A world without windows

By Chris Shores

Ellie Rulon-Miller/Collegian


Free the mind of the temptation to jump to grand metaphors or clever analogies to some deeper idea about the college experience. Think instead of reality and the literal powers a window possesses.

When surrounded by walls, floors and ceilings, the window is the only connection to the outside world. Light shines through it, enabling one to observe surroundings and stay in tune with the sun as it moves through the sky.

But I spent a vast majority of my college experience in window-less rooms.

Without windows, it is impossible inside the Massachusetts Daily Collegian office to know what is happening outside. Blizzards could occur, fires could rage. News would reach us eventually, but by messenger – through the Web or by a traveler making his or her way from the upstairs Campus Center level.

Time loses meaning in a world without windows. Under fluorescent lights, 4 p.m. literally looks the same as 4 a.m. Nighttime has been known to play tricks, fast-forwarding through minutes in rapid speed when people aren’t paying attention.

Memories blur. The timeline is all disjointed, as if someone took the puzzle pieces of my life at UMass and threw them into the air.

It’s 5 a.m. in November. We haven’t spoken in an hour. I’m struggling to find the balance of boss and best friend. Are the hours we spend here worth anything? Is there some sanity behind these sleepless nights?

I’m a sophomore, hiring people for the first time in my life. She walks in and her smile lights up the room. Within two years, she’ll become one of my closest friends, but I don’t know that now.

May 1, 2011. The night editor turns to me and says, “Osama bin Laden is dead.” Fireworks explode in the sky and on my computer screen. Four hours after midnight, the video is almost complete. Janitors have arrived to clean up our mess.

I hang up the phone. It’s 2010 when I collapse on the couch. Blood flows freely inside my leg. It is taking all the strength I have to hold back the tears.

It crosses my mind that if it weren’t for this setting, I wouldn’t have the courage to talk to her. And now, I’m sitting at a different desk on a different day, typing an email with a message I never wanted to send.

It’s 2008 and I’m shocked when the managing editor remembers my name.

Four years later, I’ve been awake for over 24 hours. My head is titled upward, I’m staring at the fluorescent bulbs. Is light the absence of dark or is dark the absence of light? I can’t process what they are saying to me. My mind feels empty.

She can’t officially tell me she got the job, but she is beaming. The editors watch with amused expressions as she tries to contain herself, to pretend that she didn’t just hear the news of her year. I’ve never been so proud to be her friend.

Pencils are tossed vertically into the air. A yellow ball flies through the sky. She pours me another drink. The candy cane dissolves into the liquid.

Everything that could have gone wrong did tonight. My mind is moving faster than my fingers. I’m begging the night to slow down, just once. The Super Bowl clock ticks to an end.

It’s been 10 years since the towers fell and I’m listening to the stories again and again, rewinding and fast-forwarding the recordings to get the quotes right. I’m looking at the paper they created that day and I’m hoping I’ll make them proud.

The two-hour conversation ends and we pack our bags to go home. It hits me all of a sudden how much I will miss this place.

I leave the office and walk into the parking garage. There is a moment when I see outside light for the first time in 12 hours. It’s 6:30 a.m. and I drive out into a world that is just beginning to wake.

Without windows, chronology crumbles. I know how to properly rearrange the elements of a news article, but I can’t sort out my last four years. September 2008 looks the same as May 2012, even though they couldn’t be more different.

How can I move on from this place without windows? I wonder how my life will change when I’m forced to accept that there is still a world outside.

Chris Shores was the Collegian’s managing editor. He can be reached at [email protected]