We are walking around the building where the massacre took place, whispering, peering into the auditorium for anything familiar.
“Everything looks so different,” Tina says. Kevin wraps his arm around his wife’s shoulder.
Scott lifts up his phone to take a picture of the place, but thinks better of it and just shakes his head solemnly.
“I feel so weird,” Tina says.
I don’t feel like these people I’m with. Kevin and Tina had spent like two-hundred dollars at the student bookstore on “HUSKIE PRIDE” t-shirts, while I’m doing math in my head: it took sixty miles to get here, and gas costs $4.28 per gallon. My Bimmer does about 24 miles per gallon, so a one-way trip costs—
It’s just, the tacky red paint of the student center is crumbling! The carpets here haven’t been shampooed since the 70s! The dorm room window curtains still smell like dead ladybugs!
The renovations are contrived. Lame, kitschy touches are everywhere. In the middle of the campus is a pond with a fountain, and off to the side is this walkway made up of bricks with names engraved in them. I don’t even look at the names. It’s like, Oh God, they’re trying to create a “quad” now. We walk from one residential hall to another and I do not see the ghosts of me, Dave, Timmy B, Phil, Larrballs, Scott and Roy running through the gravel lot, laughing and holding camcorders. We walk past the science building and I do not see my ghost sneaking in as a tourist at Bre’s physics lecture — she’s furiously taking notes and I’m next to her, pencilling in “ILOVEYOU” as an 8-letter answer to some unrelated question of the crossword puzzle I’m working on, and then showing her. I do not see the ghost of my freshman year roommate casting imaginary spells in order to fend out styrofoam sword-wielding geeks. I do not see the ghost of Julie playing frisbee with a bunch of skinny nerds.
We hit up a lot of the old stomping grounds. There’s this photo that the entire crew took in front of Ruby Tuesday’s at the end of our sophomore year. To us at least, it’s kind of a fascinating, historic picture. It’s our “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima”. Our “Sailor kissing girl in Times Square”. We all look really young and happy in the photo, but if you study it more closely you’ll see all of the tension and drama and love triangles that felt so real at the age of twenty. Ten years later, we’re taking a photo in the same spot, all of us posing the same exact way. We vow to return to take this photo every ten years for the rest of our lives.
At the end of the evening we’re at Molly’s, our old favorite bar, only it’s been torn down and rebuilt a block away, and it looks and feels nothing like the old Molly’s. It’s spacious and modernized and all of the athletic frat boy douchebags are replaced by homosexual hipsters. And instead of fifty-cent beers, I’m drinking a four-dollar Manhattan. Everyone keeps talking and I’m all distracted, catching only the middles of sentences, and I’m just looking for the right way to explain that we shouldn’t haven’t come back, that college was fun and all but it’s better sealed off in the past, perfectly caught in amber. They are all wistful and nostalgic and I want to tell them I don’t feel like them. I feel nothing.
I end up saying nothing. We stop by Pita Pete’s, right before it closes, and are saddened to find out that the pitas aren’t football-sized anymore. I give all of them hugs in the parking lot and Tina hugs me the hardest and longest out of all of them and tells me to drive home safe and I get in my car and get the fuck out of that stupid town that smells like dead ladybugs and I play that Jay-Z and Kanye CD really loud in my car and three months later I will get a phone call about Lamont. It will be a terrible night of vague information. I will go to sleep. I will wake up thinking about how I always called him the Token Black Guy. And how he danced like Rerun from “What’s Happening!!” And how we were supposed to hang out again. And how he slept on the floor so I could sleep on the couch. And how I always made jokes about him sweating so much. And how his last text message to me will be “Hey what u doin nxt fri” and I will never respond, out of laziness. The doctors might say his body got too big for his heart, but at the risk of sounding too prosaic and saccharine, I will argue that his heart was too big for his body. I will miss him tremendously.