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Inspirational Suspense Funny

Adrian dragged the last of his stuff into his freshman year dorm room.

‘First dibs on the bed…’ he thought.

He arranged his luggage to unpack as needed. He left space for his roommate, whom he had not met.

Adrian sat on the bed and checked his list. He had his class schedule and books, a heavy load. His counselor said to go easy first semester. Adrian wasn’t there to party. He aimed to finish in three years.

Tuition paid, he hoped he saved enough to finish without loans. Once done, he’d walk unencumbered into his new career. Whatever that would be. Something would draw him. He had lots of ideas.

A guy carrying luggage entered and looked at Adrian.

He declared, “This is my dorm room. I’m Omar.”

“Hi, Omar. I’m Adrian.”

“You my roommate’s father…?”

“Nope. I’m your roommate.”

Omar looked confused.

Adrian said, “I worked after high school. You could say I’m transferring from the school of life.”

“Oh, sure. Makes sense…”

“An excellent education but no degrees.”

 Omar nodded. “Glad to meet you.”

They shook hands. Omar looked around.

How to start? They negotiated desk and sleep space, décor, study schedule and so on. Adrian kept it light. They tested each other’s humor. Being from different generations wasn’t as awkward as either feared. In twenty minutes, a tentative ease settled in.

While they arranged the room they discussed majors, movies and musical tastes. Omar felt bewildered by Adrian’s disinterest in sports, video games, or skateboards.  Yet, no computer programming? He assumed everyone fit into a category of stoner, jock, drinker, nerd, or at least pickle ball player.

Adrian refused to be confined by labels. ‘Gramps? No thank you. Gandalf? Hell no.’ New beginnings call for new looks. Being a freshman with a grey beard wouldn’t do. He took on a casual preppy look a few weeks back, so he’d acclimate to seeing his new face in the mirror. And to get used to shaving again. Beard or not, he still watched from behind those hazel eyes.

Adrian expected he’d get a business degree, an easy choice. He kept his twenty-year stint as a ‘Boba Barista,’ to himself. Most freshmen were away from home for the first time. They joined clubs and explored identities. His well-established identity only needed credentials.

Being the night before classes started, the party went late.

To Adrian’s surprise the party never stopped. The weekend party rolled into the week and into the next, without respite. He realized much identity exploration focused on drinking and sex to loud music.

“Doesn’t anyone ever study?”

Omar tried to understand the foreign language. “Oh, study? That’s for mid-terms and finals, man.”

The discipline Adrian needed to digest the daunting pile of textbooks came easily.  But he struggled to concentrate through the constant banging, thumps, and screams. And that was just music from other dorm rooms.

He became a denizen of the library. But after it closed each night, Adrian had to return to his room and try resting. Or join the party.

Adrian identified two main groups. With much overlap, and alcohol blurred edges, there were the jocks and the nerds. The political activists who never engaged on a personal level were a set apart. They endlessly proselytized toward a conversion to the utopian ‘cause du jour.’  

The jocks included the standard athletic types, skate boarders and pickle ball players. The nerds were gamers, programmers, musicians, and the like. Drinking, smoking, and pills made common ground.

Adrian didn’t fit any of these demographics. But he couldn’t escape their non-stop presence either. Feeling isolated, this was not the college experience he sought. He didn’t expect fireside, pipe smoke and brandy snifters while dressed in tweed smoking jackets. But this?

The stress of mastering new material and lack of sleep challenged his usual calm.

Someone screaming in the hallway startled Adrian one 2:30 am. Adrian opened the door. A guy, wearing only blond dreadlocks and tie-dyed, bikini underwear wailed erratically on a conga drum. He screamed, “Freedom!” over and over, as if trying to locate an elusive musical key.

The man offered Adrian his drum.

“You play?”

Adrian shook his head. “Take it outside… someplace else, man. People sleeping.”

Looking offended, Underwear Boy resumed his tuneless aria. “I’m free! I’m free!”

Adrian grabbed the drum and heaved it down the corridor. To Adrian, the drum never sounded better.

The guy charged Adrian. “Hey! Who gave you the…”

“Everyone’s free, man. I’m going to sleep.”

He turned and shut the door.

Inside, Omar stood waiting in the dark.

“You know what you did, Adrian? You know who that is?”

“Couldn’t care less. ‘Night…”

“You dissed ‘la Viro.’ What everybody calls him. You know, ‘the Man...’”

“You mean he’s a Master of the Universe…?”

“…Legendary. Black belt in, like, everything!”

“Needlepoint? Sushi? How versatile. Everything but drumming…”

“No. You don’t get it…”  

“His girlfriend needs to dress him better…”

“…Get on his bad side? You’re done.”

“Oooh, scary. So much for ‘freedom…’”

“Iron fist… He runs the place. Been here for years…”

“The freshman dorm? For years? Wow… Someone to reckon with.”

Omar pleaded, “Watch your back, okay? I’m serious.”

“Relax, Omar. Duly warned. I’m tired.” Adrian crawled into bed and pulled the covers.

The next morning, Adrian awoke feeling like crap. He’d overslept. Almost late for class, when leaving he found a bunch of trash piled outside his door.

He felt watched and noticed people’s strange looks. He checked that he’d buttoned his shirt correctly.  And he’d zipped his fly.

The day passed with the growing sense of foreboding. Walking across campus, he got hit in the back of the head with a Frisbee, twice.

Someone had checked out the library book he’d reserved.

The stress from classes and lack of sleep had reached a level he’d never felt. He needed to clear his head, calm himself, relax, and chill out.

Then he remembered Omar’s warning. The stress wasn’t only from school, but everything in his life.

Adrian needed a solution. Something effective and permanent. Not like getting drunk. Thankfully, la Viro wasn’t a constant presence. Adrian hadn’t seen him since that night.

Inspired, Adrian put an online order in. He bought additional supplies from the student store.

The delivery arrived the next day. Adrian already felt more at peace.

He unpacked the order and set up his Boba fixings. He had green tea, milk, peach syrup and the vital, flavorful cassava balls. The secret ingredient came separately. He celebrated by making a tall Boba tea, sitting back and enjoying it.

It tasted great. He hadn’t drank one since quitting his job months ago.

All was well.

Every day, after his last class, Adrian made his special Boba tea. He enjoyed the process of heating the water and meticulously combining the ingredients. Watching the milk descend and blend into the tea brought him joy. He loved stirring and watching the delicious cassava balls dance around the bottom of the glass.

With all the stressors in his life, Boba tea helped Adrian regain a sense of peace. He found a perspective connecting him to a larger sense of reality he’d never experienced. He felt a supreme calm, independent of personal effort. The Boba tea enveloped Adrian in a parallel realm undisturbed by minor concerns. His daily, personal struggles receded into a sense of belonging to a greater truth.

Omar noticed the change in Adrian. And after the run in with la Viro, it completely surprised him. He’d seen others on la Viro’s radar enter a downward spiral, crash and burn.

He came in one evening and saw Adrian sitting in subdued light.

“You meditating?”

Adrian smiled. “Maybe. Don’t know. Chilling.”

Omar noticed the glass of Boba tea.

“Whatcha drinking?”

“This? Oh, some Boba tea I whipped up.”

“Is it good?”

“It’s great. Want to try it?”

Adrian offered Omar a sip.

“Wow! That’s amazing. Make that yourself?”

“Yeah. Learned years ago. Want some?”

After that first glass of Boba tea, Omar joined Adrian most evenings to depressurize from the day.

Adrian noticed aggressive behavior from others had waned. Had la Viro forgotten him? He didn’t care. He focused on school and getting good grades.

Soon, students from the whole campus began coming by their dorm room to ask for Boba tea. Flattered, at first Adrian accommodated the curious. Some tried and liked it better than what the off campus Boba bar offered. They asked his secret but Adrian only smiled. He kept his recipe private.

Soon, increasing demand turned his kind gesture into a chore. Making the tea for all comers began to impact Adrian’s budget and free time. He’d quit being a Boba barista for a reason. He valued the quiet time he had with his tea. He had bigger plans.

One day he returned from class to find a line of students awaiting their shot of Boba. It had gone too far.

Soon after, he found a post-it on his door demanding he contact the dorm’s administration. They said, “It’s illegal to run a business out of a dorm room.”

He told them, “But I’m not. I don’t charge. Why don’t you bust the ones selling drugs?”

They only repeated the warning. Adrian found this worked in his favor. He could gracefully stop providing Boba tea to any and all who asked. He posted a copy of the warning on his door and demands for Boba tea disappeared.

Once again, peace reigned in Adrian’s dorm room. As the semester progressed, the late-night parties became less disruptive. He continued his evening routine of enjoying a tall Boba tea.

After the mid-term hump, Adrian walked through the campus toward his dorm. A cluster of students had gathered outside. Some looked familiar, but he didn’t know any well. He felt all eyes upon him.

Still sporting dreadlocks, La Viro stepped into his path. He now wore conventional clothes. The crowd hushed.

‘So that’s what this is.’

La Viro moved in close to Adrian. He could feel his breath. He said, “You dissed me, man.”

“I heard you’d felt that. Couple months ago, right?”

“You’re done. Finished. Canceled. You never existed. No one’ll remember you.”

Suppressing a laugh, Adrian said, “Let me get this straight. You’ve arranged your universe with such care, that anything causing a ripple to your equilibrium must be erased. I got that right?”

La Viro nodded warily.

Adrian said, “Wow… some powerful mocha you’ve got, man.” He smiled.

La Viro’s anger swelled. Being addressed as an equal enraged him. Adrian imagined steam pouring from his ears.

Adrian continued. “That’s quite a delusion, Vera. How do you do it? I mean, doesn’t reality ever crash in? Or at least timidly knock?” Adrian pressed his point. “Don’t get me wrong. I like control too. But get real. Riding herd on every facet of my life’s exhausting. Take a break, man. You’ll hurt yourself.”

La Viro quivered with barely controlled fury. Adrian smelled perspiration.

Still smiling, Adrian looked about and shrugged. “Tell you what… You and me, let’s go get a Boba.”

This startled la Viro. He had no defense against this warm invitation. His eyes widened. Adrian meant the offer. La Viro sighed. He felt he hadn’t breathed for an hour.

He said, “You got Boba?” Adrian nodded. “Let’s do it.”

The crowd cheered this peaceful resolution. Adrian and la Viro clapped each other’s backs and headed toward the dorm.

The next day, Adrian committed to a major in psychology.

July 06, 2023 14:40

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9 comments

Amanda Lieser
03:37 Jul 22, 2023

Hey John, I loved this premise. I have serious respect for the ones who decide to go back to school after living life for a bit. I also appreciated that this character chose the traditional form life-so many who go back either live on their own independently or they did online school only. I loved that he committed to a major, one my therapist mother would appreciate. Oh, the power of food to unite!! Nice work!!

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John K Adams
13:12 Jul 22, 2023

Thanks, Amanda, for reading and commenting. I'm glad you liked the story.

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Delbert Griffith
14:54 Jul 12, 2023

Fun story, John. You are a credit to the writing community here. This tale is well written and just a fun read all around. Nicely done. Cheers!

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John K Adams
02:30 Jul 13, 2023

Thank you, Delbert! Getting comments like this are a great compensation. I feel like this is a writing community. I love being a part of it. Cheers!

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Mustang Patty
11:15 Jul 10, 2023

Hi there! Long time, huh? As always, your story was well written, and I loved the pace. I think Adrian should've opted to live in the Married Dorms - (that's what I did when I went to a traditional University at the age of 46!) But I love how he found a way to cope with the dorm life, and how his special brew not only calmed him - but helped the others to cope. Good luck in the contest, ~MP~

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John K Adams
13:06 Jul 10, 2023

Patty, I hope you've been well. Good to see your moniker. Thanks for reading and commenting. Still plugging away. Got short listed recently - DMV in Retrograde.

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John K Adams
13:06 Jul 10, 2023

Patty, I hope you've been well. Good to see your moniker. Thanks for reading and commenting. Still plugging away. Got short listed recently - DMV in Retrograde.

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Mary Bendickson
16:53 Jul 06, 2023

Good story with a happy ending. What's not to like.

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John K Adams
17:16 Jul 06, 2023

Thanks, Mary. That's what I aim for.

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