Love Like You
Go to America, they said.
It would be easy, they said.
So far the exchange program at Empire State University had been a never ending succession of orientation exercises, staff introductions, outlines of policies and tours starting at eight that morning. A parade of faces, paper packets and staring at her watch waiting for each little segment of formalities to finish so that she could go to her dorm and unpack.
All hopes of being released were dashed for the third time today as her group was lead into a spacious and empty feeling lecture room. They were told to take seats where they please. Peridot chose the back left corner, dropping her leather satchel down beside the seat. It was hard, small, and Peridot was less than enthusiastic about having to use them all year. Day one and she was already counting the days until her return home. To be fair she would be graduating then, and who wouldn’t be enthusiastic to leave university behind? Especially after being pressured into a year long exchange in a foreign country.
She looked up as another stack of papers was passed around by an all too peppy student assistant with strawberry blonde hair. When the dwindling stack finally neared Peridot she leaned forward to take it from the girl two rows in front of her. Big brown eyes gave her an apologetic look as the girl stretched as far as she could. It was hardly enough.
“I’m sorry, here- I can stand,” she said and began to pull away.
“This is fine,” Peridot said and put forth enough effort to take the last of the papers. More English words to give her a headache. The girl gave her a small smile and turned back around.
“Okay everyone we’re going to go around and everyone say your name, your country and one interesting fact about yourself.” The assistant instructed. “I’ll begin to give an example. My name is Pearl, I’m from America and I’ve been dancing ballet for twelve years.”
Peridot had to stop herself from groaning. She just wanted to go back to sleep. The nine hour flight the day before and time zone shift had her jet lagged worse than any other trip she could remember. She hardly listened to the others speaking in this cliché exercise.
“My name is Jasper, I am from Germany,” a tall blonde girl up front said. “I’m going to join the school track team.”
Peridot zoned out, trying to think of some fact about herself. The most interesting thing about her she didn’t plan on exposing. Being heir to a small private diamond business caused problems. Mostly people wanting free shit. She rest her chin on her hand, scrolling through a suddenly short list. Something good, something interesting… A boy was reprimanded across the room for stating his major as his fact.
Shit. Can’t use that… But how interesting could software designing be?
The introduction was coming around closer to her. By the time it had reached the girl in front of her Peridot was still at a loss and feeling anxious. Why whenever someone asked for personal information did it always fly from her mind? She realized her knee was bouncing. She tried but couldn't stop it.
“I’m Lapis Lazuli Rivera, I’m from Spain and I learned English mostly by listening to music,” she said.
“Oh that's very clever,” Pearl commented before turning her attention to Peridot.
Peridot shrank in her seat. “Uh…” She paused and forced herself to sit up straighter, a memory popping to mind. “My name is Peridot, I’m from Russia, and I attended the Socchi Olympics last year.”
Other students gasped, some groaned, Pearl voiced their thoughts. “Oh I’d love to go to the Olympics.”
Lapis turned in her seat. “I’m very jealous,” she said. She was smiling.
Peridot nodded. “It was impressive.” The word did nothing to justify what the games actually were but Peridot had no desire to go into further detail. Not in front of so many people. The exercise continued on to the boy seated four seats down.
Peridot turned her attention to the new paper, a list of the other exchange students, their phone numbers and their rooms in the dorms. Useless. Peridot wasn’t here to make friends. Just work and go home. She folded it and stuck it in her satchel pocket. When she looked back up Lapis gave her a glance over her shoulder. Peridot was unsure what to think.
Despite preferring solitude, she found it felt nice to know that someone wanted to give her a second look.