In my first article for The Street, “Lost,” I wrote about getting and feeling lost on an early autumn campus shrouded in mystery, its trees still holding onto their leaves, everything full of promise. Now, as winter approaches, everything becomes familiar, shrouded in memory instead. “In the beginning, I got lost all the time,” Lucy Zhang ’21 in Mathey said to me recently over lunch. “Now, I can’t get lost even if I try to.”
We’re all sharing this Orange Bubble, this tiny, enclosed world, and in the weeks since that first article, I’ve watched those once foreign arches, quads, and halls become veiled by layers and layers of memories. It’s something I’m still having trouble getting used to. How everything is reused. How one picnic bench or dorm room or staircase landing can become linked to so many stories, stories that are not only my own. Sometimes, I wish I could look at them with a fresh pair of eyes again.
Memories can hurt, and returning to the spaces in which they were formed easily reopens wounds. The happy memories are sometimes the worst: a carefree game of ping pong, a moment of laughter, a first kiss, reminding me of what I have lost. After a breakup, my friend from home embarked on a journey to “reclaim spaces” that recalled his ex by creating new memories in the places where old ones still brought him pain. That meant visits to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the ice skating rink that opens each winter by City Hall, and 30th Street Station.
In the city, he went out of his way. Here, it’s almost impossible not to reclaim space, to add layers upon layers to single landmarks. The quad where my roommate and I threw oranges at trees for no reason is the same quad I walked across, stunned, after receiving a fateful text. The common room piano bench where I read sad poems with a friend at the end of a bad night is where another friend likes to park herself when we study together. It’s not only spaces on campus, but traditions and routines that gain weight. Hoagie Haven’s mozzarella sticks are simultaneous reminders of a boy’s all-too-urgent tokens of affection and the unconditional love of a hallmate, now sister.
Even people, perhaps too easily, become living memories, ghosts. Former classmates, acquaintances, friends who fought, friends who drifted apart, hookups, exes, everyone in between. It’s already common to see someone I no longer really speak to multiple times in a day. But sometimes we reconnect, come back to life again.
While distance, both physical and metaphorical, is hard to find, creating these constant reminders is so easy, almost inevitable. It means that we care, perhaps more deeply than we’d like to admit. Maybe someday, long after graduation, I’ll come back here to soak in nostalgia, pausing at that arch, that staircase, that bench. I think the memories will still be there, hiding. In one of my favorite poems, “Tonight I Can Write,” Pablo Neruda writes, “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”