On Staying In Your College Town This Summer

In May, you move your mini-fridge, your clothes, and your duvet from your dorm into an apartment a hundred yards away. The belongings you unpack from worn cardboard boxes aren’t big enough or bright enough to fill this bigger, emptier space, and the next day, you go to a bargain warehouse and buy a striped tablecloth and pink placemats and gauzy curtains. You feel more at home.

Unburdened by your backpack, you wander around campus and notice tiny white flowers on trees and cracked brick sidewalks and meticulously cut, impossibly green grass, and you wonder how you never noticed them before. You work in an office where there’s not much to do, so you play Word Bubbles and shuffle papers and try to figure out how to answer the phone. You gossip with your co-workers, women who wear glasses and sensible shoes and have daughters your age, and you tell them beauty tips you read in Vogue and Glamour while you sit at your desk.

You sit on cushions on the living room floors of strangers and have conversations that seem deeper and more meaningful, somehow, than the ones you usually have. You have little in common with these people you’re spending your summer with, and you’re forced to reach past the I think you might have known someone in my Chinese religion class and the Maybe I saw you at a party, once and grasp at real things. You drink wine, not liquor, out of real glasses, not plastic cups. Your skin gets darker, and your hair gets lighter.

You try to cook, first pasta that’s too hard and too cold, and then chicken that’s too dry. You have one perfect meal of tomatoes and mozzarella and bread from the farmer’s market, and you think that maybe cooking is overrated, that maybe you will never eat anything but this again. You go grocery shopping without lists and you buy impractical but beautiful things: couscous and mangos, balsamic vinegar glaze and fresh basil, pancetta and gelato.

You pick daisies on the side of the road and keep them in an old bottle on your kitchen counter. You climb fences to break into pools and go skinny dipping late at night. When you hear a noise, you press yourself up against the wall and cover your laugh with your hands, just the top of your slick head visible above the water, but you never get caught. You kiss boys who you wouldn’t have noticed before but who are there now, math majors with unkempt hair who wear socks with sandals and philosophy majors whose blue eyes make you forget how pretentious they are.

You stop wearing makeup. You smoke pot and lie in the grass and stare at the sun until orange spots float before your eyes and the blades tickle your calves and you feel your cheeks turning pink. You go to a salon—not the hair kind, but the French kind—where you discuss leisure. You think that having time to sit around and debate the meaning of leisure is probably, in fact, the essence of leisure, and you enjoy this realization.

You do all the things you don’t normally have time to do: you wear sundresses, you try new kinds of sushi, you drive into the city, you write poetry. You make a reading list of all the classics but end up reading best-sellers, which you think is probably more fun anyway. You think of the endless expanse of days until September and you fill it with possibilities: falling in love, getting published, learning to play guitar, to speak Italian, to waltz. It’s too soon to tell, but you think you’ll almost certainly be a different person by the end of summer. TC mark

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  • http://www.facebook.com/seikel Steve Seikel

    Unless you're depressed. Then you  just stay on the couch under a blanket all summer.

    • victoria elliott

      enjoying this comment from my position beneath this afghan

    • victoria elliott

      enjoying this comment from my position beneath this afghan

  • http://www.facebook.com/jade.orlich Jade Mitchell

    I'm jealous of anyone who has a summer that is anything like this.

    • http://twitter.com/andshewasnt genna mae

      It’s wonderful. I hope you get one of these sometime!

  • Andrea

    This is everything my summer is, and I love this elegant summary of it.

  • Guest

    This made me almost okay with growing up.

  • Lilac

    Is this supposed to be a joke??  because its oozing with cliched, almost pretentious sentimentality that I cannot take seriously

  • Diana

    Does wearing sundresses involve a lot of time????

    • Abby

      Hahah, yes! Time or maybe just mental effort. During the school year I mostly wear sweatpants or leggings and t-shirts because I don’t have time/I’m too lazy to try to look nice.

      • NT

        That’s funny, I find sundresses to be the least consuming outfits – only one thing to put on, no matching involved, and they go with any sandals.

  • unimpressed with tc as of late

    this is not well written.

    • Katrina Smith

      you are very very wrong. this is beautifully written!

      • unimpressed

        “impossibly green grass”

      • Elliot

        it’s hard to call anything entirely written in second person beautiful

      • unimpressed

        “the essence of leisure”

    • nick

      So says the guy [troll] who can’t bother with capitalization and elaboration.

  • Woody8248

    Anyone who has stayed in their college town for the summer knows this is spot on. It’s a different world.

  • inflammatorywrit

    Very nice and very accurate. Except I haven’t yet met a philosophy major whose eyes are so blue his pretentiousness falls away. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/anniehighleysmith Annie Highley-Smith

    You had me until you began spending money like a boss.

    Will you buy ME fresh basil?

    • Abby

      Hence the impractical…should have mentioned I spend my entire paycheck on such things and am consequently broke every two weeks. I shall buy you fresh basil with the $6.72 currently in my checking account.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        Can I buy you both… dinner at Sizzlers?

  • Anonymous

    Raleigh is deserted right now… and I love it you can go through all the parks without a million people laying all around you, and it’s all just so beautiful. The skinny dipping part made me laugh too, it’s so much fun especially when you alomst get caught.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    By the way I am extremely disappointed that “masturbate” is not in the article. If I was to stay in my college town this summer [which I currently am], I would masturbate like there’s no tomorrow. C*ME ON ABBY GOSH. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/anniehighleysmith Annie Highley-Smith

      So am I to understand that you currently are masturbating furiously at this moment?

      • Abby

        These comments are killing me. I’m down for Sizzler if you are, Michael Koh.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        Abby, I suggested it so of course I am down [and paying]. We’d just have to bring Annie Highley-Smith along for the ride.

  • formerdore

    don’t know how you picked the image for the article. It is Peabody campus at Vanderbilt University, and it is gorgeous. Nashville has given me some of the greatest summers of my life.

    • Abby

      I have had so many people comment that my descriptions of people/places sound exactly like Vanderbilt, and I’ve never been there in my life. So weird. Maybe I was a Commodore in a former life.

  • Woyzeck

    Alternatively: you eat only bread and walk around with holes in your shoes trying to find work because all your money goes to rehearsal studios and beer. Plus you read Dostoevsky, like a black-and-white minstrel show imagining of an intellectual, just in case you’re not already enough of a cartoon hipflask.

    P.S. I envy you.

  • Damn

    In May, your work study job on campus ends, forcing you out into your economically frail college town looking for minimum wage positions amongst the Burger Kings, Dollar Trees, and Pizza Huts. Last school year you finally got a shithole off-campus apartment with your friends and boy was that freeing! but they returned home and found others to sublet to, so you are forced to live with two or three strangers until the lease is up in August.

    After filling out dozens of applications you get a retail job and almost immediately your schedule is cut down to 15 hours a week due to “the condition the economy’s in” and “sales not being too good this year.” Your apartment is hot and the lighting is poor and it’s right next to the highway so the constant cicada hum from lumbering eighteen wheelers rattles the windows and all you can think about is how you hardly have enough money to cover rent and you’re almost out of food and your EBT card, which you’re slightly ashamed to have, won’t be replenished for another two weeks.

    Your town has very few public amenities and, being sans vehicle, most of your time is spent either in your room watching Netflix and YouPorn and chastising yourself for not reading/writing/being creative/being productive as you should be or wandering around the shitty suburbs just to not be at your apartment.

    You avoid everyone you go to school with who’s also in town for the summer. You drink more than you should. You smoke more than you should (tobacco only–you’re scared of the piss test your high school-age coworkers have been threatened with). You gain some weight and your self-worth goes down a bit. You think about how once you graduate you won’t be qualified for any type of non-menial labor career.

    It’s too soon to tell, but you think you’ll almost certainly be a little less of an actual person by the end of summer.

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