Sunday, February 28, 2010


One of the blogs I read is written by a fellow student at MIT who I know peripherally (as, I'm convinced, she knows virtually the entire campus.)

She posted a video of one of her friends singing Beyoncé's "Halo," with various inducements to watch it. The funny thing is (because we don't so much run in the same circles), I know the girl in the video, because she was my first freshman year roommate.

The funnier thing is, because she was only my roommate for maybe two and a half months before she moved into a different room, seeing her reminds me of a very short, very specific frame of time, the time when I was still discovering MIT, still discovering the people here, when some people who would later become good friends seemed new and strange, and others (who I would later regard differently) seemed marvelous and exciting.

I wrote this during my first month here --
For the first week, I had bruises on my legs and torso from looking down when I ought to have been looking forward, or looking up or over when I ought to have been looking down—bruises from running into doors, concrete cubes, railings, and people. My arms were sore from carrying chairs and shelves back from the subway.

This girl, my roommate, sang all the time when we (very briefly) lived together. Every song that came on her iTunes was cause for celebration, a reason to join in. I remember playing my music out loud once while she and I shared the same room.

She asked me if she was bothering me, and maybe it was a little bit much, a little bit on the auditory overload side, but everything was so new that I couldn't say; and I thought she had a nice voice; and I said, No, no you're not bothering me. I'm good. You're good. How could I judge? -- my nerves were raw from a thousand thousand new things, a new city, new people, impossible classes, clumsily pushing out of my shell with cookies and bread, trying to form a new society that would hold me up.

The things that came later -- the things that came later made me wonder, about that time, right at the beginning. I remember that the weather was wonderful the first few months of freshman year; I remember finding the BPL the first time, running through Quincy Market, walking back in the dark from the far-away Target. I remember falling asleep on my bed with no sheets the very first afternoon I was here, exhausted, even though I had guidebooks and pamphlets and I had every intention of walking to Harvard to explore.

The next time I remember falling asleep on a bed with no sheets, my things packed up around me, it was the end of my sophomore year, in a room that I hated; the first part of my MIT life was emptying out and finishing, and the second part of my life, the part where I live in Fenway House in Boston with friends who are different-but-the-same, the part where I walk through Boston in the summer light and the winter light and I get joy of being alone to go with the sadness of being alone, was beginning.

The second falling asleep colored the first, to the point where I kind of believe it didn't really happen, not the way my memory seems to believe it did. I couldn't have been that happy, and the people who surrounded me in that first joyous tumble of a semester couldn't have been that good or that funny. I would guess it is a protective measure, to believe that the first friends I had, the spontaneous awakening of excitement at discovering other real, true people in the world -- that world they created wasn't real, because, after all, they never really liked me that much. The cookies I made didn't taste that good. It was the same sort of shell that we operate in all the time, and I mistook it for being real because I didn't know any better; I reacted as though it were true because I had never experienced anything like it before. How exactly I am protecting myself -- maybe it's better to believe that I was simply delusional than to believe that it fell to pieces.

But --

This girl, who sings "Halo" in this video?

Her voice is really good.

It's better than I remembered.

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