The depressing realities of an average collegiate experience

By Isaac Himmelman

You’re hung over. Your home smells like a dive bar bathroom stall. You’re on your hands and knees wiping up glass and blood off a living room floor.

If say, at 32 years old, you find yourself in this position, it may be time for some serious life-path reassessment. On the other hand, if you’re a college student living off campus, this scenario might accurately describe a standard Sunday afternoon for you and your collegiate cohorts.

If you live on one of the streets that border campus, streets like Fearing or Phillips – streets that freshmen girls feel safe walking down seeing as they can still see their Southwest high rises glowing at them in the distance like an overcrowded government housing project – you’ve already had one of these afternoons. In fact, you probably find these afternoons to be fairly commonplace.

I live on one of these streets. By default, rather than by design, mind you. I procrastinated on housing and ended up finding an open room in a house on Craigslist. The rest is history. Or rather, the rest is Sunday afternoons spent wiping up glass and blood off a living room floor.

The last time anyone in my family had to wipe up blood and glass off a living room floor it was following a Pogrom. But glass and blood on a living room floor isn’t always the result of Tsarist anti-Semitism or German Fascism. Sometimes it’s the result of something as simple as a shattered black light and a drunken freshman girl deciding that 1:30 in the morning at college party is the perfect moment to take off one’s heels and run around a strange house barefoot.

Of course, other times the glass and blood is the result of foul play. Like say, when some fat guy in blackface smashes an empty Quervo bottle over your friend’s head in your kitchen. Why, you might ask, would a guy show up to your home in blackface? It could be he’d misread your party’s Facebook event, and thought “dress-up” party meant dress up as Robert Downey Jr.’s character in “Tropic Thunder,” rather then wear a button-down and some slacks.

This is what might be considered a logical explanation. I, however, believe the fat guy in blackface smashing an empty tequila bottle over your friend’s head should be viewed the same way one views a splash of color in a Jackson Pollack painting, or the ethereal untangling of marijuana smoke out of your roommate’s nostrils. These things are pieces of a grand and indecipherable pattern, best understood not rationally, but rather viscerally. That is to say, life on Phillips and Fearing Street follows its own cosmic logic.

Then there are moments, and hopefully these moments are few and far between, but there are moments when the blood you’re wiping up off your living room floor is your own blood. Like, say, when a girl’s angry boyfriend rocks you in the face with a right cross. These moments tend to lead to serious self-reflection.

Did you deserve it? Perhaps you weren’t acting the consummate host by publically coming on to his girl. If that were the case, said boyfriend was only defending his honor, as well as a precious if not completely tenuous notion of manhood.

Perhaps the larger question to ask though would be, do we ever deserve to have our blood spilled in our own home? And then you stop wiping up blood for a moment and you take a good look at your home, at the paint peeling off the walls and the floor stained with beer and Timberland boot prints. This is your home. Well, at least until the semester ends. At least until you pack your things, your sneakers, your Christmas lights and your Biggie posters.

This house is your home until you pack the small incidental possessions you’ve acquired over your collegiate career into cardboard boxes. And then your mom picks you up, and maybe you move back home for a bit.

Perhaps later you move on to some generic American city, a Dallas or a Cleveland, where you’re given a cubicle and a desk, and what you do in your cubicle is not the point. Rather the point is, you’ve moved past those four years spent on that strange campus in western Massachusetts, where you learned things from professors, sure, but you also learned things from having to wipe up your own blood off a living room floor.

You sit back at your desk, and you can’t put your feet up because your cubicle is too small, and you can’t look out the window because you don’t have a window, so you sit there, both legs asleep, thinking, “If I could do it all over again, would I have done things differently? Would I have chosen to make a home for myself somewhere in the great secluded beyond, past the center of town and past North Pleasant Street? Hadley? Sunderland? Perhaps I could have chosen to stay in the dorms. I could have given up independence for the comfort of included-utilities, and the security of not having fat guys in blackface wandering through my kitchen.”

Then you look up at your computer monitor, where on the top left corner you’ve taped a small photograph of you and your old college roommates. You’re all in your old house; sweating, holding red cups, eyes blood shot. And you’re all smiling, because the night is still young, and you’re still young – and that’s when you realize that if you could do it all over, you wouldn’t change a thing.

Isaac Himmelman is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]