Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 28, 1996 Form

An Undergraduate Life:
Reflections On An
Autumn Night

A Gazette series offering
a first-person account
of a freshman experience.

Stacey Patton

Many times human beings end up floating about in life's cycles and rituals without taking the time to assess their accom- plishments, experiences, feats and failures. Sometimes we have to just "Be still," to stop ourselves even if it is only for a few short moments to just think or to just sit with nothing on our minds.

The other night I stepped outside the doors of the Hut library after four hours of reading about Indian women's history for class the next day. Although it was 2:30 in the morning I didn't feel like calling a security escort to walk me back to my dorm, so I made my journey down the dark path of the upper quad.

Unlike many of the frosty nights I faced this time of year in New Jersey, this night in Baltimore was absolutely perfect. The soft wind massaged my face as the smell of the making of a new day tickled my nostrils. The moon hung close to the earth as if someone just cut it out of a bright piece of white paper and threw it into the sky. One lonely star seemed to position itself perpendicular to the moon while many of the other stars blinked at me from far-off distances.

The crickets sang in their off-keyed symphonies as the trees occasionally shook their leaves sounding like tambourines. A lonely wooden bench called for me just as I was about to pass the Eisenhower Library. I dropped my heavy load of a backpack onto the bench and stretched my arms out along the length of the edges. A half naked multicolored tree hung over my head to keep me company.

Although I imagined that the rest of the East Coast was probably sleeping at that hour, here at Hopkins many students were probably just ending their day. A few walked by chattering and whispering about equations, the big calculus exam the next day, and grades. Some people didn't notice my presence for they were so buried in their thoughts and plans. Some looked fatigued, while others were destined for an all-nighter. But me, I felt good because I was taking the time to reflect upon my day.

That morning I had had my first college midterm and felt pretty good about it despite my anxiety about the results. I got back a paper from Advanced Composition class with another B even though I strive for A's. I realized that I had another midterm coming up the next week. Basketball practice has started. My bones are creaking and my muscles are aching already. All I could do was wonder how many sprints coach was going to make us run the next day in practice especially since the Yankees tied the series!

Suddenly, my skull seemed to empty itself and my mind was clear and free. I began to search for things to think about but nothing was there. I looked up past the corner edge of Mergenthaler Hall to see the shining crystal-like fluorescent light bouncing off the huge clock sitting comfortably on top of Gilman Hall. The minutes continued to tick away as the night progressed toward day.

My thoughts gently latched onto my first six weeks here at Hopkins.

I still could not conceive of the idea that I am a college student.

These past weeks I have learned so much about history, its processes through time and how it manifests itself into today's time. I have learned about people and differences, relationships, and the process of learning to understand how and why things work.

I might have lingered there a while longer, but a rustle in the bushes startled me. My heart jumped to react to the sound. I squinted my eyes to look into the untrimmed bushes just straight ahead of me.

The rustling stopped for a few seconds. Silence now engulfed me, and an uncharacteristic feeling of loneliness joined me there on that bench.

I was pretty sure a person was not lurking out there. But if not that, then what? Suddenly, the rustling grew louder and more intense. And I soon had my answer, as my mouth dropped open and my eyes stretched to their limits. There it was, a huge nasty looking creature darting out of the bushes toward the bench. It skidded trying to stop because it saw me.

And it knew I saw it. And as God was my witness, the creature stopped, lifted its head and looked into my eyes.

I don't know what it did right after that, because I immediately grabbed my backpack and jumped over the back of the wooden bench. Realizing that now no other human being was around to rescue me, I sprinted the entire way back to my dorm, fearing- -for some deep, dark but unknown reason--that the creature was going to chase me.

"Man," I sighed, laughing to myself as I nervously twisted my key around in the door. So much for reflection. Maybe the things that lurk in the night are what keep most people from doing it.

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