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After weeks of begging my editor to let me write this story, she acquiesced. I gave up my phone and Facebook account to my roommate. The terms of this experiment were laughably soft. I figured that this week probably best mirrored the conditions for a student in the early 2000s: access to email but not to phones or social media platforms.
Virginia Woolf sat in the library at Oxford imagining the books that Shakespeare’s sister didn’t publish. Sometimes when I walk deep in Widener’s belly, I feel the incredible pressure of the books that are not there.
I went to Paris wearing a red peacoat, convinced that the city’s monochromatic madames et monsieurs were an overblown American myth. I rubied my lips for good measure. My delineated Cupid’s bow awed a grand total of two people: myself (easily impressed) and the one creepy guy who dubbed me a bitchy bouche rouge when I didn’t flash a smile at him as I passed him on the street (easily dismissed).
In the face of terror, it is essential to remind yourself of your ability, whether what scares you is writing a conclusion to your thesis or cauterizing an abdominal wound on the fly. Sitting under the fluorescent lights of my dorm room as I fumbled through Tomb Raider, I heard Lara’s words and I felt their importance.
Born to New Yorker parents and raised in Connecticut, I am not inspired by New York City to breathless wonder unlike the millions of tourists who visit every year.
My roommate decided to visit me at home in Philadelphia. It was frigid, and every day we ate sandwiches. My goal: that he would leave with a fuller stomach, significantly closer to heart disease, his face slick with oil.
Perhaps If I had grown up in Michigan I would have fallen in love with the New York City skyline, the tops of buildings glimpsed in small square segments from a plane. But I lived commuting-distance from Manhattan, in a suburb where the stone walls of colonial pastures lined the road to the train station. And so I met the city from the ground up: the smooth blue of the Hudson to the raised tracks over Harlem, only then to the skyscrapers in the distance.
I landed in Cancun ready to embrace a cliché. There were no plans except to set aside the haughty, critical coldness of Cambridge and indulge in that undergraduate tropical escape narrative that is Mexico for Spring Break.
In January, my skin turns to snow. I leave my dorm in the morning, hair shower-wet, mousse-sprayed to my neck, snowflakes crystallized in my curls. I wear black tights and salt stains bloom on my thighs; I wear black boots and white lines cross my ankles in waves. The spaces between my fingers grow cold.
In those lazy summers of five or six years ago, when every morning we awoke together ready to take on the backyard, we favored one in particular. I wrote a description of that game, Madame Mademoiselle, in my college application essay. My sister watched me compose the first draft.
I am fascinated by celebrities and the pop cultural sphere that they inhabit. I spend my free time combing through Twitter to read the musings of my favorite stars and devouring every word of entertainment news articles to learn about the goings-on of B-list actors. No tweet is too inane to spark my curiosity (I’m looking at you, Jaden Smith). No article is too obscure to merit my interest (seriously, I just read an article about the fashion ambitions of Sadie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty”).
A Culver’s in its natural environment, though, is always found in Wisconsin. On the side of any highway, framed by scrubby trees, you’re bound to spot the navy blue oval of a Culver’s sign, that beacon leading to squeaky cheese with a crispy, hot outer crust and served with cups of shamelessly fatty frozen custard.
Smash has always been around: In elementary and middle school, I played, but in high school I stopped. In hindsight I notice the unsettling correlation between the exit of Smash from my life, and the entrance of the thesis statement into it. Life became a bit realer, a bit less fantastical. I couldn’t cite Wikipedia anymore.