Based on the New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diaries,” the Middletown Diaries will include awkward, funny, novel, or sweet anecdotes, stories, or memories that happen at Wesleyan and in Middletown. To submit to the Middletown Diaries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were running way behind schedule. I’d had plans to make dinner with a friend in 15 minutes, and now we’d gone and burned the cookies. My housemate and I quickly split them up onto two plates, scurried out the back door, and dashed up the hill to our neighbors’.
With a pang of nerves, I knocked on the first front door. We stood patiently; footsteps shuffled down a long flight of stairs.
Finally, a bright-eyed but confused woman opened the door.
“Hello,” she said curiously, leaning out of the doorway.
“Hi there,” we said, an awkward moment of silence passing. “Um, we’re your neighbors! We share a back fence, and, uh, we wanted to bring you cookies and introduce ourselves.” She stared at us for a moment or two, and then her face lit up.
“Oh, oh my gosh! Wow, that’s nice,” she opened the door wider. “Sorry, but I have to ask… Why?”
“Well, we’re from places where this is normal,” we said, and she asked where. My housemate: Nebraska. Me: Texas. “In our neighborhoods, you always bring cookies and meet your neighbors.”
“Ah, I see,” she replied. “We don’t do this in Brooklyn.” She was a veteran at Wesleyan, and we talked for a bit, about ourselves and our studies, and she brought down her fluffy, excitable dog to meet us, sending us into a thrilled frenzy.
The couple in the other half of the duplex was also kind to us. The woman in the next house over was friendly, too, and offered us wisdom for our college years.
“Travel if you can,” she insisted. “Make memories with your friends.”
Maybe we should’ve apologized for the burned cookies we hid at the bottom of their plates, but I hope they appreciated the gesture all the same.
Now, we know our Middletown neighbors, and our wood frame house feels a little more like home.
Over fall break I worked on Theresa Govert’s campaign for Connecticut’s General Assembly in the 34th district. The 34th district includes East Haddam, East Hampton, and a slice of Colchester. When I showed up to canvass on Saturday at Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House & Café in East Haddam, I was greeted by a weathered group of retirees in bright blue shirts and Democratic buttons. Unfortunately, there weren’t any actual cats in the café, just a lot of cat paraphernalia. Sitting down to a table in the back corner, I quickly learned I was the youngest volunteer by about 40 years, and the only one with a paid job. After the canvassing meeting, the volunteers paired off and set out.
My canvassing partner Betty began telling me her life story, in an effort to make conversation. She said she grew up in Connecticut, moved to Washington, D.C. for 30 years to work, but moved back north when she and her husband retired. They lived comfortably in retirement until November 2016 when she said, “We came out of retirement to work full-time for the resistance.” The thought crossed my mind that the majority of the “resistance” were probably retirees who had ample time to resist. “We wanted to live close to UConn, because we’re UConn alums, but we couldn’t find a house we could afford over there.” I nodded, pretending that I too was well-informed about the Connecticut real estate market. “Eventually we settled in East Haddam,” she continued, “because it’s not too far from Wesleyan. Wesleyan does a great job of reaching out to the community! We’ve been to so many lectures and events over there. You all are doing great work.”
Diary, I have to be honest with you, I was surprised. In my two years at Wes, I have heard numerous students publicly complain about the lack of outreach and support from Wesleyan to the Middletown community. I knew Green Street closed, so maybe Wesleyan doesn’t support young Middletown residents, but seems to be taking care of the older population just fine. The next time a student complains to me about lack of outreach, I’ll just say, “Take it up with Betty.”
When I heard the door open, I immediately stopped peeing. “Uh-oh,” I thought to myself, “I hope to God whoever just came in doesn’t have to go number two.” If he did have to use the stall, I would be forced to reveal myself: a veritable lady, and an intruder in the men’s bathroom. I would argue that it’s not really my fault I was using the men’s restroom, because it is the only one in the basement practice studios. Yes, I suppose I could always go upstairs to the women’s restroom located directly above, but not only does that require a considerable amount of effort, but it also just seems wrong. What does it communicate to non-male musicians? That they deserve to walk up the stairs every time they have to pee during a practice session? That the practice studios are really just for the boys? Alas, for the sake of both womankind and my own laziness, I had long determined the downstairs bathroom to be essentially gender-neutral. This determination worked swimmingly until one fateful evening last week, when my mid-practice pee was interrupted by a man, who dare had the nerve to use his rightful bathroom.
My fears that he would wait for me to come out of the stall were soon quelled when I heard the unzipping of pants and the sound of a steady stream, followed by a slightly disturbing sigh. Through the bottom of the stall, I caught a glimpse of his sneakers, duck-footed in front of the urinal, and I wondered if he knew my secret. I was grateful for my androgynous shoes. After zipping up, he made for the sink and I concentrated on not peeing. When he finished washing his hands, I waited for the sound of the closing door which did not come. “What is he doing?!” I wondered. My urge to pee had subsided and I looked around. On the stall door in front of me, a list was scribbled in silver sharpie. “Things I Hate,” reads the title, followed by three items: “1) pooping, 2) lists, 3) irony.” Thankfully, I had already seen and appreciated the list, so I was able to refrain from letting out a chuckle and blowing my cover, as he scrolled through Instagram or popped a pimple or whatever. To my left, the wall was covered in drawings and words. With ample time to pass in the stall, I began to read through the bathroom graffiti. Musical notes were scattered across the wall, tunes were begun and finished with different pens, and conversation threads emanated from the most centrally located questions such as “Das Kapital?” or “Are you happy?” I had just begun to explore the contents of the wall when I heard the door shut. Finally. I emerged from the bathroom with a cold butt and a tired urethra, ready to continue practicing.
Yesterday, I went to the same bathroom. No one came in that time, but I realized mid-pee that the wall had been painted. The only remaining evidence of vandalism in the music studios bathroom is the list. I wished I had a silver sharpie, so I could have added a fourth thing I hate: stairs.
Sasha Linden-Cohen can be reached at email@example.com.