I could feel at home here I thought the Saturday morning
I ambled from the bus stop on Campus Drive
near Route 1 to the Mitchell Building.
White-colored brick Georgian halls like in Williamsburg
girded the grassy band of McKeldin Mall
in October’s chalky, friable light—
a cocoon where, becoming who I would be,
I could wrap myself in the history of ideas’
quaint costume, reflecting what made us who we are
to anyone paying attention.
Baltimore Ave. = US Route 1; the building to the right of Regents Dr. is the Mitchell Building
The foyer was still almost empty
and perfumed in cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice
from hot apple cider I tapped from an urn
beside others for coffee and tea on a table
to the left; in the room’s middle a stand
bore sheets of blank name tags with black markers,
and at a second stand on the right
I picked the English Department’s booklet from those
arrayed and thumbed its pulpy, recycled pages.
When I looked up, Audrey Morris’s tall frame
serendipitously greeted and gladdened me further.
We schmoozed about school and the literary magazine,
sipping cider, and wondered aloud, continually,
when someone from Admissions would turn up
to start the open house. Panning the room,
my eyes halted on a girl at its far end: auburn hair
fondling the shoulders of her white argyle sweater,
telling a twin brother in high pitch but firm timbre,
“This is a psychology study!
They want to see how long it will take us
to figure out what to do uninstructed.”
Typical floral-patterned vests and short-sleeved
paisleys of manifold blues were filling the foyer;
I took Audrey’s leave and began steering around
them to the redhead, but staff must have beckoned
from the corridor—the closest raced into it,
those closest to them hustled to follow, and before
I could cross the room I was caught
and carried by everyone flooding out.
When we thronged into the lecture hall I secured
the first empty seat on the bottom tier.
I expect height to incite vertigo, but as the presenter
apprised us the campus boasted its own ZIP Code
and while classes convened College Park trailed only
Baltimore as the state’s most peopled city, a disembodying
faintness fell on me, sweat prickled through pores all over,
and I cupped my hands to my mouth as my
stomach spasmed up only air.
That past summer,
I could long for faces like Audrey’s that three years
assured me I could enjoy fond response from;
I could make my intrepid way to points in the city,
a teacher or friend once conducting me;
I could swagger up to an interviewee or into
meetings confident in the clout of a newspaper’s name.
Next fall, though, would replay on a magnified scale
my plight on entering Roosevelt: drowning amid a
crush of peers who would flaunt their fashions, get drunk
and laid, train to chase money, to whom I could only
be a taciturn nerd whose beige cardigan sagged,
baggy, on his undersized body.
By the time I’d recognize friends with
greatness of soul, divergent goals would compel us
to part. Then my one-man melodrama would encore,
its stage swollen to the whole globe.
The queasiness receded
as the presenter finished and announced two ensuing
choices for sampling the college’s scholarship:
a talk upstairs on the fantastic imminent
craze of books read on hand-held machines
and, here, one on Aphra Behn. I didn’t see
Audrey in either the terraces of chairs
or the file of prospects about to migrate again.
A strong clear voice from above and behind
averred, “I’m not going to whatever
most people go to”; I turned and tilted my chin
to spot the girl from the outer room ensconced
in her student desk—white garb and red hair radiant
like England’s first Elizabeth enthroned.
William and Mary’s writer-spy captured my interest,
yet throughout I felt the gaze of the dream-queen
I’d never meet from the heights of the room
at the professor pass over my head.
Robert Levine (author) from Brookline, Massachusetts on January 11, 2019:
Thank you, Dora! By the way, happy belated 70th birthday!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 10, 2019:
The student experience you describe in such details is so relatable. One could see the structures and feel the emotions. You write very well.