Here they come! Shaw starts wave of incoming students to the Triangle
The woman standing at a crosswalk on campus didn’t notice me staring at her, thank goodness. I observe strangers a lot. On the interstate, I look at other drivers and construct elaborate stories about who they are, where they’re going, what makes them suffer or soar. Doesn’t everyone do this?
She was about 45 from the looks of it. Maybe 50 if she had been using her BB cream faithfully. On this boiling afternoon — move-in day in Chapel Hill, N.C. — she had ceased to glow and was, like the rest of us, just outright perspiring.
One hand clutched an oversized shower caddy to her chest like it was a parachute. In her free hand, there was the ubiquitous bag with the big red circle on it.
The light changed, the helpful outline of the gender-neutral walker indicated it was time to cross, but shower caddy mom paid no mind. Instead, she let others pass noisily by with their wheeled trunks, steroidal versions of the Dora the Explorer rolling backpacks from elementary school days. Get just a little too close to either and you’ll trip.
A gaggle of high school friends who weren’t quite ready to see who else might be out there in the world moved as one fro-yo seeking mass, storming the intersection with forced confidence. We got this. At least we want you to think we got this.
Fake it til you make it.
A red palm blinked. You have 30 seconds to cross this street safely. 15. Ten, five…Shower caddy mom stayed put. Maybe she was waiting for someone. Maybe her student? That’s what they call them in orientation sessions. “Your student,” not “your child.” It sounded odd to me, as if any of us would have any control from hundreds — even thousands — of miles away. Oh, no. She’s your student now! Tag. You’re it. But please take good care of her. Don’t let him get alcohol poisoning, herpes, gauges, recruited by a cult, bacterial meningitis...
I decide shower caddy mom has a freshman. Who is back at the dorm slapping some sheets on the bed, setting up Xbox and taping up the wall calendar they gave him in the dorm lobby (boy) OR installing fluffy rugs, puffy comforters, pictures attached with inch-long clothespins on illuminated wire, displaying carefully curated posters and framed prints (goal: cool but not trying too hard), opening the personalized planner to today’s date on a desk covered with coordinated copper caddies from Urban Outfitters and regretting not buying enough Command Strips (girl).
It’s time to stop this obsession with staring at strangers and return to my own student (A senior! Who doesn’t really need me here! But we both pretend!). Suddenly, I realize shower caddy mom is smiling.
He’s here! He reaches for the Target bag and the caddy and bear-hugs his mom right in the middle of the intersection. I feel like applauding but that would be crazy.
A new countdown begins. For all of us.