To the man that assaulted me last week at the Hatcher Graduate Library: Thank you.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m still slightly irked that you threw me down a flight of stairs. The bruises and bumps still hurt, and trying to get through the Diag on a Tuesday afternoon on crutches is about as easy as organic chemistry. But despite the injuries, I must thank you, because if it hadn’t been for that fateful push down the staircase, I might have never felt like I belonged here. You’ve given me something more permanent than a couple of scars — a glimpse at what it means to be part of the Michigan community.

Before I get caught up in too many “we bleed blue” metaphors, allow me to backtrack to Welcome Week 2010. For us freshman, it’s the first bite of college, seasoned with innumerable handshakes, countless names lost in an instant and a plethora of inebriated moments forever remembered through tagged photos on Facebook.

As I wandered through the alphabet soup of frat houses, I was left with a bitter aftertaste — and it wasn’t just the jungle juice at work. After four years of kind of working hard in high school, I had arrived. These were my “Animal House” years — I could be Otter, I could be Bluto (every teenage girl’s dream).

But somewhere between being crushed in a mob of intoxicated men and stepping in vomit, I began to question whether or not I could ever fit into the party scene. Though my thick-rimmed glasses and dowdy sweaters might suggest otherwise, perhaps I wasn’t meant to spend the next four years as an anonymous face with a red plastic cup in tow. Suddenly I found myself preparing a funeral for my social life, pondering how many UMixes I could attend before I would spontaneously combust at the sight of pizza and hemp bracelets.

In no time, classes started up, forcing me to leave my social insecurities on the backburner. And unlike my foray into Greek life, I was prepared this time. I was convinced that I could make a voice for myself and emerge as a leader of provocative discussions. It wasn’t until I attended my first lecture that I found a significant roadblock in my plan to become the professor’s pet: The kids here are kind of smart. And unless you shell out cash for an i>clicker, it can be next to impossible to get your voice heard in those impersonal auditoriums. I didn’t know anyone’s name and they didn’t know mine. I felt about as much at home as I do in the gym.

But as fate would have it, my apprehensions, my concerns and, yes, my whiny attitude were put to rest last Monday evening. After about an hour on Stumble Upon and a good 20 minutes on a philosophy paper, I headed out of the third floor cubicles. Then I noticed Lenny Kravitz’s doppleganger approaching the stairs. I turned to hold the door open for him, when suddenly I felt him grab the back of my shirt and hurl me down a flight of stairs. Luckily, my screams resonated throughout the second floor and my knight in shining armor — a studious looking young man with a calculus book in hand — entered the stairwell. The attacker grabbed my cell phone and ran off.

When I hobbled onto the second floor, the entire computer lab rushed to me, offering water or a phone — anything to help. I was shaken, no doubt, and in quite a bit of pain, but never once did I feel as if I were alone. The librarians, the police officers, the students themselves — they all rushed to my side. I couldn’t recall a time where I felt more at home with a group of complete strangers.

The support didn’t end at the steps of Hatcher. Upon returning to the dorms, I was greeted with endless support. Strangers asked to carry my books, provided an open ear, offered anything in hopes to make me feel like I was home. And maybe it was slightly unorthodox to feel such a sense of belonging after being assaulted, but then again, so was being attacked in a library.

So thank you, Mr. 6’1”, 160-lb, dark-skinned male. Thank you for showing me that despite the large numbers, the University is indeed a close-knit community. Thank you for making me feel like I belong. Oh, and if it’s not too much trouble, could I get my iPhone back?

Melanie Kruvelis can be reached at melkruv@umich.edu.

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