Notes From Underground

The Vagabond

As Vag drove up Memorial Drive towards Plympton Street, he felt that wonderful surge of warmth inside him which always accompanied his return to Cambridge Vag was living in Boston this summer but made at least one trip a week back to Harvard, sinking his roots into the slime of Cambridge for a fresh supply of worldly oblivion to carry him through his next week.

Laugh if you will, call it going back to the womb--Vag was born in Cambridge--but the fact is that Vag depended on it. He had lived in the vicinity of Cambridge and Boston ever since he could remember and had never thought very seriously of leaving.

Many of his Harvard friends accused him of being too provincial and suggested that he should get out and see the world. But at this Vag would laugh. "After Cambridge and Boston, what is there left to see?" he always replied. Oh, he had gone down to New Haven once or twice, but that was about the limit of his long-distance travelling.

To Vag's left, the banks of the Charles, bathed in the soft light of a July evening, were covered with an undulating mass of human bodies, and the romantic mixture of perfume and sweat nauseated him slightly. "Obscenity everywhere," thought Vag, and he slowly turned up Plympton Street, feeling a bit out of place in such a cruel setting.

Vag parked his car and bounced into the Crimson building. "Home, sweet home," he chuckled as he settled himself down amidst the filth of several day's trash accumulation.

"Hey Vag, seen that story in The New Yorker?" queried one of his friends with an evil grin.

Vag was trapped. During the regular College year he read The New Yorker religiously, since it was the established fodder for many cocktail conversations, but during the summer he rarely ever picked it up. It rather bored him, acquiring a dull sameness after the first year's reading.

"Well ... err ... I haven't actually, heh, heh," stammered Vag, but seeing the ready-to-pounce look on his friend's face, he quickly regrouped his forces and attempted to rescue himself.

"That is, I haven't read the last few issues very carefully. Busy with job. No time to myself. Terrible summer. Was sick with grippe in late June. Just starting to catch up," he explained.

This apology turned the trick, and Vag's friend told him, with an air of good-natured condescension, not to miss a certain article in the July 6 New Yorker. Vag promised to look it up immediately and with that purpose in mind made his way towards Lamont.

Strolling along in front of Wigglesworth, Vag was appalled. Hordes of Summer School females were sprawled on the entry steps in various stages of undress. Vag had always tried to ignore the Summer School as being a mild concession to intellectual faiblesse, but here he could not suppress a slight shudder.

In front of "G" entry, two imposing preppy types were talking to a pair of Summer School lovelies. One of the males was unmistakeably a Princeton. He wore the traditional dark gray shetland sweater, button-down shirt, English-style gray flannels and cordovans. The other person was attired in white varsity-letter sweater, turned inside out, of course, freshly pressed khakis, white athletic socks, saddle shoes and crew-cut. "Probably a Yale," thought Vag.

"How about slipping down to the Chuck?" suggested the crew-cut with a knowing leer.

"A Yale beyond redemption," gasped Vag sadly as he heard this abortive diminunution of the revered Charles.

"It's a real nice night," the Yale added in a final attempt to make his sale.

The young lady smiled bewitchingly, and the two got up and walked in Vag's direction. The Princeton--true to the Nassau type, a man of hypercontinental suavity--had already wrapped his arm around the other female's waist and was whisking her towards the Charles.

"To think I lived here as a freshman. No end to poor taste," Vag observed sadly. As he did so, the Yale and his aquisition approached him on the walk. The Yale casually shouldered Vag to one side and strode past.

"Ha! What a weenie," he sneered to the girl, giving a powerfully superior smile in Vag's direction.

Vag shrugged his shoulders and continued toward Lamont.

During the regular year, Vag kept his distance from this imposing mass of bricks and books. After his first few weeks of studying there as a freshman, the combination of harsh lights, 50-cent fines and unattractive people had driven him out, and he had never gone back.

Now, as he passed the hideous front windows, Vag thought that Lamont served the Summer School right. By the end of the summer, all the Delilahs studying in there would learn to hate it as he had.

Vag looked up the New Yorker and found the story. It concerned an improbable couple named Elgin and Caroline, telling how they fell in love and later indulged themselves libidinously in Adams House. The story was subtly and liberally sprinkled with naked bodies, passionate embraces and the like. Vag could not bring himself to finish it, so he looked at the ending and put the magazine down.

After yawning several times, he left Lamont and headed back towards the Crimson building. It was a lovely night--warm, starry and quiet--just the kind of night on which Vag used to sit down by the Charles and assimilate the poetry of the city.

But he knew that he would not be comfortable in his old spot tonight and decided to repair to the Crimson rooftop instead. After a few minutes there, Vag knew it was no use. Slowly, he headed back to the car.

"Hmm, a weenie. Imagine that," Vag mused sadly as he drove down Mem Drive toward Boston.