I was born a wee young lad of nineteen years in the humble and unesteemed Joline Hall of Mathey College, Princeton, the dank northwest armpit of campus that silently perspires between regal Rocky and beauteous Blair. “Rafael” was a plain taco shell and by instinct I filled him with lamb’s blood and latkes, the Semitic fare that nourished me in the womb. I penned weekly e-missives for the Jewish Life Center and honed my talent for Internet jest. This hobby aside, my year was relatively uneventful; I opened my eyes once or twice in the spring and by June I could recite the ocean’s ingredients, a childhood interest that I’ve since outgrown like my flannel classwear and my lust for Tower passes.
At twenty I fell from the crib and stretched my plump limbs and tried my first crawl, and tumbled down the gentle slope to Little where my common room was slightly larger and much more frequently populated, filled with the laugher of inebriated Hebrews whom I now had the confidence to cater and host. I gurgled some more verbiage in History and Letters and found my place in ART, then defected to HIS and remain there today. I secularized and slung jokes now for Tri Club and thus joined my first neighborhood of wordsmiths and humorists, many uncircumcised. I did not bicker but joined Terrace F. with seven friends (of which four remain) and by the end of spring term I felt sufficiently happy at Princeton to wave an old class banner in the alumni parade and converse with the elderly beneath.
Twenty-one, I slid my new license in the window pocket of my new wallet and capably strolled southward, setting up shop just west of the Dinky in a vine-covered wooden floored Matheyesque upperclass dormitory named Pyne. I resided there with J and not with C, the latter my roommate of my infancy and toddlerhood, and unlike C and I who slept side-by-side, J and I resided in a too-cozy bunk bed in a room distressingly cozier. By a stroke of luck I earned the bottom, though those who are not experienced should know that such a victory is Pyrrhic—the low roof of the upper bed obstructs the light fixture and lends your abode an unpleasant cavern-like aura. This year was lonesome and shadowy but highly productive, and my writing flourished in my history courses and in this paper and on three campus stages and in my mother’s heart.
I stand today twenty-two and my home is called Butler where I serve as an assistant residency advisor, though my advisory cannot draw from any personal experience in air-conditioned and indvidually bathroomed and keylessly locked housing, me a newcomer to these pristine conditions just as the wee young lads and lasses are. It is a solitary and monastic home as for the first time my room is mine and mine only and my neighbors are largely unknown and when I close the windows and shades and turn the temperature dial down I can easily believe I am inside a refrigerator, which sometimes comforts and sometimes disturbs but always alienates me from the outside unfavorably. I’ve dipped one toe in a bottomless well labeled Love and another in another labeled Fears About The Future. I try to be kind and I try to be honest. I’ve not done significant writing yet but I’m ready to, and present this meager start.
This is what it means to be a man: It means to stretch your plump limbs and tumble but to clutch your pen and journal tight as you roll, to take notes on the burrs and pine needles that prick you and stick in you all along your path and to document them Darwinesque, to illustrate and annotate their forms and assemble a guidebook of the mind, to read it regularly and develop fluency, and finally to approach a closed-eye wee young lad and point to the vegetables embedded in your skin and expertly distinguish their species.