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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


In my mother's mind, nothing, and I mean nothing, was more important to my future success in life than getting into a "good" sorority at the University of Kansas. The women I roomed with would be my best friends, not just during college, but my whole, damn life. The social life would be more fun than any parties I would ever attend again.

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I was not going to screw this up. I approached Rush Week at KU as if a four year pass to Disneyland was dangling within my reach complete with the knowledge that, when the pass expired, life would drain from my once nubile body, leaving me a limp vegetable suitable only for the stew pot.

Once in "The House," my enthusiasm for maximizing my limited days of joy was boundless. I attending every social event posted on the bulletin board. My bed was but a way station for the hours between 1 am and 7 am, when I would wake to start the homework I'd neglected the night before.

My roommates were astonished, speechless, actually. This was a "good" sorority, my sister's sorority. I was rooming with girls who, like my sister, studied every night, made great grades and thought going out for a hot Bob's Doughnut at 10 pm was throwing caution to the wind.

Gradually, I realized my frantic gorging on the last good times of my life left me somewhat out of step with my sisters. But, truly, they were fine with it. I was gone all the time. They could study undisturbed.

My first roommate was Mary Ellen, a redhead with big, brown peepers and an infectious laugh who would rise to be the president of "The House," a varsity cheerleader and a straight-A student preparing for nursing school. Where I was dedicated to my mission, she was disciplined about achieving hers, just like my other sisters-of-the-bond.

Sara, a fellow journalism school student, wore steel-soled hiking boots everywhere, accenting each of her long purposeful strides with a ker-klomp. Her straight, blond bob allowed her to jump into and out of the shower and be off to class without ever once looking in the mirror. After graduation, she spent a year in Washington, DC but found it too frivolous and returned home to go to KU Law School.

Anne was gentle and studious. And kind. She kept her side of the room organized, a stark contrast with mine. She enjoyed Bible study so much she held it for others at "The House, but never pushed me to join. She would go on to be an Episcopal priest in charge of Trinity Church on Wall Street in Manhattan. We lived together in New York City before either of us got married and still laugh as the shared memories of racing to catch Broadway shows. Neither of us had the money for a taxi.

Susan was beautiful, but she wasn't as well off as most of the other girls. While she studied hard, she worked harder, selling ads for the Lawrence Top Forty radio station. She used a set of hanging files she kept on the floor at the end of her bed to organize her work and studies. I never saw her search for anything. It was always where it was supposed to be. We were friends in New York as well. She was a rising start in the advertising business.

She knew then that she had the gene for Huntington's Disease and never took any of her friends for granted. She wasn't going to have kids, and considered her chances of getting married to be nil. She lives in a nice care home in Kansas City now. When I told her I'd be in town, she arranged for Mary Ellen and some other "sisters" to be there to see me.

My mom wasn't right about college. It wasn't the best of times. In fact, I thought it was the worst. I hated living in a house with 70 other women. I hated Kansas, leaving the state as soon as I could. But there is something about my roommates from those years. There is, indeed, a bond.

3 Men and Spare Room