“They’re baaaack…” At summer’s end, nearly a quarter-of-a-million college students descend upon Boston. They arrive in SUV’s and with U-Hauls that get double and triple parked along the city streets. It’s a chaotic and familiar scene that jars my memory, transports me back to a September when I was a student.
My classes took place in a cluster of century-old brownstones that was Emerson College. The Back Bay streets I walked were lined with gas street lamps, and every statue and church marked a piece of history. There was no quad, no field house, no bookstore, nothing even remotely resembling a traditional campus – this was an urban campus.
The city was filled with a new kind of student – their oxford shirts and Shetland sweaters were packed away in their parents’ attics. These young men and women were costumed in vivid colors, leather jackets, tight black trousers, walking boots, male and female alike wearing haircuts as short as their fathers had worn thirty years before. They liked to gather in front of the Mass Communications Building and smoke clove cigarettes. Their energy was palpable and it made me feel as if I were in the midst of a bizarre 1980’s new-wave cartoon with loud, clashing colors.
The Emerson Library windows overlooked the Charles River. The water was calm but I could imagine the prep school trained crew teams from the Cambridge side of the river out in the early morning, their movements synchronized, their breath coming in steamy huffs. I never got up early enough to actually go down to the Esplanade to watch them. I would’ve felt out of place there.
It was an odd mix of scenery, of philosophy, of fashion. At first I didn’t know exactly where I fit into the picture. But this was where I belonged. I found my niche. My peeps. My voice. And although I knew it was not possible, that September, I wished that for once, time could stand still.