Freshman Year–Take 2

September 22, 2015 § 2 Comments

Tazzina_di_caffè_a_Ventimiglia

The mornings just got cool here, so, suddenly, the air conditioners we were desperate for a few weeks ago now sag like old gym socks out of the upstairs bedroom windows. Still, it seems premature to take them out. It’s September, cool and warm and changing all the time. The students have arrived too, and our once calm street rings with drunken laughter now and then in the middle of the night when the parties end, or when the train comes in from New York.

In the daytime, there’s a quiet drone of activity. It’s hard to bike through the maze of bodies on campus. Too loud music flows out of open arched windows, flyers are taped to the ground and wrapped around light poles: we are deep in the belly of the tiger.

There is the look in the eyes of the Freshmen that makes them instantly recognizable– part fear, part joy, and a whole lot of bewilderment. They look like they’ve just had their very first double shot of espresso and they can’t be-lieve they never tried it before. Have you tried this! This is their espresso, this beautiful gothic dream world. At times, especially when it’s cloudy, I feel like I’m in some European country, or a theme park version of it—lots of stone and gargoyles, people speaking all sorts of languages that I can’t shape with my own tongue, cathedral-like libraries—but then I hear a Jersey accent, or see someone clad in all orange and black and I remember where I have landed.

It’s good to be around these new students, to be, like them, bewildered at the number of authors I want to hear read, the classes I wish I could take, the food magically appearing at every meeting like a fresh crop of truffles, the existence of hoagie spread, and even the godforsaken jug handles.

I sense the freshmen’s homesickness and their need to travel in safe packs too. I travel with mine. I dragged Jeff to a fitness fair, where again, freshmen swarmed, this time toward upperclassmen, clad in the gear of their sport. I just wanted the half price yoga class tickets.

We recognized the different types of college people (they haven’t changed much)—mostly identified by clothing and hairstyle, and we saw ourselves, young and tender, years ago. It was a little like a time travel movie where you see things exactly how they were, but nobody can see you: now we are invisible to anyone under 30. We are so obviously, well, old, that they have to look away. That’s ok. It’s their espresso, so sweet and bitter, and eye-opening on the first cool mornings of September. I just want a sip.

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