Campus Walk

Since Tuesday evening I've been walking across my memory campus. Maybe you've had similar thoughts. As my heart goes out to the students, parents, faculty, and administrators at Virginia Tech, my brain tries to wrap itself around the horror. Underlying real life in the present, a continuous loop video is playing. It's the remembered walking and walking and biking around my university campus as if filmed through the shaky lens of my naive, inhibited, careless, opinionated, generous, self-centered, invincible, scared-sheep student 1974 self.

Names of the buildings scroll past in the supertitles. Learning my way from Harper-Schramm-Smith to the the third floor of Burnett, the huge lecture halls in Henzlik and Hamilton, or the odd 501 Building way over on Tenth Street for calculus. Riding my yellow bike in the snow between the power plant and Mabel Lee, around my dear Morrill Hall and Bessey to get a dime coffee in a paper cup from the machine in Oldfather. Late to Econ in CBA when sorority sisters can't quit Luke and Laura on General Hospital. Chaining my Schwinn to the rack outside Avery for the interdisciplinary Intro to Eastern European Studies with Jerry Petr. Cigarette smoke everywhere. Shortcuts through courtyards and quadrangles. Gravel parking lots. Grimy couches in the Union.

Honors freshman English with Miss Daniels and flickering fluorescent lights in the basement of Andrews. Savoring Tom Jones, Ibsen, and Lear. Rhetoric in a June mini-session with the amazing, rumpled Dudley Bailey, but without air-conditioning. Gene Hardy's childrens' literature class making Little Red Riding Hood all about-gasp-sexuality. Poetry-writing with Greg Kuzma.

That's the one that hits me. A dozen poetry students in a room no bigger than the offering envelope for Sunday School at First Plymouth. Pseudo-nonchalant lolling around the one table, always waiting to see if Kuzma would show up. So vulnerable, reading our little poems aloud out into the cosmos to be diced, minced, bludgeoned like baby seals. Not making eye-contact with the creepy guy in his camo. Yes. The older student back from Nam writing bloody raping poems and going off on long, violent monologues. Kuzma being hip to all that, so we felt like such high school babies.

Sitting outside Andrews on a stone bench that sunny, frozen afternoon all inspiration and deadline desperation, pouring out poems in blue fountain pen with cedar waxwings in the bushes. Tears.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

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