Like the last post, I imagine going to visit myself when I was young. This was when I first attended college.
Friday night. The sun just went down, and it’s dark at Abilene Christian University. The ministerial student sits by himself on the concrete bench by the fountain at the center of the deserted campus. Most students have found a date or are out partying in groups.
The young man is nineteen years old, far from home, an unnoticed mediocre student.
Whenever he speaks up in class to ask a question or offer feedback, the professors give him a puzzled look, as if they think he is a moron, but they are too polite to say so. His classmates offer sideways glances as if he’s some creature from outer space. So he grew quiet very quickly after the first day of class.
I sit next to him, my hands clasped just like his, and wait with him. The bench is just as cold and hard as I remember. While he bows his head, I look around. It was also as I remembered, a colossal, whitewashed tomb filled with the bones of dead people—some of whom were still up and teaching.
“It’s a dreadful place,” I say to the boy. “An institution trying to maintain itself, toadying to the monied members of a stultifying religion. No wonder you feel so out of place and alone. You are alive with creativity, passion, and wonder. You will never be happy here with the dead.
I wonder why we felt we had to be here.
The boy sighs.
“I wish someone would tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are colleges out there that you would love, that would fill your mind with ideas. These people don’t deserve you! There are others who are waiting for you to enter their space, and they will light up when they see you. I’m sorry it will take so long for you to find them and for them to find you.”
We sit in silence.
“Why don’t you call your parents? They miss you.”
The boy sighs once more, then stands and heads toward his dorm.