I’ve never been to Antarctica. I have not experienced the eerie silence that follows a violent tornado, nor the overbearing soundlessness of a deep-sea excursion. I try, as a general policy, to spend as little time as possible in cemeteries. So why do I find myself in the midst of a bizarre silence that’s descended on campus? Here at the College of William and Mary, we are all getting ready for the late-semester deep freeze.
We’re deep into November in Williamsburg — the holiday season for all intents and purposes — yet I hear no sleigh bells or carolers. The late-autumn breeze brings little but the sound of shuffling pages, typing keys and the dull thud of exhausted foreheads hitting desks in dorm after dorm. Freshmen don’t yet know about the ice age, which descends upon Williamsburg in the last month of any semester, but I see upperclassmen all over campus taking steps of preparation, fortifying their rooms like a militia getting ready for “the big one.”
As I sit in my Ludwell apartment writing this column, I swear I can hear, over the slight clicks of my keyboard, the bartender at the Green Leafe, normally so busy on a Sunday night, drumming her fingers along the top of the bar. We could probably tap out Morse code to each other across campus, were we so inclined. SOSL, I’d say — Save Our Social Lives.
Look out your window, and you’re likely to see no more than one person at any time trudging along, not wanting to give the impression that they, God forbid, were having any fun. It seems as though the campus has agreed, without anyone saying much of anything at all, on a self-imposed curfew. It occurred to me last year, as I read a book on the history of Europe: People during the plague managed to enjoy themselves more than this.
What they didn’t have was that great sanctuary: The library. Once you make it past the throng of smokers huddled outside the door — staring off into the darkness, as though remembering better days — you get to the real nexus of campus social life in November and December. Students here flock to the library in numbers rivaling the populations of small Central American nations, and take themselves more seriously than Michael Vick at a dog kennel. If the U.S. Army could somehow relocate the third floor of Swem to Baghdad, I’m not saying the insurgents would give up, but they’d sure as hell be forced to get quiet in a hurry. I’ve seen people sleeping in the library in such ludicrously contorted positions as to make me think that they were studying not to secure a job after college, but in pursuit of a life on the streets.
My fellow collegiates, don’t think me crass for addressing these problems so bluntly. I believe in the audacity of hope. I believe that we, here, can bring about change. It will not be an easy task, but a task worth doing rarely is. It will take all of us, working together, in a great union, to resist the seasonal hibernation of our inner Bacchus — to assert our collective right to party. And, if we have our way, we just may be able to transform the students of our campus into the three-dimensional beings called people, in which case I’ll see you at the delis. Shots are on you.
__Brad Clark is a Confusion Corner columnist. He doesn’t dare venture into the third floor of Swem past October.__