On Staying In Your College Town This Summer


In May, you move your mini-fridge, your clothes, and your duvet from your dorm into an apartment a hundred yards away. The belongings you unpack from worn cardboard boxes aren’t big enough or bright enough to fill this bigger, emptier space, and the next day, you go to a bargain warehouse and buy a striped tablecloth and pink placemats and gauzy curtains. You feel more at home.

Unburdened by your backpack, you wander around campus and notice tiny white flowers on trees and cracked brick sidewalks and meticulously cut, impossibly green grass, and you wonder how you never noticed them before. You work in an office where there’s not much to do, so you play Word Bubbles and shuffle papers and try to figure out how to answer the phone. You gossip with your co-workers, women who wear glasses and sensible shoes and have daughters your age, and you tell them beauty tips you read in Vogue and Glamour while you sit at your desk.

You sit on cushions on the living room floors of strangers and have conversations that seem deeper and more meaningful, somehow, than the ones you usually have. You have little in common with these people you’re spending your summer with, and you’re forced to reach past the I think you might have known someone in my Chinese religion class and the Maybe I saw you at a party, once and grasp at real things. You drink wine, not liquor, out of real glasses, not plastic cups. Your skin gets darker, and your hair gets lighter.

You try to cook, first pasta that’s too hard and too cold, and then chicken that’s too dry. You have one perfect meal of tomatoes and mozzarella and bread from the farmer’s market, and you think that maybe cooking is overrated, that maybe you will never eat anything but this again. You go grocery shopping without lists and you buy impractical but beautiful things: couscous and mangos, balsamic vinegar glaze and fresh basil, pancetta and gelato.

You pick daisies on the side of the road and keep them in an old bottle on your kitchen counter. You climb fences to break into pools and go skinny dipping late at night. When you hear a noise, you press yourself up against the wall and cover your laugh with your hands, just the top of your slick head visible above the water, but you never get caught. You kiss boys who you wouldn’t have noticed before but who are there now, math majors with unkempt hair who wear socks with sandals and philosophy majors whose blue eyes make you forget how pretentious they are.

You stop wearing makeup. You smoke pot and lie in the grass and stare at the sun until orange spots float before your eyes and the blades tickle your calves and you feel your cheeks turning pink. You go to a salon—not the hair kind, but the French kind—where you discuss leisure. You think that having time to sit around and debate the meaning of leisure is probably, in fact, the essence of leisure, and you enjoy this realization.

You do all the things you don’t normally have time to do: you wear sundresses, you try new kinds of sushi, you drive into the city, you write poetry. You make a reading list of all the classics but end up reading best-sellers, which you think is probably more fun anyway. You think of the endless expanse of days until September and you fill it with possibilities: falling in love, getting published, learning to play guitar, to speak Italian, to waltz. It’s too soon to tell, but you think you’ll almost certainly be a different person by the end of summer.

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