College Survival Tips for Girls and Wolves

Wyld FLASH– September 4th 2020

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Avra Margariti

When you arrive at the dorms, be sure to make a good impression on your roommate–you’ll be sharing a living space with them for the next four years.

My roommate’s side is covered in posters of wolves howling at the moon. I don’t know whether to laugh or be offended by the bad Photoshop and cartoonish quality. Her name is Melanie, and she’s in my Introduction to Environmental Science class.

I settle my plants on the nightstand and unload my bag of soft cotton T-shirts and worn jeans into my wardrobe.

“I’m Romie.”

Melanie waves a hand in front of her nose and throws the window open.

“Well, Romie,” she says. “Your bag smells like wet dog.”

“Yeah,” I say. It smells like home.

Establish rapport with your professors and stay memorable by participating in class.

Mr. Zhang, the botany professor, whistles in appreciation. “You’re good at this.”

I shrug and go back to digging. I’m not afraid to kneel in the flower beds and get dirt under my nails. “I was adopted by a pack of gray wolves as a baby.”

He laughs like it’s a joke, but starts calling me Wolf Girl in the hallways. The ever-present tightness in my chest uncurls like a fern’s fronds. It feels good to be recognized.

It’s vital to seek friendships early on. In fact, most social circles are formed within a month of freshman year. Pro Tip: Join clubs for a better chance of meeting people who share your unique interests.

Back at the boarding school where I was taken after the humans discovered me among the pack, I was friendless and alone. I tore into my bloody steak in the cafeteria while the other girls whispered and giggled from nearby tables; asphyxiated in my scratchy uniform; pressed myself against the window while the rest of the dorm slept just to feel the silver moonlight on my skin.

I find that drama club suits me best. Through acting, the teacher explains, we get to shed our skin and become someone else. Except in my case, it’s like shrugging off a fake mantle–a sheepskin–and finally letting the true flesh of me underneath breathe.

Statistically speaking, you won’t immediately click with everybody you meet, but you should still try and get along with your peers.

When I spot some girls I don’t recognize bully Melanie–she, of the insulting wolf posters–behind the science wing, I know enough to remain unseen and watch from a distance, hackles raised, teeth bared. A girl knocks Melanie’s library books out of her hands and says something about Melanie taking her boyfriend, as if anything as big as a footballer could be stolen. At the mention of the boy’s name, it’s not lust or even guilt that scents the air around Melanie, but fear.

She cries herself to sleep that night. I leave our room, quietly, and find the girl’s student apartment. I squat on her bed and lower my jeans. The next day everyone is talking about the mystery of the Piss in the Night. I catch Melanie’s eye as we study together later, and she smiles.

Romantic relationships, if that’s something you’re interested in, should not be taken too lightly nor too seriously. Have fun, stay safe, and remember: enthusiastic consent is important.

The first boy I bring to my room plays Hamlet with a crooked crown and smells like the equivalent of licking matches. I grind down on his lap and bite at his plump bottom lip. “You’re feral,” he says, “I like that. But maybe slow down?”

Later in the shower, I try not to make a sound, but tiny howls rise from my gut as I crest my peak.

I’m composed enough by the time I come back out to kiss without teeth. We get better with practice. At least Hamlet doesn’t want to tame me. People have tried to in the past when they removed me from my family to teach me proper etiquette and ladylike behavior. But every time, I would escape the boarding school to run with the wolves.

If you find yourself feeling homesick, you can always call or email your loved ones. Remember, if you can’t wait until the holidays, there’s always family visiting day halfway through term.

The thing is, college is already wild enough that people don’t notice if I shed too much in the shower, growl awake for a 8 AM class, or eat only certain food groups.

But on visiting day, everyone will know the truth I’ve both wanted to hide and yell from the rooftops.

My parents and siblings walk into campus on edge, as if danger has been detected in the forest. I’ve already spoken to Mr. Zhang, and he to the school faculty. Nobody is going to hurt my pack, but I still prickle with agitation. However, people pay no attention to us after the first initial surprise and flurry of photos. So I weave between the students reuniting with their own friends and families, then I sprint across the campus green. My pack’s hugs are made of coarse fur, slobbering tongues, and teeth gently nipping.

They smell of musk and meat, and below that, pine. I’m transported back to the forest, my first and always home. Baby, Mama’s tongue says as it grooms my face, how we’ve missed you.

I show them around campus, romp in the tennis courts with my siblings like we’re pups again, get fresh steaks from the cafeteria. Despite Mr. Zhang’s efforts, my pack isn’t allowed inside the dorms, but Papa gives me a pine branch rich with sap to remember them, always.

We didn’t embarrass you, did we, Romie? they ask when it’s time to say goodbye.

I nuzzle their snouts to say, No, never ever.

Melanie sits on her side of the room, reading. “Your family is kinda cool,” she says over her textbook page.

I sit on my bed and smile through my tears. “Yeah. They really are.”

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Author bio: Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vastarien, Asimov’s, Liminality, Arsenika, and other venues. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.

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