Right after I texted my friend that my life was in utter collapse, I had my first night out at Woads. To define “utter collapse”: I had an unfinished reading, an unchecked email account, and a new love I had not yet processed. The usual first-year conundrums.
As we waited outside in line, I saw the friend groups that had previously appeared only on my Instagram feed—the somehow fully-formed cliques with sublime smiles and perfect poses on Cross Campus. They crowded together excitedly, grasping their dollar bills like tickets to an amusement park ride. I felt pessimistic, but reminded myself that I too was standing outside Toad’s Place grasping my own petty cash.
When we got inside, it seemed like a typical party: the blurred kaleidoscope of lights, the welcome accidental touchings of strangers, the unwelcome purposeful touchings of strangers. Then, a song I had not heard since I was seven came on, and suddenly I was in second grade again. I jumped in excitement because, like in second grade, there were many simple things to be excited about. When the song changed, we groaned. And when our blue masks slipped just below our noses, the booming voice on the speaker reminded everyone to keep their faces covered.
Play that back over and over again. Maybe a variation here and there. On the second cycle, I saw a classmate from my literature seminar who would later confess to me that he had not done a single reading. Cycle five, I saw someone from a dating app who I had not responded to. Sometime after cycle ten, we left.
Nothing too unusual. We walked back to my friend’s suite where we all slumped on the couch. While my friends dozed off, I wondered about my new love. I came to the conclusion that maybe I was not in love, but instead, a little lonely. My emails were still unchecked and my reading was still unread. Nothing too unusual.
On another Wednesday, mid-waiting in line, a friend called me from home. I did not have much time, but I answered anyway. She talked about her new job at Starbucks, and how perhaps the required human interaction was a little too much for her. Especially in the drive-through.
“I wish there was this button,” she told me, “that could express exactly how I feel and everyone around me would just get it.”
“I wish I had that same button, but for everything I have to do,” I said.
“If my life was just pressing buttons and everything magically getting done,” she said, “I’d be so happy, you don’t understand.”
Before she hung up, she told me that sometimes, she hid in the Starbucks bathroom and sobbed. Then, she would emerge and finish out her shift.
“Not ideal,” she said. “But it helps.”
Perhaps on the most forlorn Wednesday, the plan was to get to Bass at 11 p.m. and leave when it closed. But on the way there, I got lost. Not really. Bass is just across the street. Instead, I found myself wandering around campus. Right outside Schwarzman, three skateboarders were doing tricks on the railings. Occasionally, one would tumble down to the cement. For a second, I feared he would not get back up again. Then, he would jump right back up, laughing, having another go at the railing.
When I arrived at Bass, I only had time to pull out my laptop before I realized I did not want to work that night.