THE SKEIN – Novel in Progress – New Chapter – Freshman Orientation Mixer at the Dorm First Week at MIT

She had a short skirt that was all a-rebellion of large pockets. It was earth brown and military green with etched metal buckles. She was going somewhere, looking good, and bringing plenty of supplies.

Shungyosai didn’t know if it was the excitement of the first week being away at college, or the loud music. Maybe the light show cramming the lobby of this dorm center where the administration had invited the new class to an ‘Orientation Mixer’. Or could be the coffee he had been drinking all day. Whatever the cause; he felt awake, his senses tweaked.

Or maybe it was the real, true, earnest attempt he was making the past three days to be awake during the day and in bed during the night, promising himself and the larger world that he was going to do this, make his class schedule. The same guy who knows he does his best work when he stays up for a three day stretch and is half out of his mind, pushing some new concept until it cracks its spine. And then, in the blare of some hazy new dawn, reprogramming the pieces into something… new.

He had actually been asleep last night at a reasonable hour, felt the cosmos aligning to give him this chance. Had laid on the mediocre mattress in the apartment-style dorm, surrounded by adjacent rooms –similarly holding cells, harboring his three new room mates– and slumbered. Dreamt, even.

There weren’t that many people there, out of the size of the class. He imagined the really interesting people were somehow already enmeshed in the culture of the city. Likely out patronizing underground festivities; perhaps in a random knife fight encounter on a sidequest to secure some unique object, in what amounts to the Boston stage. But looking around at his surroundings through this lens of video game character, in this corner of the map, he knew no one. And as much as he was an elitist loner who criticized internally every inch of the scene before him at all times, he was also peculiarly unassuming.

“Honestly,” Shungyosai said, with a cute smile, “I like this song way better than that other Sinatra hit,” he said to the cute girl with the.. Cargo skirt? He motioned his eyes to the DJ spinning the crooner’s track.

Adolai had accosted three girls standing aloof looking bored. Good on you, he thought. At least they won’t be bored.

“Yeah? Which one?” She was game.
“I get a kick out of me.”
Her friends rolled their eyes, laughed a bit like blowing out air.
“This place is full of psychopaths, oh my god,” said one of the friends.
She had dark brown hair and furtive eyes that still always seemed to be looking into yours. “Did I surrender when the German’s bombed Pearl Harbor?” Shungyosai spoke half under his breath, but still wanting them to hear. Crystal, for that was her name, laughed, now rolling her eyes, too. But she got the joke.
“I love that movie,” she said.
“Yeah, college, huh?” Shungyosai said.
“So it appears.”
“You smell like bees!” Shungyosai sort of shouted gleefully all of a sudden, and also abruptly transitioned to kind of bopping around, trying to dance.
“I do?” she asked, smiling.
“Yeah, like, I was going to say flowers, but it’s a very.. Um, complex scent. It smells like the flowers are working for you, like a whole industry of… It smells really earthy but like alive, I’m sorry, I’m being an idiot. It just smells really good.”
“No, um… I use an all natural soap? It’s made of beeswax, actually. I think the base scent is sandalwood. That could be what you’re smelling.”
“It’s pretty awesome, it… I had a really weird day, so. I’m digging it. I think I woke up and have drank more coffee today that anyone in history. I don’t know what I’m doing with this regimented sleep schedule thing. I think if I could take a deep breath of your hair I’d probably die, honestly. I ate the equivalent of a gas station sandwich for lunch at this little coffee shop after I got lost walking around today.”
“Well, as much as I’d enjoy watching you smell my hair and then die, I’m not sure we’re there yet. What’s your name, anyway?”
“Adolai,” he said. She looked back at him and he anticipated her question. “Adolai Shungyosai. My Dad’s Japanese, my Mom is Ashkenazi.”
“I’m Crystal,” she said. “Crystal Paige Bridgewater,” she said mock effete.
“Cool. I like that name. It fits with the bees, Crystal. Crystal.”
She smiled and kind of started dancing too.

Adolai got Crystal a plastic cup full of the punch being served.
“What are you studying?” he asked her.
“Architecture.”
“Woah, cool. That’s interesting.”
“How about you?” she returned.
“Computer science, I’m a programmer.”
“You’re gonna say there’s similarities I suppose,” Crystal asked.
“Well, aren’t there?” Adolai asked.
“I think since I brought it up, you have to answer first,” she said.
“Welll…” Adolai said, “I think so? I mean, with what I’m doing. It’s kind of a—” he switched into a more charming pose, “kind of a secret project, that I’ve been developing, so try not to tell too many people, or anyone for that matter. But I’m building a- do you know what a Brain-Computer-Interface is?” he asked.
She sort of nodded, and swallowed her drink.
“I’m building my own interface.. For virtual reality. So…” he said.
“Hmm,” she said, interested.
“So I guess you could say with that there’s definitely a connection.”
“Building virtually and building with bricks is probably.. A little different,” she said, with slight mocking.
“Sure, yeah. I mean, of course,” Adolai said. “But it’s creating.. This thing.. That people will experience,” he was thinking of it as he spoke. “I guess when you walk through a building you experience it in a different way than a normal person.. Someone who doesn’t… have architectural knowledge. And that’s sort of how I think of what I’m creating. A space that brings that meaning to people.” With a quick dubious look from Crystal, he continued. “Because you can add all sorts of meaning into the space, with a virtual experience. You can craft it in so many more ways.”
“I’m curious about what you mean. I’d have to see what you’re working on, maybe.”
“We could do that. That’d be great.”
She looked around for her friends for a moment. “If we go to your room,” she paused, “and you happen to catch a whiff of my hair, and you die, that is fully on you,” she said.
“Gotcha.”

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