By Robert DeLuca '17
"A Lighter Shade of Orange" is a new satirical series, a literary take on campus culture.
Frist Campus Center, 2:30 a.m.
In the line, amongst my fellow animals, the smell of pepperoni pizza is overpowering. I don’t speak, and neither do my herd-mates. We grunt, occasionally, but it seems as though we have lost the power to form words.
A large figure in front of me gestures mutely at the heated tin of French fries. I move to the front of the line and somehow find the strength to whisper lovingly:
My plate is filled with the most sensual, beautiful thing in the world.
I turn to leave. The watering hole is well attended today. Dozens of my fellows line tables. It is cold, but we are all sweaty. It was dark, but then the Lord said, “Let there be Frist,” and the world was flooded with fried food, fluorescence and tables.
As I checkout, I nod at the cashier, who smiles a thin-lipped smile. He has been swiping proxes non-stop since I entered the line, softly saying “charge” as each of us moved past him in exhausted half-stupor. More than one year’s tuition in chicken tenders and pizza has been sold in the last hour. Rah, Rah.
I collapse into a chair, alongside some figures that I think I recognize. They appear to recognize me too, and nod their assent as I join them. I begin to devour my fried love.
The first bite fills me with a sense of divine bliss. I have never tasted anything so good. Dehydrated, grimy and barely human, I find solace in the taste of a chicken tender. My tablemates and I do not speak; I hope that they too have found relief.
Over in the corner, on a bench, someone is sleeping and someone else is sleeping on him. Occasional shouts and backslapping abound, but the specifics are lost on me.
A crowd comes down the stairs on all fours, half-running, half-stumbling. One of them trips, but catches himself on the banister and no one notices. They lumber into the galley with their eyes fixed on the food.
A burst of laughter erupts at the table next to us and then settles. Those at the table stare off into distance, lumpy smiles on their faces. Dumbly happy, fully full of food.
The kitchen staff lounges while they put pizzas and tenders and fries together. They chuckle a bit at the sight of those in line; the proud Princeton students, usually so eager to impress, reduced to disinhibited, hungry animals. We have finally become what the University was always telling us we were. Tigers. Siss Siss.
I am purring in happiness when one of my pack-mates says from across the table, “Hey, didn’t I see you at Terrace?”
I am shocked to hear a cohesive sentence. My other tablemates are busy feeding, and do not look up from their food.
“Uhh, yes,” I grunt out, annoyed at having to speak. “I was there.” I feel that I should not have to say more, but I abandon my herd-instinct and eke out, “It was ... good,” before taking another huge bite of chicken. Mhhm.
We in the herd have transcended the human condition to reach something better, something more honest. There is no need for speech here; we feel at home without it. My tablemate, satisfied by my curtness, returns to her own food, and I to mine.
I have been searching for fulfillment for years, and it turns out that poultry was the solution to all my problems. Poultry and company. I can feel the community. It fills the very air; we are all equal before Frist.
These chicken tenders, this room, are proof that we can surpass ourselves. We have freed ourselves from the shackles of Plato’s cave, have glimpsed the truth, felt the feelings of the Übermensch. Boom, Boom.
One of our brothers finishes hurling into a nearby trashcan, and his nearest pack-mates are already taking care of him. I smile at the sight.
Here, in the Frist gallery, we have become whole. Before, we were nothing but parts, cogs, individuals. Now we are larger. Collective. Complete. Tigers do travel in packs.
I finish my tenders, and grunt in affirmation. My fellow pack-mates who have also finished answer my noise with guttural purring of their own, and we all rise together. Together, we wander out the double doors, leaving the rest of the herd behind to finish feeding. It is cold, but we are not bothered by it.
As we exit, we rear back on our hind legs and roar in triumph, marking the end of another evening.