I remember what I wore on the day I moved into my freshman year dorm because it was more than the shirt on my back. It was hot that day in San Diego. October can be like that in Southern California. Sure the season turns, but it’s a trepidatious three point turn that lurches in and out of Summer like a beat up Toyota minivan.

There were no elevators in Atlantis, the residence hall that I was assigned to. They were all named after historic fleets, mine a shuttle, but funny – I didn’t feel like I was taking off. My room was on the top floor up five stairwells with sharp turns and dividing walls that made it impossible to see my new neighbors even when they weren't new anymore, a change for a girl from a town where every one knew everyone else.

During the tour I had learned that these buildings were constructed around the time George Winne Jr., set himself on fire in Revelle Plaza in 1970 in protest to the Vietnam War. Rumor had it they were built this way to prevent suitemates from getting to know one another, from uniting on some lost and lonely cause. I learned that in the same breath as I'm not allowed to have a plug-in rice cooker in my room because it was a fire hazard.

Did I deserve to be here? Was my fight honorable? Like a tourist in a cemetery, I wondered.

My dad’s Ford F-150 extra long truck bed was full of my stuff and the cabin was full of us -- my mother up front thumbing through odds and ends in her purse, and my sister and I holding our organs in the back. Being back there together regressed us into childhood, our quiet life of no agency. Our boobs were in the way though now as defiant reminders that life doesn't stop, it juts forward.

The electricity rose in my body as we got closer to the dorm, the freeways turning into local streets, and wrong turns becoming steps closer to a change I knew I wasn’t ready for and couldn't possibly ever be. I was anxious about which parking spot we’d get, the food I was going to have to eat from hereafter, and the dread of watching my family drive away. My room would smell like a stranger and not the incense my mother burned every morning.

Unlike my dad, she never spoke about me moving out. We communicated through tears and food – tears she would leave on my shirt that I would later cry into the slice of dining hall pizza I’d have for dinner.

We went up and down the stairs countless times that day, hauling and pausing, rushing and dreaming. While we dumped boxes and bags, my mother neatly arranged things she had thought of that I had forgotten. Tea bags to maintain a morning ritual and familiar tchotchkes that I hoped would ground me when I felt anchorless.

At one point I had a computer tower and monitor on my back, the weight of an ethereal world strapped on my shoulders, that I carried like a sherpa to an unknown summit I had to leave to reach.

As we went downstairs and arrived to goodbye my dad lit a cigarette and my mother came to me. Her hands landed on the spot of sweat that had emerged on the back of my red t-shirt and it turned warm. Her tears stained my shoulders and, as I held her, I could feel her heart beating as if it were fighting to reach mine.

Would I ever be hers to take care of again? I knew she wondered the same thing.