I was once terrified of phone calls with friends. In February, even, I could spend time with them in-person, so we’d only call if there was something important to say. Out of that premise grew an expectation that someone had to be speaking — and saying something interesting — at all times. I hate it. I want to enjoy the uncomfortable silences, but I find it difficult. Now, because we can’t meet up face-to-face, calls seem routinely necessary. They’re the only way I can spend time with the friends I’ve grown to know and love during my time at Yale. So, we call. Sometimes, our calls are scheduled, and sometimes they’re not. Some are three minutes long, and others last three hours. Sometimes, when we call, we both fall silent.
And the quiet is okay. It’s more than okay. We’re sitting in silence, and neither of us knows what to say. I could easily hang up right now — “my mom’s calling me to go do something.” That’s what I did when my first-year roommate tried to FaceTime me before we ever met in person. My finger hovers over the “end call” button for a moment. But I’m thinking about the value of our connection, and I want to hold onto it, no matter how. I realize that I can do just that, even in an awkward silence — until my phone dies, at least.
We acknowledge this: “Silence seems okay when we’re hanging out in person, so we’d best get used to it now” and “What are you doing? Nothing.” We both stay on the call. Time passes.
I’m lying on my carpet. It’s soft, but not so much so that I’d sink into it, and there are little leaves etched into its surface. I close my eyes. I’m not worried about falling asleep. I curl my hand up into a fist and imagine that I’m staring up at the sky.
I unfurl my fingers to reveal four little blades of green grass. I must’ve plucked them out of the ground (sorry). I keep my hand open. The sky’s mostly blue, except for the few fluffy clouds that float into view. I let the gentle breeze blow the blades of grass, one for each year of Yale, off my palm. They flutter back down and land a few inches away from where I’d first picked them up.
Whether I’m lying on my back or side or stomach changes by the second. I am, effectively, rolling in the grass. My friend and I are studying outside on Cross Campus after lunch. The sunlight hits Sterling Memorial Library at an angle that makes it glow. And my friend and I? We’re not talking. We’re simply sprawled across the green, our bodies pressing into thousands of blades of fresh green grass. The silence feels natural. Can I just say that the grass smells good?
I don’t want to leave. Neither does my friend. So we don’t. We take it all in. A frisbee flies through the air and crashes into the pavement (dangerously close to my friend’s head). Our classmates walk to and from their classes. Couples on colorful blankets laugh and lean against trees. A tour group stops in front of the Women’s Table. Someone trips on Cross Campus’s unevenly paved diagonal path.
My eyes have been open for a few minutes. I’m still rolling around on the ground — thank goodness this isn’t a video call. We’re not on campus right now. We may never be on campus again. Maybe, some of us are tempted to drop the connection to Yale we’ve developed over the past few years. That’s what the “end call” button is for! But for me, it’s like there’s a magnet that pushes my finger away even when I do want to press it. I can’t break my connection with the community and campus I love (even on the cold and rainy days when I’m stressed and tired). Sitting in silence, I realize I want to hold onto it. And I think it’s possible — if not inevitable. I look up at the sky. One of the clouds looks suspiciously like my ceiling fan. We never really left Yale. We never will.
Phoebe Liu | email@example.com