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An eventful first day at university

Sept. 5, 2019 marks the third anniversary of the flood.  

That day in 2016 is the first day of my first year at the University of King’s College – the day before classes start and the day after I fall asleep in tears. There is no way in hell I’m staying on this godforsaken campus when I can ride down to Barrington Street on an unfamiliar bus to the unfamiliar hotel to find my mom. It’s her last day before flying home, without me.  

I walk through the lobby to the elevator. Once the doors let me out on her floor, I start running.  

I don’t regret my choice to leave home yet, but it feels like I might begin to. Home is British Columbia, and British Columbia is far from Halifax.  

The roommate I barely know, and the dorm mates who have way more luggage than me, could never offer the comfort that I feel when I am back in the hotel room with my mother. The sheets are flimsy. The closet is full of her suitcases. The bed I slept in just one day before is still ruffled from our rush to make it to campus for move-in day.  

My phone buzzes with the first ever text from my roommate. She ignored me in meal hall the night before.  

 “The dorm flooded. I put your stuff on your bed,” she texts me.   

“What? What?!” I text her back at least 20 times before giving up. I can’t leave, so I try texting some of my other dorm mates to figure out what the hell has happened. I finally get a response from one of them. 

Around 8 a.m., someone clogged the toilets on the top floor of my residence. Everyone in the building save for me was woken up by a river of septic water. About 20 of us are displaced, our clothes and belongings still in the building. 

This all happened about 30 minutes after I got on the number one bus at 7:30 a.m.  

I spend the day with my mother.  

She rides the bus with me all the way back to school, and then I wait with her at the bus stop. I watch the bus disappear over the hill, with her in it. I don’t have a bedroom to go to. I am forced to go to the residence desk to figure out where I am sleeping.   

They direct me to the second floor with a temporary room key. 

I expect a silent hallway. 

Instead, when I walk through the swinging door, I find half my residence sitting on the linoleum floor and haphazardly placed chairs. They’re dressed in bedsheets and first-year t-shirts from 2014.  

Someone is standing to sop up a nosebleed with wadded toilet paper while others laugh and chat from opposite sides of the hallway. My roommate isn’t there, but the dorm mate who told me what happened is.  

That night, when they let us back into our toilet-scented building, the security crew can’t get the electricity to work. We hold flashlights in our mouths to explore the ruins of our building. When we find most of our things safe and dry, save for a few unlucky pairs of shoes. I can’t help but laugh.    

The next day, it’s easy to find someone to sit with in meal hall.  


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