Counting the days.

This weekend is homecoming at Dartmouth.

We do all sorts of crazy things. The freshmen sweep around the campus and then around an enormous bonfire. Nothing like a good mass pagan ritual- they run and the upperclassmen yell at them and we get rained on by ash and have small holes burned in our sweaters and try to watch for the naked guy (there’s always one) and laugh at the world.

The seniors run too, but not as far. Up main street, around the green, getting ready for the 'shmen and all of their crazy energy.

And then everyone gets drunk and dances all night.

Then the next day we all go out again and dance all night once more.

There’s something about fall in New England. Those last weeks before winter really clobbers you when the leaves aren’t quite as bright as they were last month but they’re still beautiful; a drive down the highway can break your heart with all of its grandeur- the reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. I like the maples best.

And it’s the way the night smells in the late fall. When you’re going to dance all night and loving it, a little nervous though because you’re drunk and it’s crowded and girls with haircuts like mine who are dancing with another girl like that aren’t fooling anyone and there’s a little bit of danger in that and it’s exhilirating every time you run your hands down her hips and there’s just something the way the night smells when you walk out after a few hours with your ears ringing still a little drunk and knowing that if the girl you were dancing with asked you wouldn’t say no, but that’s not the sort of luck that’s yours tonight.

It’s the fire and the dancing and the drinking. Knowing that this is the last fall that I’ll live in New England in all realism- all of the grad schools I want are on the west coast, and even if that doesn’t work I’m not staying in Hanover. I’ll never have another fall here as an undergraduate; I’ll be relagated to the crusty alumni status in a matter of months.

I’ve stepped down from my nonprofit job that I’ve had since I was 15. Soon I’ll write my last column for the gay newspaper I’ve been writing for since I was 16. I don’t feel particularly young anymore. At 21 I can see my life stretching in front of me in a predictable sort of way- grad school, PhD, teaching job- and I kind of like that.

My sophomore year I moved out of my house for all intents and purposes. I moved into my frat house, where I’ve lived ever since. It’s my home, more than my own ever was in some ways. I came here because it was a way out of Delaware. I had to leave; everything I did in high school was so that I could get out of that state. I never expected to fall in love with this college, with its buildings and valley and river and bonfires and nights where thousands of people decide that dancing and drinking and thinking and studying all kinds of lofty things are the best ideas ever. And really, they are.

I’m going to miss this place.

andygirl, one of our friends went to Dartmouth, graduating in the 1950’s. It is still a focal point of his life and he gets together with classmates. It must be really something!

I can certainly identify with love of place – especially New England. If I had ever actually lived there, I don’t think I could ever have left.

You are understandably mistaken about one thing – the predictability of your life. I thought the same thing at your age.

I see your future!

You think you are going to be riding a carousel. But the horse you choose is actually a wild horse and will carry you far away on amazing journeys.

Find a name for your horse.

Then take a deep breath, hold onto her mane, and wait for the music to start…

I suppose I mean predictability in the broad sense- I suppose that things might drastically change, but there’s been very few drastic changes in my life and most of them haven’t changed my focus.

But then, I suppose that’s an open invitation for something to pull the rug out from under me.

And Zoe, I would agree that Dartmouth gets in your blood. It’s a little odd like that.

Just wait till you’re an alumnus and the school starts hitting you up for alumni donations. I’m talking not even a year after leaving the place! Sheesh.

not Dartmouth in my case, btw