This is what it is, to go to college, to go to college in New York, to live in New York and remind yourself daily that it is for school.
By: Caroline Heneghan
You will always sleep too much—it will always feel like too little. Every night spent curled up in bed feels like a decade. Outside, there is so much to do, so much to think, so much to miss out on. From the confines of your covers you will see tweets that Madonna is playing an ode to Hillary in Washington Square. You will leap up and grab your best friend and your shoes; you will be too late. Leftover are the sound equipment and the desperate—you refuse to be either, and you amble home; at least you got your steps in.
The next day you will be in class and look out the window and see Washington Square lit up like something out of a storybook. When class ends, you will sit on a bench and feel like you are burning up and take ragged breaths of cigarette-smoke air. There will be girls in faux fur jackets and vintage Levis and shoes that could crush hearts, could stomp the lights from your eyes.
You will stop eating meat and start drinking coffee like it’s something divine, something more than ground beans and water. The day you check your debit card balance is the day you eat only croissants; you forget about real food and wander without money instead. You will make lists of the places you wish to go. The next day, you will forget about your lists and walk until you find a bookstore that sells only “radical” literature. Sundays will no longer feel like prison; instead, they will be dedicated to exploration and picnics and film cameras and coffee shops. Always coffee shops.
On Fridays you will drink wine until you are giggling and then you will remember that your paper is due at midnight. Your friends will continue to dance around you as you hunch over a laptop and write until your fingers ache. You won’t see straight, but Saturday morning you will read your words and think they’re magic.
You will arrive exactly on time to every single class; you will get there in half the time it takes even the most seasoned New Yorkers. When you get to class you will realize you forgot your water bottle at home. You are thirsty, but you chew strawberry bubble gum and imagine everyone around you is hypnotized by the smell (you always are).
You won’t smoke cigarettes because you don’t like how the smoke sits in your lungs, but you will stop each time you see a well-dressed man or woman with a cigarette perched between their fingers. Never has there ever existed something so sophisticated, you think. When it rains, you forget your umbrella and dart between awnings like life depends on it. Between manic dashes you will see the boy from your literature class—he will offer to walk you to your building in the opposite direction. He says the umbrella is covering him, but you see it tilted towards you—his left shoulder is wet. He still smiles.
On any given Tuesday you will walk with your people to the High Line. Everything will be normal and perfect, but you will feel like crying. Every sweet restaurant you pass, but cannot afford, will isolate you. Everyone else is warm and content, but your fingers are going numb and only one of your headphones is working. On the walk home, you tell your friends you will meet them later. You slip inside your favorite bookstore, pick a book you cannot afford, and curl up on the bench beneath the window. You mouth the words to yourself and feel your tears recede. The store will announce it is closing and the pink-haired cashier will tap you on the shoulder and remind you there are ten minutes left. “Don’t rush,” she’ll murmur before clicking away.
Recitation will be cancelled and you won’t see the email. You will run there to find the room abandoned except for a girl with brilliant blue eyes and a nervous laugh. She tells you about the email and you wander back into the street with no purpose for the next hour.
You walk down Bleecker until you come across a gated garden. The gate will be unlatched and you sit down on a green bench and write; the woman gardening will come by and smile. By then, the sun has ducked behind a building and your fingers are tinted blue. There are peonies in front of you and an apple tree with rotting apples rolling beneath it. You leave a dollar in the donations jar and rub your aching hands together until the pink comes back.