Jack Devlin

My first impression of Yale was its stairs. Then, I met my suitemates: Priyanka, Esther, Carmen, Brianna and Caroline. Carmen’s dad counted eighty-three steps — or something like that — from Lawrance Hall’s C-entryway door to our fifth-floor suite. As I hauled my suitcase over each stone-clad step, I felt like a modern-day Sisyphus. I resolved that it was going to be a long year, but at least my calves would look good.

The first few weeks of college raced by while I struggled to find my bearings. I was cripplingly nervous about everything and couldn’t understand a demand curve if my life depended on it. In an attempt to hide my proclivity for afternoon naps and other introverted inclinations, I didn’t spend much time in my suite. I showed my face at clubs I knew I would never join and parties where I waited for adventurous nights that never materialized. Months passed: the oak trees on Old Campus grew golden with the promise of impending frost, and the wind howled its melody of a semester nearing its end. By the first snowfall, I knew I was no longer new enough to have an excuse for how disoriented I felt.

Soon, I saw the peak of my Lawrance Hall hike. It took me a handful of good cries, gut-wrenching realizations, and GHeav sandwiches to see who had been there all along. And I hate that I took my suitemates’ unwavering commitment to “H2O” watch parties and my well-being for granted — that I didn’t appreciate the friendships that were consecrated by some higher power (the Yale housing algorithm) last June. I started to hold onto those fleeting moments — those moments when I didn’t know I had it so good. Like when Esther and I crossed paths at 3 a.m. nearly every Tuesday night, and she asked how my day was while we both struggled to figure out what part of our souls we had lost in the depths of Bass Library. Or when Caroline showed us her La Croix stash, and I was deeply horrified yet impressed by her obsession with flavored seltzer.

By the beginning of the second semester, I wanted to make up for lost time and steps not climbed. I wanted to be the goofy suitemate Carmen requested on her housing form, wanted to be at Stiles’ Sunday family dinners and our common room ketchup battles. I wasn’t sure if my suite would accept what I’d suppressed last semester — my self-deprecating jokes and frizzy hair and categorical New York City personality and love for hiking and tendency to stress cry. But, in our suite clad with week-old potato chips, they did.

Like on most Friday nights, I swung open the door at around 8 p.m., still wheezing from the trek to my room, and found Priyanka on her back — rolling and chuckling on my dusty carpet. Despite the unrelenting cold of New Haven’s February — and our heat that, despite many prayers to facilities, refused to function during the coldest week of the semester — Carmen and my double brimmed with warmth from Priyanka’s laughter. My cheeks were rosy from the frosty wind and those five flights of stairs while hers were from Brianna’s wry joke about class.

Sitting on the floor with Priyanka, I finally caught my breath. I honestly don’t remember our conversation, but it was probably about how we were all crushing on the main character of “H2O.” This was all I’d been waiting for. The quintessential first-year moment — the moment when I felt whole and grounded and worthy of a Yale friendship that endures even after we leave Lawrance C51.

Talks on our dusty rug soon became a nightly ritual. Five flights above our first year, sitting on our shaggy carpet, we told each other about our disparate lives in far-flung places: how Carmen drives with her knees and how Priyanka’s a Philly girl at heart and how Brianna is too humble to admit that she’s the best 18-year-old squash player in Canada and how I’m the most outdoorsy city girl you’ll meet. Our suite held our collective breath of fresh air. During Saturday nights on our fifth floor, we danced like no one was watching — probably because no one was (you can’t see our window from High Street Gate). And at dusk on weekdays, we marveled at the mauve sunset behind Harkness Tower until it felt like we were the main characters in a melodramatic teenage movie. Eighty-three and change steps up from Old Campus, I finally realized that my daily hike was worth it in the end. So, if you ever find yourself in Lawrance Hall, please come to the fifth floor for the best view at Yale. But, I’m warning you, you’ll want to stay for the people — I can attest.


Julia Hornstein | julia.hornstein@yale.edu