It’s my sophomore year of college, and my bedroom window faces Toad’s. From the comfort of my bed, I have front-row seats to humanity in its rawest form—college students too stubborn to go home but too drunk to go anywhere else. I gaze through the crack in my curtains, watching as individuals become themselves. If they like their transformation, they radiate the vibrant energy of self-actualization, and if not they attribute their behavior to the six shots they took earlier.
Waiting to cross the street, a man and a woman turn to each other. Their flirty coyness tells me that they’ve only met a few hours ago. They’re selling themselves to each other, putting forth their wittiest comments and most charming one-liners. They’re succeeding, and they know it. The crosswalk light turns green. They don’t notice. Instead of moving across the street, they move closer to each other.
On the other side of the street, a group of five is walking home. The sidewalk is just narrow enough for pairs of two. The groups pair up instinctually, and, from the solemn, resigned manner with which the fifth person recedes to the back, I can tell that he’s assumed this position dozens of times before. For a few moments he tries to keep up with the conversation, bobbing and weaving from one side of the group to the other, waiting for someone to turn their head and acknowledge his presence. When nobody does, he slumps to the back again and pretends to text someone on his phone.
Parked a few meters past Toad’s, a tired, 20-something woman sits in her car, waiting to pick up her friends. She’s clearly the designated driver, and her friends probably told her to meet them outside at 12:30. It’s now 1:15 a.m. As the moon continues to rise, her patience sinks lower and lower.
The street is noisy, but my room is quiet. As I fall asleep, I hear the muffled cacophony of excitement, the loud celebrations of life, coming from drunken crowds. Even when the night fades, I still hear the noise. I know these scenes because I have lived them. I still harbor the excitement of my first-year self’s outings to Toad’s, but the thrill feels distant now, like the muted echoes of dance music that emanate from the club.