Winthrop junior Robert F. Piper’s alarm clock buzzes at 9:52 every morning. After the first or second chime, he slams the clock down and snoozes until 9:57. This leaves him exactly 10 minutes to pull his clothes out of the drawer, clamor around for his belongings, and slam the door on the way to what, I presume, must be his first class of the day.
It’s hard to tell just what’s going on in my neighbor’s abode. The six to eight page paper-thin fire door separating our two rooms bars my curious eye and masks his more subtle sounds.
But based on what I’ve heard, Piper’s definitely a brooding wannabe of a hipster intellectual. When other voices are present in his room, all I hear through the door is vinyl jazz and Débussy. But when the voices are gone, the mid-90s jams from the likes of Smashmouth and Sugar Ray that he bumps disturb my studying and make me want to vomit up a Beanie Baby.
I usually hear Piper leave for dinner at around 6 p.m., and he almost always comes back chatting with a friend, speaking in a cool, sophisticated timber that he definitely does not use when he’s on the phone with his mom. Their discussion is usually centered on the same thing: some girl named Janie. Or Jamie? Jenny? Either way, they’ve mentioned that she’s got an incredible laugh.
“She just doesn’t dig you,” Piper usually begins breezily, probably adjusting his pretentiously circular hipster spectacles. “Harvard girls think they’re the shit and she’s definitely just waiting around for some law school student to swipe her off her feet one night at Om.”
“But she knows me,” his soft-spoken and probably much less alt friend Ben J. Gleeson ’10 typically adds, “We’ve known each other since our freshman seminar.” (He often adds a few more mumbled comments that I just can’t quite make out, no matter how hard I press my ear up to the door.)
“Listen, boss. I’ve known you since pre-frosh weekend and I’m saying this as both your friend and as someone who understands Ginsburg: get over this broad. She sounds like bad news, and that’s bad for your Tao.”
But a few weekends ago, I found that maybe what Piper thought was bad for his friend’s Tao wouldn’t be so bad for his. Wafting through the fire door, I heard vinyl jazz, Piper’s breathy voice, and an incredible laugh.
Those sounds made me realize that members of a certain breed of hip Harvard student spends so much time wearing big glasses and saying they “absolutely love Kerouac” and “really just get the theoretical meanings of Jainism” that they’ve forgotten what lies at the basis of even the coolest beat poets’ poems.
I haven’t heard Janie/Jamie/Jenny laugh through the fire door again. And for Piper, that might not be too much of a problem. Maybe he thought she was only interesting for the length of a couple Miles Davis songs.
But since that night, no matter how close up I lean against the fire door after 6 p.m., I just can’t seem to catch Gleeson’s voice. In fact, at that hour, Piper’s whole room sounds silent.