I listen at the door in an empty dimly lit hall. The couple are easy to hear.
I knock. “R.A.,” I say. I hate this part.
The two of them stumble around as quietly as they can. “What?” the girl says through the closed door.
“It’s the R.A.,” I say. This is my job. No answer. I knock again.
“Just a minute,” she says. She opens the door in a tee shirt and boxers. “What?”
“May I come in?” I ask. She can say no. Her rights are in the student handbook. No one ever reads the student handbook.
Her mouth twists. She opens the door wide and I step in. “What is it?” she asks.
“I heard voices in the hall,” I say. “You know visiting hours ended at 10.”
She rolls her eyes. “So? Did someone complain?”
Her roommate came and got me. The roommate wanted back in her room. “I heard voices in the hall,” I say again.
“It’s just me,” she says. “Maybe you’ve got the wrong room.”
“May I check your closet?’
She can say no to that too, but she shrugs. I open the closet. The guy is squatting in the laundry basket, clothes cover his head. “Get dressed and meet me out in the hall,” I say, looking away.
I tell the girl I’ll have to write her up. “Skinny fucking bitch,” she says.
My pen shakes when I write down her name and room number. I hope she doesn’t notice. “I’ll put that in the write-up,” I say. She makes a face.
“I’ll be in the hall,” I say.
Waiting in the hall, I wonder why they can’t wait until the weekend. The weekend is 24-hour visitation. It is Thursday night. But I don’t have a boyfriend. I’ve never had a boyfriend.
The hallway is deserted, but the other girls are surely listening behind their closed doors. The guy comes out and gives me half a smile. “I need your ID,” I say.
He hands it to me and tells me his name at the same. He’s dressed, but he’s got more clothes rolled up under his arm. He follows me down the hall, and in the elevator we’re alone. I don’t look at him. I write his information down on my scrap of paper. “That it?” he asks.
I give him back his ID and nod. “Will she get in trouble?” he asks.
No guy has ever asked me to break a rule for him. “It just goes in a file,” I say. “The director will talk to her. If nothing else happens, that’s it.”
“You do this often?” he asks.
I lean back against the elevator wall and cross my arms over my chest. “There is 24 hour visitation starting tomorrow.” I don’t look at him, but he kind of laughs.
“Sorry,” he says when the doors open.
“Me too,” I say.
We walk through the lobby to the front doors of the dorm. As far as I know, I never see him again.
My son and I go to the bookstore a lot. He likes to pick out a few books, find an out-of-the-way corner, and have me read to him. Yesterday, we walked past the fiction section and he said, “It’s so pretty.”
I looked at the shelves, the pillar, the window, up the vaulted ceiling. “Yes, it is.” And I can’t decide if I’m jealous or inspired by all the books I see. What if I had a book on one of the shelves? Most of the books that are there I’ll never read. I can’t bring myself to say any of those books are bad because I’ve always hated that sour grape fable and they have managed something I have not.
How do you feel when you read a terrible book? Do you want to quit or try harder?