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.
The first snow of the season arrived in Middletown on a Thursday evening. But the week had tired me out, and I was in no mood for the cold. I longed to spend the night indoors, appreciating the beautiful blanket of white from the warmth of my bedroom. There would be other opportunities to frolic.
A few friends joined me to lounge, and drink hot cider. Four or five of us snuggled together in my bed, positioned like the grandparents from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, looking wistfully at the soft snow falling just outside my window. We spotted a few kids building a snowman and then some students having a snowball fight as they made the trek up to Olin. Fresh, fluffy snow, I thought to myself, brings with it a sense of peace and playfulness that no other weather can conjure. It’s entirely different from the business and social chaos that accompany the first few days of spring, and altogether distinct from October’s brisk optimism.
But as we lay in my bed, relishing in the temporary joy brought on by the storm, I discovered a scene taking place out the window that didn’t belong in the Christmas movie that had seemed to constitute my world. A car, which looked hardly distinct from its snowy backdrop, was stuck on High Street. The revving engine grabbed our attention and we gathered ’round the window to observe the struggle. Heaps of snow surrounded the vehicle on either side, and the driver’s maneuvering seemed to be ineffective.
“Cut it! Cut it back!” I yelled, out of instinct more than anything. The driver, of course, could not hear me.
One friend hopped out of bed, and walked over to my desk, which is situated against a window. He leaned against the desk and squinted his eyes.
“They need to dig out the wheels,” he said, as he shook his head.
Another friend got onto her knees and pressed her nose to the glass.
“I don’t know dude, it’s a Sedan,” she said. “It may never work.”
“Oh look! Those people are trying to help,” I said.
Two passers-by had stopped to see if there was anything they could do to aid the poor driver, and after a brief conversation through the passenger seat window, I saw the two of them head to the back of the car and press their hands on either side of the trunk, legs positioned to use their body weight to push.
I heard a faint, “Go!”
“Isn’t that dangerous?” my friend said, still leaning against the desk. “No! Stop! Don’t! You’re gonna get crushed!”
Of course, they couldn’t hear us.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” I muttered under my breath, forehead glued to the window.
A minute later, they gave up on the plan, and waved a sorry, goodbye, and good luck to the woeful driver.
We watched some more until finally, the car emerged from the wall of snow surrounding it.
“YEAHHHHH THEY GOT IT!”
We laughed and high-fived and settled under the covers once again.
Perhaps there are some groups of people for whom the snow brings about more trouble than peace, I thought to myself. The next time it snows, I’ll be thinking about car-owners. Such reflection, however, will still take place from the comfort of my bedroom.
A lot of us have stories from last year about the skunks on campus—disconcertingly large shadows in the dark that would seemingly come out of nowhere, making us jump. I remember at least three, all with their own little territories where they patrolled once the sun went down.
I passed one in particular, right near the observatory at the top of Foss, almost every night. The first few times, I was taken by surprise, but I quickly learned when and where to expect to see her and how wide of a berth to give. I’m happy to say I made it through the whole year without getting sprayed, and even managed to get pretty close a few times. She was pretty cute, I think, and seeing her became a nightly staple of the walk back to my dorm.
But something changed by the end of the spring semester. I started seeing my furry friend less and less, and then not at all. It made me sad, but I assumed she had just joined her friends elsewhere on campus. As I talked to acquaintances who lived near the other skunk-domains, though, a darker picture started to come into focus. It seemed that all of them, almost all at once, disappeared from campus.
Where had they gone? I was privy to optimism, imagining that constant student interruption just got to be too much, and they all took off for more peaceful pastures— the parking lot behind Metro, or Long Lane, or something like that.
Others, though, told me their theories— theories that were a lot less rosy than the nice little skunk vacation I had dreamed up. Conspiracy theories started to crop up. Roth captured them and is keeping them as pets, one friend told me. They’re part of some scientific experiments in the basement of Exley, said others.
The prevailing theory, though, suggested that the University had quietly removed the skunk presence from campus.
I found myself devolving into pessimism, my mind jumping to the worst possible scenarios. It was a dark spiral, darker even than those beady little eyes on the skunk I missed so much. I had more or less given up hope.
Just last weekend, though, I was walking behind Van Vleck, and out of the corner of my eye, I spied a flash of movement. Squinting into the dark, I could have sworn I saw a bushy tail disappear into the bushes. Was it my old friend, letting me know all was well? I guess there’s no way to know for sure.
But that shadow in the dark, that glimpse of a tail, was just enough to give me hope.
The other day I saw a snake at the gym. A real live snake, slithering around the Freeman lobby. By the time I ran into him, he was being coaxed back outside to the roundabout, where hopefully he might once again find some wilderness.
Most of the exposure I have had to snakes has been via Steve Irwin and the occasional zoo. To see one up close was not as exciting as I would have thought. My first thought was, “long way from home, buddy.”
And then of course, being narcissistic, I compared the snake to myself. For I too, am a long way from home. How did a snake wind up at the gym? How did I wind up in Connecticut? Why did a snake wind up at the gym? Am I not fit for any of my living environments? What would he have done there? Slither on the treadmill? What am I even doing at the gym? Choosing to spend time on adult hamster machines on a daily basis?
All I know is, I really hope that snake finds his way back home.
-Camille De Beus
Sasha Linden-Cohen can be reached at email@example.com.