A student conveys the sense of still being on campus.
News floods over on the daily. As the curtains on winter quarter were coming to a close, spring quarter’s stage was set for a new awakening. An encore if you will. Here and now, uncertainties loom over the remainder of this school year, beginning of next, what lies in between. What a surprise that what’s stuck on our minds is all that we’ve got—time and uncertainties. We want certain.
Everybody’s aware that the reality is, not much can be done alone. Everybody’s coming to terms with not having a chance to reclaim the “normal” life that they once had. Everybody’s time is paused in hopes of progress to be made. Temporary adjustments with the potential of permanent alterations. Sign of the times, cards we’ve been dealt, or age we live. Being distant is keeping us from being sick, for the time being.
As most seek refuge in the four walls of their former home, the remainder, myself included, stayed behind on school grounds. My profession at the heart of campus, the UC San Diego Bookstore, is the rationale for my staying put on campus. As the budding phrase “essential worker” has been planted during this pandemic, I’ve obliged to take on this title by staying rooted to the university’s heart. My neck of the woods is the far off land, the towers on the last edge of campus, The Village. Life here has always been pleasant and quaint, only now with new customs. Some foot traffic yields to others on a cracked concrete curbside while some asserts dominance on the path, some passersby glance up from the ground, or their device, to catch wind of the killers of time in the game room, or those wishing time would stop in the study rooms, or the last hour of the lunch rush that’s always a given at The Bistro.
However, life on campus is still pleasant and quaint, just slowed down and with less faces. But the faces I still see, partially, are sometimes familiar, both of students and staff, which is something. Roaming through The Market, so many masked and unmasked beings feeling the irony. The irony of being alone, though, alone together. All corralled by yellow caution tape enforcing the shutdowns of open areas and buildings, RIMAC and Geisel not showing any signs of respiration, it does put a dent in the potential perks for those few who remain. Just have to get creative and not frustrated, the way things fluctuate every so often.
With rise and fall of hot and cold, long as afternoon shadows, how does it take to get to get home. You follow UCSD’s paths, whether asphalt or the Walks, Library or Ridge, one can’t help but notice or be helpless in feeling the only noticeable movement other than your own is primarily meteorological. At a corner or on the horizon emerges an obscure physique or two (an occasional stranger, many exercisers, fellow resident, pet owner, cart roaming staffer, family?) it’s only a hertz cycle or two of closeness, as they submerge from vision entirely. But sometimes before they inevitably depart, I use this new skill of saying “hi” with my eyes to them. And often it is returned. Never thought I’d need so many people. Warms the heart and gives peace of mind.
Nonetheless, the heart of campus still has some beats to it, just far and few between, just as everyone is far (6ft) and few. Construction goes on, and nature reveals itself, as memories of what was and what could’ve been floats like clouds around me. A standing senior, also a transfer, getting a grip that things relating to college and its experiences may never come my way. As goals and traditions, like graduation and all it entails, may not be a moment captured in time. Friends to be made or crushes to be had in in-person classes may have all but ended. Relationships in my current possession may be slipping through my fingers as communication becomes scarce. But I mustn’t worry about that, as they may not me. This time, other matters must be worried about.
The virus, in my eyes, has become a useful social purpose. As I often find myself standing in the room of my former housemates, viewing the sky shedding itself from blue to black atop the water, the remnants of joy and mishap, micro and macro, wash over as the waves on Black’s Beach. It can be a day or instance that brings it all about. Everyday is to have some kind of victory, because when we rise from bed, what’s there to do? School, work, hobbies, prolonged desires, short-lived experiences, or however facing time best fits. Not just for humanity’s sake, but for the sake of your own sanity.
Who takes five classes and puts in 20+ hours a week filling online orders at the bookstore? The writer of this dispatch. Why, to keep alive. At times my brain is like a warehouse, with very little to spare, with the hurt of having to cram so many things just to make room to store any, every, and nothing in there. We are all continuous lights, all in the process of becoming, and when this pandemic has come to pass, will your light be bright, dimmed, or off?
Stevon Marshall continues to live on campus at UC San Diego. He is a transfer student majoring in communication at Muir College. He plans to go to law school or if an unexpected route presents itself, go in a different direction.