Dora Guo

Dear Elm Street,

The last letter that I wrote was for my English class, Daily Themes, back when The Great Lockdown had just begun. My classmates and I were tasked with writing to a “friend you have totally lost touch with… a friend from earlier in your Yale life… a neighbor back home, or somebody who you really have something to say to.” For me, you are those things.

If the world was normal right now, I would be a spring chicken crossing your road and frolicking down your sidewalk to drop this letter off in the mailbox by the post office. I would have indulged in my cache of Scooby-Doo stamps. Maybe I would stop by Old Campus (“The OC,” pronounced “awk,” as I like to call it) to peek at commencement setup and watch the ultimate frisbee team scrimmage. Maybe I would go for a walk to see how far you go. But the world isn’t normal right now, is it?

In the fall, I gather with my suitemates in our Trumbull College common room. Our colleagues outside provide background noise as they bring their talents and energy across the street to Toad’s Place. This corner, at Elm and York, is always the liveliest spot of the night. Eager first years, who don their “going-out-fits,” shuffle by in mobs. The GHeav disciples roll through, contented with bellies full of bacon, egg, and cheese or spicy chicken. Even the desperate studiers are here, holing up in Tsai CITY for a long night of productivity. All the while, on the same street, my suite life goes on — good-natured wrestling, the occasional attempt to study, general mayhem.

In the winter, it’s 2 a.m., and I’m on my way home from office hours in Hillhouse 17. My brain is fried from stacks and sorting algorithms, and my bum still hurts from slipping on the icy bridge. I march on with my hood up to shelter from the cold and the snow. But that simple movement from Hillhouse to home, that change of scenery, is much needed. My way is lit by the sexy glow of Elm Street’s lamps. It’s just me and the lights, and I feel a bit like Dumbledore in the opening scene of Harry Potter. I settle down for some finishing touches on the night’s work in the Trumbull seminar room, which overlooks the road.

In the spring, I embrace my big paper bag full of Takis and white chocolate-covered pretzels, fresh off of a trip with the boys to Stop & Shop. Down the street, the wave of afternoon class-goers sweeps in and jaywalks its way to Durfee’s. (Those chicken tenders and samosas are calling to the people.) We drop our goods off in the suite and waddle down the Rose Walk to Cross Campus for some well-earned sunbathing. This is the scene that they display in the campus brochures. These days, we’re all missing your springtime glory a little extra.

I live on a different street now. I try to walk down it every day, to get in at least a few thousand steps. To breathe in the air and listen for the bustling sounds of the Elm City. But here, everything is quiet. All I hear are my own thoughts. Sometimes, I listen to choral music or “The Anthropocene Reviewed” to drown out the silence. I’m grateful for the change of pace — you, Elm Street, can be a bit overwhelming. But here, the only people jaywalking are the little kids riding their little bikes. There’s no Elm City Motorcycle Squad to startle me every night with a revved engine and an impressive wheelie. There’s no Saybrook College to throw shade at from across the street.

I’m left wondering when next I’ll get to make memories with you. I keep imagining our grand reunion. The traditional college song “Neath the Elms” says it best: “Sweet the hour when your returning / Bids our merry songs arise, Tra la la la!” Until then.

Moorah Moorah,


Jonathan Jalbert |