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.
Never go to Olin Library without a backpack. I thought no one would notice me slink off to the stacks, unencumbered by my heavy backpack, but APPARENTLY Olin is a hopping hub of activity the Monday night before Thanksgiving Break. My first mistake was stopping to chat to two of my friends on the corner of Williams and High on the way to my mission.
“Where ya goin’?” one asked. I replied truthfully, and said I was going to Olin.
“Are you….are you going to check out a book?” They couldn’t think of anything more far-fetched.
“Maybe!” I was looking for a way out of the conversation, but without my backpack, I couldn’t pretend to have any urgency.
“Are you just going to fuck around in the stacks?” Bingo!
“Yep! Gotta go! Bye!” And I left them at the street corner, puzzled and mildly amused.
The second mistake was staying on the second floor. Between the two study wings, the stacks are a superhighway for students going to the bathroom, taking phone calls, or even checking out books. My accomplice and I browsed the Art History section, then the Philosophy section, searching for a private corridor. Across the hall, we heard uneven footsteps.
“What kind of footsteps are those?,” my accomplice scoffed. “They’ve got uneven legs.” I shushed them, and we kept walking. The footsteps faded away.
A few minutes after we had accomplished our primary goal, we were back in the Art History section, flipping through biographies of Munch and Tápies. Enveloped in my text, I nearly bumped into a red-faced and giggly classmate.
“Sorry!” she grinned. “I sprained both of my ankles!”
I could tell she knew what had gone down. I didn’t even have my backpack to form a flimsy excuse.
I was standing in my high-rise kitchen, boiling water in a pot on the stove to make coffee. My roommate forgot the electric kettle, so there I was, demonstrating my ability to cook an elaborate meal of boiled water. While tending to my very complicated breakfast, I heard voices and I froze. My roommate was gone, but I didn’t think it was my neighbors, because when I got closer to the door, I couldn’t hear the voices anymore. I know the walls are thin, but I didn’t think I would be able to smell bacon wafting into my kitchen and hear the gentle sounds of “Eye of the Tiger” at 9 a.m. How could I hear every word in my kitchen, but nowhere else in the apartment? More importantly, diary, could anyone hear NPR’s Morning Edition that I was blasting at full volume?
Sitting on the toilet over fall break, I heard the very distinct sounds of The Office theme song. My apartment is adjacent to the elevator, but who would be watching The Office in the elevator? I realized the air vents must be connected to other apartments. Since that fateful day over fall break, I have heard someone playing the flute, a full-blown argument over FIFA, and what I think was a break up, but I can’t be sure. In the age of cell phones, I’ve never been able to eavesdrop on landline phone conversations from another line in the house. Maybe, just maybe, the high rise vents will help me achieve my Molly Ringwald dreams.
Every Friday, in the hour between my work shift ending and Weshop closing, I make my way across Foss in order to secure the most important part of my weekend: exactly two bananas, one for each weekend morning, in an attempt to justify a pail from Swings or a bagel at home as part of a “balanced breakfast”. It’s become a kind of ritual for me. No matter the temperature, no matter the rain or snow or wind, I’ve made this weekly trip (with very few exceptions) for the better part of my two and half years here. If I do end up missing it, my whole night feels a bit off-kilter, not to mention how absolutely unbalanced my Saturday breakfast ends up feeling.
On a Friday a few weeks ago, I stayed a bit late at work. By the time I got to Foss, it was already 5:30 and dark—and I wanted nothing more than to get my pair of bananas and make my way back home. As I started across that dirt path, though, I noticed two small lights weaving their way back and forth and up and down Foss.
“Hey, are you guys looking for something?” I called out to the dark.
A voice answered: “I lost my phone!”
I checked the time—5:40. It would be close, but I figured I could be a good Samaritan and still get my potassium fix. I pulled the flashlight out of my backpack and started searching through the grass.
It took a while for me to find, but when I finally did, I called out for the others to let them know. The phone was a little wet, but otherwise in one piece. They introduced themselves, and asked what I was up to. I explained my Friday tradition, and went to hand the phone back– and as I did, the screen lit up.
6:00, on the dot.
I had missed my window, but for a good cause. Was it worth my banana-less weekend? Maybe.
But next time, I’ll split a little earlier.
Sasha Linden-Cohen can be reached at email@example.com.