I could’ve written about Syria, about war: carnivorous like fire, grinning like sin. I could’ve written about my first trip into the Big House, where a crowd becomes a body in itself, its arms the cheerleaders, its legs the football team, its face a yellow hue of T-shirts. I could’ve written about my first week of classes and my major and my professor and my classmates and my computer and my folder and my backpack and how it makes this annoying clanking noise as I walk. And I could’ve written about all of the other cliché and expected things a freshman might.
But I didn’t.
4612-T, Lewis House, Bursley Residence Hall, the men’s bathroom. In an attempt to save energy, the lights only turn on as you walk in. The darkness embodies abyss. Florescent lights throw a bright, white light upon the objects around you. You squint. Still, you are aware enough to see what lies around you: eleven sinks, one soap dispenser with a 60-percent success rate and a hand dryer that does not dry, but effectively creates a ruckus. To your right are four urinals and four bathroom stalls, the latter equipped with morose, grey doors. Farther down the way are the showers behind yet another door; water temperatures range from Antarctic to scalding hot and change intermittently. To your left is a mirror purveying the sight of your sorry existence — perhaps following a Thirsty Thursday. Everything is dirty. On that note, just beneath you is the floor: Faded gray inlets outline faded grey tiles. Moist footprints leading across the bathroom darken the grey into a shade of black.
This is the bathroom you are to inhabit for your freshman year.
So you settle. You pick your favorite bathroom or shower stall and live with it. The best sink is chosen — the one that isn’t clogged with … well, let’s not talk about that. Returning to the same bathroom stall or shower, you retrace your steps. A schedule has been made. The toothpaste and mouthwash assorted, mirrors are gazed into unnecessarily, for the looker already knows what his reflection will tell. And time and time again, history will repeat itself; weather variable, the bathroom will remain a control in the experiment.
Until it doesn’t.
In the coming years, you may forget it (or try to). It may not dawn upon you that you’ve left it behind — the routines and memories, the friends and associates, the people, the Michiganders. Your graduation day will surely overlook it, even in that introspective mood. But it will dawn on you one day; and when that immense notion dawns upon a once ignorant mind, you’ll be washing your hands with that apricot and cinnamon-scented hand soap you found for a great price in a Good Housekeeping Magazine. You’ll look around and notice every piece of the bathroom is perfectly put together: None of the paint is chipped, the toilet glows white, the shampoo leaves not a hint of soap scum, as advertised on that dazzling Dove commercial.
Confounded with boredom, you will sign an empty wall, for imperfection breeds emotion in a wonderfully hidden way, and faultlessness the opposite. Deformity is beloved subconsciously not by humanity’s natural laziness, but by his sympathetic attachment to objects around him, for he knows he is lucky — no, blessed — as only he can have an item flawed in such a particular way.
Enjoy the inhospitality while it lasts. It won’t.
John Koster is an Engineering freshman.