We were sitting at the edge of the restaurant, lurking by the empty chairs and waiting for our take-out orders to be ready. My phone nearly dead, my socks soaked through, my raincoat ten shades darker than when I ventured out of my building–I was just happy to be inside, happy to be sitting on a stool waiting on burgers for me and Basia, happy to be reading and out of the rain for a few gloriously dry minutes.
He had smiled at me twice while we were in line, looked back at me from behind his Ray-Bans. He ordered lemonade with his burger. I ordered sweet potato fries.
“What book are you reading? I’m so curious.”
I glance at him slowly, reluctant as always to ignore a book. I wonder briefly why my face seems to always invite questions. Perhaps it’s genetic–my mom and brother certainly share the experience.
“The Graveyard Book. Neil Gaiman.”
“Ah.” He settles himself more comfortably on the stool, scrunching his nose a little as he thinks. “I’ve heard that… what was it… American Gods is his best work.”
I shrug. “This is the first book of his I’ve read, so I really don’t know. This one is wonderful, though. My friend found out I hadn’t read any of his work, ran to her room, grabbed this one, and thrust it into my hands.” I smile at that memory. Basia had practically thrown the book into my arms, that much was true, but her roommate, my friend Stacy, did much the same with a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo two years previously. Both books proved marvelous reads, but I had expected nothing less: I trust their literature taste implicitly.
We talked about friendships like this in my lit class last week, how saying you trust someone’s book recommendations speaks volumes (literally). Those two, they are certainly on the list of friends whose bookshelves I intend to raid for years to come.
I mention my lit class, now, that this children’s lit course is not covering much genre lit although my professor encourages us to go for it if that’s what we want to write, to read.
“Are you an English major?” He asks.
I laugh at that. How many times have I been asked that question in the past few years? Too many to count, I suppose. “No,” I say, “no, I am not. I’m a pre-med anthropology major.”
“Oh.” He pauses. “I’m majoring in… nothing.”
“Noth–what year are you?”
“Me? I’m a freshman,” he answers.
“Ahhh,” I sigh, still smiling. That explains much: his interaction with me, his smiles, his rather flippant attitude towards his education. “You have so much to look forward to,” I say. I wonder what my freshman-self would think of me now, waiting on burgers and talking to a stranger. She’d probably wonder where Priya was.
So much. Three more years, in fact–and as much as I loved my freshman year, the best was yet to come. I wrote a letter to myself just the other month about that.
I spent a solid hour hanging out with my writing professor later that week–partially because we all had to meet with her, partially because there are few things in this life I enjoy more than bonding over words. This shared language of reading and writing means more than I could ever say.
What’s that saying? Youth is wasted on the young. I wanted to tell this kid that, to say that people aren’t kidding when they tell you college is the best. It is, truly. I’ve loved my time here, enjoyed every year. Some more than others, sure, but each has had its high points–laughing through freshman year with Priyanka, getting free movie tickets during sophomore year when the fire alarm went off during the midnight premiere of The Avengers, watching the sunrise from the rooftop lounge all of junior year, spending four months in Ireland.
He introduced himself before he left, saying he was certain we’d run into each other.
He was wrong, of course. I have not seen him since we met all those weeks ago. I almost hope we do, at some point. I want to talk to him, see if he learned the truth in my words:
that college goes quickly, but it’s an adventure well worth enjoying.