It had been two and a half weeks since the day Alex first arrived at Columbia, and he was already as much of a mess as ever.
He had aged out of foster care in January, and was left completely on his own after that. He was here on scholarships and grants and loans, having barely anything left to his name despite working three jobs, and certainly no family who would support him.
Alex wasn’t really making friends yet, and he knew it was stupid to be disappointed about that. Anyone could’ve seen it coming. He shouldn’t want other people to annoy and impose on with his boring interests and abrasive personality… but he had to admit he still wished he had some friends. Even one would do.
He did love some of his classes, already knowing he intended to double major in economics and political science with a minor in English— and having eagerly planned out four years’ worth of courses. However, he was already struggling to stay on top of the work for some of the core requirements he had to fulfill.
Sometimes it just seemed impossible to motivate himself to do the work— hell, sometimes it was impossible to motivate himself to shower or eat or clean his room. There were more interesting, important things right there and how was he supposed to focus on something that didn’t matter to him instead? Alex did work hard in his favorite classes, Intro to American Government & Politics and Global Economy, but he didn’t know how he was going to graduate if he actually failed these requirements.
Other times, he would forget entirely that he had homework, or even that he had class, until it was too late. He couldn’t understand how important information always slipped his mind— his memory was actually rather impressive at least when it came to his interests, or so he had thought.
And of course, the nightmares had followed him too. He was glad to have a single dorm room so he wouldn’t have to worry about bothering a roommate with them.
Get that shit under control. I have enough on my plate, I don’t need you waking me up every fucking night on top of it.
And the flinching— he was sure he looked stupid reacting to every little thing so dramatically, but his startle response was heightened to a ridiculous degree.
Stop flinching like that. You’re calling attention to yourself, you look ridiculous, you’ll only drive people away… Stop acting so goddamn crazy.
Alex practically lived on coffee, and his sleep schedule— if it could even be called a “schedule” at all— was a disaster.
And who’s fault is it that you didn’t sleep last night? Not mine. It’s morning, get off your lazy ass for once, I need you to run these errands for me now.
He was beginning to wonder if he was stupid for having hoped college would be so much better than the rest of his life had. After all, he might be in a new place with new people, but he was the same. And he knew he was the worst.
About a week later, some things finally began to change.
On the surface, it was nothing— first, a new student switched into his chemistry class and happened to sit next to him, where there had previously been no one. It was one of the classes he could barely focus in.
His name was John, and he seemed pretty interested in the material— and oddly willing to talk to Alex. They were assigned as lab partners by virtue of where they were seated, and actually hit it off. By the end of a few classes, they were talking and laughing together fairly easily, and John even invited Alex to hang out with him and some of his other friends that weekend.
He was looking forward to it.
Second, Professor Washington, who taught American Government & Politics and was also Alex’s academic advisor, had called him over after class to tell him how impressed he was with his contributions in class discussions— and to suggest he join the debate team. Alex had always been told he was too argumentative and needed to learn to shut up, so he was pleasantly surprised by this. He found himself liking the idea of joining the team.
Washington also had access to all his grades, and noted that he seemed too bright to be falling so behind in half his classes. Alex sheepishly admitted that he had trouble motivating himself to do the work for those classes, and that he was very forgetful. Bracing himself for anger that never came, he stared at a spot on the carpet in shame as the professor recommended he check out the academic help center.
Alex said he would consider it, and left feeling the tiniest bit lighter.
Third, a beautiful, confident girl strolled up to him one day in the dining hall— where he had been eating alone while studying for economics— and invited him to come over and sit with her and her sister. It took her a few tries to break through his intense focus, and she looked slightly guilty when he finally looked up. He felt like an idiot, of course.
“Hi. Name’s Angelica. I think we have American Gov together… Uh, my sister and I were wondering if you might want to come sit with us? It’s cool if not, I mean…”
Why was she so desperate to talk to him?
Didn’t matter. He smiled, gladly accepted, and headed over to join them.
A shy, pretty girl with dark eyes smiled up at him from behind long brown hair— he thought he could see her blushing faintly.
“This is Eliza.” Angelica smiled. “My little sister.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said.
“You too!” Eliza said quickly, then fiddled nervously with her hair.
Alex soon wound up having a lively discussion with Angelica, who shared many of his interests. Eliza didn’t say much, but she nodded along and smiled at both of them. Angelica seemed a bit flirty with him, and he didn’t miss Eliza’s annoyance at that.
If they knew the real you, they’d be gone in a second.
He pushed the thought aside with annoyance for the first time in a while. Let me enjoy something for once.
All in all, things were beginning to look up.