birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Friends from College

"You probably got in because you're Latina," Kate said, without apparent malice in her voice, but causing my face to get hot and my hands to shake. "I guess they just disregarded my 4.0 gpa earned taking all honors and AP classes, my extensive volunteer work, my awareness of current issues, and my initiative and out-the-box thinking."

We were talking about how she didn't get into the honors program at our university but I did. I had invited her to a lecture, because I could tell she felt left out when I went to all of the neat activities the honors program provided us. We'd only met a month prior, and at first I thought we could be friends, considering she was originally from New England, and I was born in Connecticut. I learned relatively quickly that wasn't going to be the case.

She was one of three other girls I lived with in a 4-bedroom dorm, which was divided by a living room and kitchen area. Each side had two bedrooms and a bathroom. She and I shared a bathroom, and despite her usually subtle racism, I didn't have a problem with her. I usually just ignored her, and we had different schedules and used nice shampoo and expensive body wash that I borrowed without asking, so the whole arrangement often worked out in my favor. She was messy, but after a talking to she kept her mess in her own bedroom. But she was lonely and jealous and her room was cursed.

I became close with one of the girls on the opposite side of the shared living space, Britney, because she was an army brat who spoke Spanish and Italian and, as a black girl originally from Chicago, understood how hard I had worked to get where I was. We often lamented about not being on the same side, because we were both neat freaks. She'd get mad at me for cleaning after the other two girls when they left dishes in the sink and open bags of bread on the counter.

I'd been to neighboring dorm rooms filled with girls who'd known one another since infancy, with paintings on the walls, comfy chairs from home, string lights and throws and area rugs in the living room. In contrast, our living room remained bare with only the scratchy blue linen of the couches and curtainless windows to greet us after a long day of classes. We each had our own kitchen cabinet, our own sets of dishes, our own shelves in the refrigerator, and also each had our own minifridges in our tiny rooms. After a few months, I suggested we coordinate and make it like a real home. We decided against it, opting not to argue about whose spoons were whose in the end.

Kate and Britney did not get along, so it was lucky they lived on opposite ends of the dorm. Eventually, Kate moved out after weeks of shouting matches, tears (from Kate), and derisive laughter (from Britney), and another girl moved in. She was real country but her racism came from lack of exposure and not rich-kid entitlement. She got homesick real fast, so ended up moving home, not before hitting it off nicely with the others of us in the dorm. She didn't know it was really because her room was cursed.

A third girl moved in, Constance, and I knew immediately upon seeing her long red curls and freckles and moonstone jewels that we were going to be friends. She took that cursed room and transformed it into a creative oasis, and my incense didn't bother her--she used that to convert the dark magic fumes into eclectic cool, with her record player and her Nina Simone. We shared coconut oil and dances--she was half Greek--and love interests. But we stayed friends, even now.

Root of All

The Case for Needing Very Little Personal Income