs into a boy in the lobby of Hutchens House, carrying a red broom and dustpan. They walk on the elevator together and press the broken button to the sixth floor. Down the hallway to room 609, which now sits completely empty, they both look at each other. Tears start to well up in the girl’s eyes, and they hug amidst the hollow walls.
“It’s just going to be weird.”
“We can’t walk two floors to see each other anymore.”
It is May 19, 2017, about 3:30PM. Two girls are pushing furniture through the back parking lot of Hutchens House, both looking like they’ve been hard at work all day. They lift the load into a black Honda Civic, then hesitate after slamming the trunk closed. They look like they don’t want to move from their spot.
“Thanks for being the best roomie ever,” one of the girls says through a tearful hug.
One girl gets in a car and drives away. The other makes the trek back inside, her head bowed so others don’t see that she’s crying.
It is May 19, 2017, 4PM. Two girls and their parents stand in the kitchen of Hutchens House room 809. It smells painfully of soap and bleach as the resident assistant rummages through the empty drawers.
“You guys are good to go!”
One girl takes a last look at the place she called home and walks silently into the hallway. She heads for the elevator before she can see the door shut behind her, like it was something too painful to see.
“I’m not saying goodbye to you yet because I’ve already cried too many times and I’ll see you in an hour.”
Two girls get into separate cars, bound for separate destinations.
It is May 19, 2017, 6:45PM. Three families, unknown to each other just a year ago, sit around a large table. They laugh at each other’s lame jokes, reminisce on moments passed, and send pictures to the girl that’s missing. Three girls refuse to mention the inevitable.
It is May 19, 2017, 9PM. Three families walk out of a restaurant as fireworks boom in the distance on the other side of a busy highway. The parents hang back to watch, the children walk back to the cars, joking about driving away without them.
It is May 19, 2017, 9:20PM. Three girls stand huddled together in a parking lot, finally letting the tears fall.
“This is kind of awkward, we’re just standing in the middle of the Lambert’s parking lot crying.”
A storm is rolling in. Three girls stall until the last possible moment, no one wanting to be the first to walk away.
“I love you guys. I thought leaving high school was hard, but this is so much worse.”
Three girls walk toward three different cars, all wiping tears from their cheeks.
It is May 19, 2017, 9:30PM. A girl sits in the passenger seat of her mom’s car, not saying a word. A lightning show beams all around her as she unlocks her phone to send a text to her best friends, strangers just a year ago.
I miss you guys already.