He rolled over in his bed and looked at the curtains covering the solitary window. Their pale translucence revealed that this day would be like the last; slightly overcast but not so much that when he looked up he couldn't tell where the sun was. He lay still in bed for a few moments more until the shouts outside, muffled by five stories of height, reminded him that he was still in the city, and there were things he needed to do. As he rolled out of bed and turned on the light, he thought of his friends so far away. He rushed that thought out of his head in favor of happier ones, and headed for the showers.
Feeling only a little refreshed, he returned to his room. He thought it was rather interesting that no matter how much light there was in the room it still managed to be mildly depressing. It was odd, then, that he spent so much time here, he thought. Maybe because a mildly depressing place is most comfortable to a mildly depressed person he chuckled to himself. Or maybe because it was all he could truly call his own, his only escape from the raw superficiality that he saw inherent in the college campus. Putting on his shirt, he paused, thinking about this superficiality and the incredible lack of depth of those who surrounded him in the dorms.
Giving the room a once-over to make sure he had what he needed, he turned to leave, checking himself in the mirror as he did so, aware of the hypocrisy of complaining about superficiality and then making sure he looked all right. Locking the room behind him, he proceeded down the stairs. He never took the elevators, he simply didn't see the need as he was never in that great a hurry, though you wouldn't know by watching him. He stepped outside and put on his sunglasses for the walk to the campus computer lab nearest to his dorm. He almost always wore his sunglasses these days, partially because his eyes were sensitive to sunlight, but he had a nagging feeling that it had more to do with keeping his eyes hidden than anything else.
He couldn't quite put his figure on why he wanted to keep his eyes hidden, but he had an inkling that it was a way for him to shield himself from the city people. He could never figure out these city people, they exuded a strange empty feeling. To him it was almost as though they were all the same person, all of them just shells controlled by the city's consciousness rather than their own. He had a vague idea that if he stayed too long in the city, or if he let his guard down he would become one of these city people without noticing; the thought frightened him terribly. He figured that this was why he always appeared to be in a hurry as well, something inside told him to spend as little time on trivial things, like his classes, as was possible without sacrificing the quality of his work. To him, time spent in quiet reflection was more valuable than anything else.
By this time he had reached the computer lab, it was still early enough that he could find an open workstation and get started. As he waited for the computer to log him in, he thought for a moment about his laptop, which had been on back order for the last nine weeks and showed no sign of being shipped anytime soon. He longed for the ability to do without the computer labs, they were noisy, the computers were slow and unstable, and technical support offered very little support with even less technical knowledge. After he had found what he needed, he checked his E-mail. He didn't find anything but junk mail. He hadn't really expected anything else, it was still too soon for his friends to have returned his E-mails. Once every week or so he got a message from one of them, and he wasn't disappointed that he hadn't gotten a message this time.
He collected his pointless printouts for his Information Science class and headed back towards the dorms. Back outside to hide behind his dark lenses and avoid the city people. The weather was cool, but he liked it that way, he preferred that it be a little brisk, it kept his blood flowing more vigorously than normal. The city people, however, seemed not to like the coolness, they moved faster than usual and appeared a little stiff, like a machine operating just beyond design tolerances. As he entered the dorm lobby, he checked his watch, eleven-thirty, past his usual lunch time. (He never ate breakfast, rather, he started every day with lunch at around eleven.) He decided that it would be best to drop his printouts in his room, rather than risk spilling food on them. On his way up, he picked up his daily paper. The front page proudly proclaimed it to be "One of America's Great Newspapers", he thought this was a great stretch. To him the paper was good for only four things; the editorials which helped him keep tabs on how ignorant most people were, the comics which helped him to laugh at life, the television listings which were used mainly to determine if there were any good movies like 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' airing that day, and for use as a placemat when he brought food into his room.
Having deposited the daily paper and the printouts in the room, he went back down into the cafeteria for his lunch. He was a fairly finicky eater; he had never cared for anything but the simplest of foods. Plain beef, pork, and chicken were what appealed to him, don't bother with fancy sauces or dressings, salt and pepper were good enough for him. Put a little mashed potatoes and some corn on the side and he was in heaven. But that wasn't around in abundance here, and his usual lunch consisted of a hamburger or pizza, neither of which was especially palatable to him, but they sufficed. As usual he ate alone, more by choice than anything else. He had never been a very social person even though he was quite likable. He just didn't gather energy from large groups as other people seemed to, large groups drained his mental energy, and he needed this time to himself every day.
He finished his lunch and returned again to his room, where he read a few more pages in his assigned book about the War of Eighteen Hundred and Twelve before heading out for his Calculus class. He hated Calculus, not because it came difficult to him, quite the opposite, the class was far too slow for him. He was two weeks ahead on the computer assignments and the written assignment were laughable, though he was furious at not being able yet to use the shortcuts he had learned a year prior in High School. Today's lecture covered second third and fourth derivatives and their significance, all this he had learned in High School Calculus and Physics. He spent the time remembering his old school and the friends he had there still, as well as the friends who had, like him, gone off to various colleges around the country. He wondered how his friends still in High School were doing, especially the very special one he had only just met that May, and he wondered how his best friend was doing at Dartmouth, and he wondered how a wonderful friend he had made in his Senior year was doing at Ohio University, and finally he wondered how his oldest friend and his cousin were doing in their respective branches of the Armed Forces.
The class finally over, he hurried to his next class. More sunglasses and city people. As he walked along the street he again marveled at just how brave the pigeons were in the city. The birds walked right up to people, displaying none of the flightiness to which he was accustomed. Back home he wouldn't have given a nickel for one of the fat little birds, but here they among nature's only vestiges and that was enough to make him appreciate them. The only birds he had seen in the city so far had been a few assorted sparrows, a crow or two, and the aforementioned pigeons. He knew that there had to be chimney swifts somewhere and that it was very likely that a falcon or two called some of the taller buildings home, but he had yet to see them. Nature's absence disturbed him, but he was more disturbed by the city people's apparent apathy towards this. Their idea of nature was the sparsely treed lawn in front of the Student Union. He thought of a line from the song 'Dear Diary' by the Moody Blues, "If they weren't so blind then surely they'd see, there's a much better way for them to be."He felt this applied perfectly to the city people.
His next class was beginning, and unlike Calculus he paid close attention as it interested him greatly. This was an introduction to Shakespeare class taught through the honors college, and though he often took longer to see the allegory in Shakespeare's works than the other students did owing to his left-brained nature he found it quite stimulating. The class passed quickly for him; he never could figure out where the time went. He left the class feeling better than he had all day, but still not good enough to forego his sunglasses as he returned to his dorm. He had about forty-five minutes to himself before he had to leave his room for his next class, and he spent it in the book on the War of Eighteen Hundred and Twelve. He had always found history in general to be fascinating, military history was even more so. Mostly it was the machines that interested him, but the policy and strategy also intrigued him. He left for his class about the America Way of War, the one he had been reading the book for, about a half hour early. The class was popular, and small; if he wanted to get a seat at the table so he could take notes more easily he had to leave early.
When he arrived in the classroom there were already four of five people there with more coming in behind him. The professor, a retired Colonel, was usually the last person in the room, and this was no exception. The Colonel didn't seem to like lecturing, preferring question and answer. As he took in the Colonel's discussion, he couldn't help but think of his friend in the Army National Guard and his cousin in the Air National Guard. He knew his both would survive physically, but he worried about his cousin surviving mentally. His cousin had a troubling habit of blindly accepting what so-called experts said. He knew that his cousin would not be able to question the things he was being told in boot camp, and that worried him greatly. Of all the things that he found distasteful, blind following was the worst. He hated to see people accept what was told to them without scrutiny. As he drifted out of that thought pattern and back into the class, he realized that the time had flown by as it usually did and the class was nearly over.
Leaving the American Way of War and walking to his Information Science class, he pondered the city through the dark lenses one more time. There was something different this time, it had been so long since the last time he had smelled fresh cut grass that it took him a second to realize what it was. He inhaled the aroma deeply, it reminded him of the acre and a half of yard that awaited him back home. The scent invigorated him, though once again the city people seemed incapable of notice. He scarce had time to enjoy it, though. His Information Science class started soon and even though he hated it, he couldn't allow himself to be late. Tardiness was not the least in his list of distasteful things. The class chugged on from five-forty five until it ended at eight. Two and a quarter hours of mental stupor were enough for him, and he quickly re-engaged his mind and left the class promptly at eight. He no longer needed his dark lensed glasses as twilight became his shield. The city looked better at night, he suspected it was because there was less of it to be seen.
Before he returned to his room, he stopped at the student union for a Pizza Hut pizza to take back to the dorm with him, it was well past his usual supping time and he was more than a little hungry. The union had the best food on campus and he could use his meal plan there as well, making it a fairly popular place. Returning to his room, he found it to be no more or less than he had left it. The two fluorescent lights were humming unobtrusively as he flopped onto his bed and flipped on the television. Surfing through the channels he came across 'Raiders Of The Lost Arc' on Sci Fi. He stretched himself out on the bed and opened the pizza box, savoring the aroma and thinking of his last home-cooked meal some three weeks ago. He thought of his family back in Ohio, and missed them. Mostly he missed having someone to go to when he had things on his mind. He was slow to open up to people, and he knew it would be a long time before he had someone at the college in whom he could confide.
From there his mind wandered to a person who was the only exception to that rule, a girl he had only known since May of that same year. From the beginning they had just sort of clicked, and they fast became close friends. She called him often, despite the long distance charges, and they talked about whatever came up in conversation. He remembered when they had first gotten to know each other an people would constantly ask if they were going out, and he laughed to himself. He had never figured out why it was so hard for people imagine that a boy and girl could start out as platonic friends without any intention of ever changing that. By this time the pizza, the movie, and he were all finished. He switched the television off, threw out the pizza box, undressed and crawled underneath the covers. He reached over an shut off the humming fluorescent light, and looking out the window wished he could see the stars over the light from the streetlamps. As he closed his eyes and faded into sleep the last thought to go through his head was "Will people like it if I put up a page on my website about a day in my life? Oh hell, it's my website and I'll put the page up anyway."
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Last Updated: October 13, 2000