My first (left) and last (right) encounters with Harkness Tower

The first weekend we were allowed out of our residential colleges this past fall — after the initial 14-day quarantine — I took a photo of Yale’s iconic Harkness Tower hulking into the eerie clouds above. My suitemate and I were buzzing with energy; all the years of waiting for college and all the wonderfully exciting experiences that come with it were culminating now in this Saturday night out. It was just after 11 p.m. when we made our way into Branford. We had spent the last hour in Silliman trying to make friends. 

11 p.m. was late: We were young (so exceedingly younger than we are now) and we were tired. But even through my sleepy eyes, the sight of Harkness struck me. I had seen glimpses of its zenith from my Davenport window, but I had never before borne witness to the entirety of its majesty. It was a sight to behold. 

I don’t know if saying that Harkness was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen would be entirely true, but it was definitely up there. It was by far the most beautiful thing I’d seen at Yale, in a wondrously spooky sort of way.

After I snapped the photo, my suitemate and I talked for a few moments with some other first years we ran into in the Branford courtyard. They were from Silliman, and I remember thinking that it was so absurd and hilariously “college” that we were all out of our own dorms so late at night! (In my defense, I had spent the last two weeks locked away in Davenport, and the last five months before that locked away in my house, so anything other than my habitual quarantining was bound to feel pretty wild.) Shortly thereafter, my suitemate and I left. Those were our plans for the evening.

When I got back to my suite at the preposterously late hour of 11:15 p.m., I sent that photo to my parents. My mom, being a mom, worriedly asked if I was still out.

After that first excursion, I found myself back in Branford quite often. Nothing could compete with gazing up at the grandeur of Harkness. Sometimes even, with treasonous, shameful obscenity, I wished that I was in Branford rather than Davenport — just to be closer to that arcane yet unmistakable tower.

The last time I went to Harkness this semester, I took another photo, this time of the tower reaching into the starry November sky. It was our last week on campus, and I was feeling restless. I wanted to go out, to have fun, to make the most of my last week in some COVID-safe sort of way.

My suitemate had work to do that night that couldn’t be postponed, so I went for a walk alone. When I came upon Harkness, the familiarity of the scene forced me to snap a photo — one that I later realized mirrored the original picture I had taken. But the sky was clear now, the composition of the photograph was better, and I had practically finished my first semester at Yale (a few at-home finals notwithstanding).

My walk was around an hour long, but my night was just beginning. I left Branford feeling satisfied, like my goodbye had been enough to tide me over until I would see it again in nine months. I talked and laughed with friends in their suite into the early hours of the morning, before finally crawling off to bed after catching a glance at the time on said friends’ microwave (or, as they call it, their Yicrowave.) 

Now I’m back at my house, those nine months have become seven and my short-lived time at Yale exists only in memory and a couple of photographs. Some things will never change, like the immobile, ever-greatness of Harkness. And other things will. But the constants and the fluids will always move through time together. We’ll find our way home, wherever that may be.

Annie Sidransky | annie.sidransky@yale.edu