One year ago, one fateful March, I sat on a bench upon the Old Campus and I watched my life at Yale come to an end. The air was warm and the day was bleak. Students darted from corner to corner trying to flee as the University began to shut down. Doors were closing, rooms were emptied and I saw it all from that wooden bench. That terrible March day, the virus threw the University into a panic and I threw my life into a cardboard box and abandoned it. Since then, a wretched virus gripped my world and felled it in one blow. It stole from me nearly two years of my college experience. It was a cruel act: the theft of a life that I had worked tirelessly to achieve. One dark winter later, the sun has begun to dawn on the graying lawns, and yet here I am where the moon pulses in the morning. I am not part of that slow revival. I am not there to see Yale come to life after a year of abject sadness. My life at Yale is now nothing more than the ghost of the memories of a freshman year that never ended.
My ghost sits, as I once did, slack-jawed on an Old Campus bench watching the days go on without him. It sits unaware that the world is stretching far from him like a shadow running from the light. The ghost of my memories waits for my return. It grieves for the life I abandoned. Yet, my ghost and I are separated by distance and time. I exist in a state of statelessness, where every day is the same as the day I returned home. The life I lead in quarantine is relentless. The sun bleeds into the moon bleeds into the sun, and the cycle has continued since it started. I awake and I sleep in the same four walls, but my spirit roams where it is trapped.
The ghost of my memories lies in repose at the base of Welch Hall. It wanders up and down the corridors of sagging brick buildings wondering where I went. It searches for me in empty classrooms and in dusty shelves. My ghost flits back and forth between the places I once was. It darts from the seventh floor of a magnificently empty library to the wrinkled booth in the dining hall where I once ate alone. My ghost searches for me in countless places now and evermore. And yet it keeps coming back to the place where I left it: that wooden bench among the quiet oaks of the Old Campus.
These are the rooms I haunt, where I once dared to dream. In my absence, Yale has grown gloomy and quiet. Although it is slowly coming back to life, it will never be the same again. We have all been afflicted by this virus in one way or another. We have all lost more than we can comprehend. In fact, my ghost is but one of many spirits roaming within the ivy walls. They are shades of stories left unfinished. If you look about the campus through the corners of your eyes, you may catch fleeting glimpses of abandoned lives. You will see the ghosts of students, trapped like mine is, within the gates of this University, unaware that the world has moved on without them. They will be sitting in empty lecture halls, roaming empty shelves and sulking on the lawns. They too are the ghosts of the memories of students who had to pack up their lives in a hurry. Now these memories lay scattered across the campus collecting dust as they yearn to be remembered.
There will come the day where I, and countless others, finally return after a year of madness. When that day arrives, Yale will be a foreign land painted in familiar colors. I will have been on campus before, and yet I will not fully remember what I was doing there. I will lose my way. I will not recognize the faces I once talked to. I will not remember who I used to be. Eventually, as the sun of a better day casts its light on a virus-free world, the ghost of my memories will find me on the Old Campus and I will finally remember the life I put on hold. I will unpack what I put away, and I will begin again. Until then, my spirit sits on that Old Campus bench and it waits hopelessly for me. A year has passed since that fateful March cast a freeze on the world. Now, I yearn to breathe life into the rooms where my memories were left behind.
Jessai Flores | firstname.lastname@example.org