- Subscribe via RSS
Two weeks ago, to the amusement of seven of us at the time and many more since, I paid for my roommate to get a face tattoo.
I awoke at 6 a.m. on March 13 to the hiss of my radiator and the loud, excited chatter of my blockmates in the hallway. It was Housing Day morning, my first as an upperclassman in Cabot House. I debated with myself whether to get up at all, anticipating the faces of freshmen—ranging from (hopefully) indifferent to (probably) teary-eyed—whose fates I would soon deliver.
The ice crunches beneath my feet as I follow my roommates out into the middle of Eliot courtyard. It’s surprisingly bright out for 6:30 a.m., and some combination of adrenaline and the traditional Housing Day mimosa I consumed in one of the party suites robs the frigid wind of its sting. We stand with our backs to each other and shout at the surrounding walls. “Good morning Eliot! It’s Housing Day! It’s Housing Day! Get up, get up, get up!” We stand still for a moment, watching as lights start to pop on in the windows that line the courtyard. Eliot is waking up.
The Bracket Boys emerged one March in my sophomore year of high school, wearing the same sweaty jerseys for days on end and trading wrinkled dollar bills under the lab tables in chemistry class. Or maybe they had always been there, furiously scribbling on those all-important flowcharts, and I had simply never noticed them before. After all, I had only just realized that March Madness was not, in fact, an insanity-inducing disease brought on by a seasonal resurgence in bacteria.
Going to Iceland for spring break was not my idea, really. My friend, a senior who will soon be a working woman in a tall, mighty tower in New York City, wanted to have one last trip before she committed to a no vacation offer. The location remained undetermined for months. Darjeeling, as advertised by Wes Anderson, was a good candidate considering the mission of the trip, but Reykjavik, as advertised by Icelandair on the T, won the competition with cheaper fares.
Dressed in a Harvard jersey and hat, I received some inquisitive stares as I flagged down one of the bartenders and asked if she could possibly put the Harvard game on. Figuring this might be a long and lonely two hours, I settled in to watch Harvard take an early lead.
They don’t have postcards in Bangladesh, or at least in Chittagong where Devon lives. So Devon made her own postcard to send to me. She smoothed newspapers written in Bengali script into the folds of a patterned pink paper, backed it on cardstock, and penned a message on the inside that bled through the pulp.
In a minute, she will whisk the skillet off the burner, move it over towards the pie pan sitting on counter, and coax the apples into the pan. She will do it all in one fluid motion. Afterwards, she will cover the apples with a round, yellow-tinted pie dough circle, slide the pan into the oven, and wait.
Here’s how it happens. We meet in the soft evening light at a national landmark, preferably he Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower, but I guess the Chrysler Building or something could do in a hurry.
Harvard is represented in my head by a large Venn diagram. The two overlapping crimson circles are labeled “Before” and “After.” The first circle encompasses my freshman and sophomore years. The second contains my junior and senior years. They are separated by the year I was gone. Not many things fall in the overlap.
I am too old for this. Last week I arrived at a house party only to spend the first 20 minutes putting the finishing touches on my gender studies junior tutorial syllabus. Tonight is squishy, slushy, miserable, the kind of night that will leave the streets shiny, lethal disco floors by morning. It’s 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, I’m trudging alone down Mass Ave on the way to Eliot Street, and I have never more deeply regretted the existence of New England.
Within the first two weeks of having met him, I learned two things: 1. He was married, and had a child. 2. He had terminal brain cancer.
Rolling her head back against the driver’s seat and snapping her gum, M asked the question that had been ricocheting through the air since we all came home from college: “Where should we go?”
On weekend afternoons in cafes over lattes or weeknights over drinks during the semester, I’d often put lecture notes aside to share my half-joke revelation about how to best savor time at Harvard: books, I declared, would always be here, but the electricity of connection between people around us is only now.
Then the dust got so bad in the winter you had to do the floors every day, twice a day, grime thick on the table, my laptop, our books. I hardly left the boys’ place. Woke with my mouth glued open and my nostrils dry, construction workers banging across the way. Deep in the night (and we all crashed at their apartment in a last study binge, kept jagged hours in the sore-throat tipsy-sunny early December, scrambling to get papers done) the watchmen knocked their staffs against the bone ground calling jaagte raho! jaagte raho!—stay awake!—striding in tandem like the ladies that power-walked together every day down the streets of my New Jersey housing development.