I shouldn't complain, I suppose. Here I am at Harvard, first of all, and I have a nice room in Currier House. I share a bathroom with someone who can't stand any of the music I play (even when it's classical) and who stays up all night pacing the room and spluttering to himself. He addresses me as "Mr. Barlow" when he's complaining about my music; otherwise--when he encounters me in the Yard, for instance--he acknowledges me only with a petulant "indeed" and an ironic salute. But he--I won't write his name, for he's quite real, I think--is okay for the most part, if he'd only learn not to flood the bathroom floor when he showers.
Needless to say, I've done no work what-soever in the three weeks I've been here. I switch, mentally, my concentration every day and my courses almost every hour. One week I'm an advanced standing sophomore, one week I'm a freshman, and the next I've decided to defer admission until next year.
But maybe I'll give Harvard a chance. Expos, after all, is looking good, perhaps because it's not really expos but fiction. I told the teacher I had no desire to write about anything other than sex. She nodded approvingly.
"Fine," she said. "But perhaps you ll run out of ideas."
Frustation, anxiety, insecurity and impotence. Should I go home? Perhaps I don't really belong here anyway. Since I got here all I've been doing is trying to find guts. As you've probably noticed, I'm stupid and boring. Harvard doesn't do much for a tottering ego.
Naturally, I've been to lots of parties where I've met all the other 1639 stupid and boring freshmen. Not only that, but I hate milk and cookies. And I get sick on beer. (This has somewhat constrained my social life here.)
I did have one romantic experience. (I know that's surprising at Harvard.) I stayed up all night with a girl and we walked from Radcliffe down to the river to watch the sunrise. We were smoking cigarettes and the healthy-looking joggers and cyclists who began coming by around 6 a.m. gave us deprecating looks. Finally we hitched a ride back to the Quad. The next day I wrote a story about it for expos. Freshmen do things like that.
One of the organizations I wanted to join, that seemed most seductive as I ran the gauntlet of freshman registration, was the Society for Creative Anachronism. I was attracted by the idea of taking a temporal holiday from Harvard and relaxing in the gentler, less-pressured days of the thirteenth century, when there were no pre-meds or pushy freshman advisers. That was before I saw their first meeting. They were really hitting each other, batting each other over the head with baseball bats and similar instruments of not-so-medieval mayhem. One of them, I saw, got a bloody ear. Instead of doublets made of cloth or gold, they were dressed in makeshift hockey uniforms and do-it-yourself helmets. In some ways it was the last straw. Like everything about Harvard,' it turned out to be much less elegant and much more painful than I expected.
Jim Barlow '79 is a graduate of the Horace Mann School in New York City.