In just a few hours


In just a few hours I'll be leaving campus for the last time this semester. I'll attend my last class (after handing in the dreaded philosophy paper, which bears the unhappy distinction of being the worst paper I have ever written in my life), and take the world's slowest elevator down seven floors for the last time this year. I'll walk past the coffee bar in the humanities building lobby, passing between groupings of 70s-era furniture that is somewhat the worse for wear. Judging by past experience, most of the sagging sofas and easy chairs will be occupied by undergraduates furiously studying for tests, or lolling with their feet propped in unconventional positions while talking about school and social life.

I'll step out into the concrete courtyard in the shadow of the ugly tower. I may spend a couple of minutes chatting with classmates I'm unlikely to ever see again, since I doubt I'll have the opportunity to take any more philosophy classes. Then I'll turn left and trudge up a slight incline and across one of the busier campus streets to the Library. I'll push open the heavy glass and steel doors, flash my ID at the security guard, and walk straight ahead, past the reference desk and a sea of computers with heavy-lidded students staring fixedly at the screens. I'll cross through a glassed-in walkway overlooking a courtyard, the metal tables standing barren in the chill, wearing only socks of crumpled paper wrappers from warm-weather snacks. I'll continue on to the lending desk, drop off the last of my outstanding library books (none of which were harmed in the writing of the aforementioned paper), and head toward the subway stop. I'll amble along the promenade that bisects the campus like a blood vessel, glancing at the shops and convenience stores and dining establishments that line it. I'll stroll pass the odd Stonehenge-ish arrangement of concrete blocks that graces (if one is charitable) the south side of the campus, and turn toward the intersection. I'll pass the park benches and the bus stop and the station for the northbound subway.

I'll wait for the light to change and cross the major thoroughfare in front of an impatient herd of cars. If it is cold and windy, or raining, I'll briefly fantasize about taking a cab home, but instead descend the stairs to the subway, my hand firmly grasping the metal railing with its thick coating of blue paint, since I seem to have developed a fear of falling down stairs.

I feed my token into the slot and wait for the turnstile to thank me electronically before pushing the metal bar with my hip to pass through. I'll wait for the train amid a group of students and local residents. There may or may not be someone relieving themself in a corner or muttering obscenities in a loud voice. When the train comes, I'll slide onto an orange and beige plastic seat and close my eyes, or stare off into space thinking Thoughts. Or maybe just thoughts. When I get to City Hall I'll step through the sliding door and turn right to Exit 3, connecting to the blue line subway. The seats here are blue and upholstered, presumably to better meet the posterior needs of tourists heading to Old City and Independence Mall. If I'm lucky, I'll snag one that isn't broken or ripped or too badly stained.

As the train rushes eastward, I'll ponder whether to get off at 5th or 2nd. If I opt for the former, I'll be greeted by the smell of horse manure from the horse-drawn carriages that populate the most touristy section of town. I'll walk through genteel brick neighborhoods and carefully tended gardens until I get to South Street and turn towards home. If I stick with the latter, my default choice, I'll emerge from the city's maw to a sharp blend of spicy smells from the ethnic restaurants that crowd the self-consciously hip section of Old City. I'll pass through at least four different neighborhoods on my way home, each clearly distinct from the others even without markers or signs.

When I finally reach my building, I'll climb the front steps and check the door anxiously for signs of missed packages, even though I'm not expecting any. I'll step into the vestibule and check my mail, and inevitably be disappointed that there's nothing particularly interesting. I'll take the stairs rather than the elevator so I can enjoy the fleeting sense of shallow virtue that comes with a climbing a single flight of steps.

I'll step into my apartment and close the door behind me with a happy sigh. I'll shrug off my coat and hang it in the front closet, where I'll also leave my shoes. I'll pull on my slippers to protect against the cold hardwood floor. If there was any mail, I'll toss out the junk and put the non-junk on the table for sorting and paying and filing. I'll set my bag on the floor next to my bookcase around the corner, and sit on the couch where my laptop has been patiently awaiting my return.

I'll wonder what I'm going to be doing for the next couple of weeks before I go to Italy for the holidays. All I know is, it won't involve going back to campus, not until next year.

That's what will happen in just a few hours.