Icon of the student lounge


May 25, 1980


“Don’t cough. Don’t do anything,” he whispered. “Just sit there on the couch and breathe.”

This late, William Paterson College is a graveyard, containing only souls too lost to find their way back home for the summer. This is the in between time, when the end of the formal sessions spills over into that brief time some use to catch up on a few credits before the summer sessions actually start, or spend a few days in transition before making their way to some other place.

Nobody but nobody (which I suppose we are) comes to the student lounge in the student center, and so he could pretty much say whatever he wanted without anybody but me to hear.

And he wasn’t even talking to me or on a telephone, or maybe not even to himself – although I knew him from here and from the writer’s club and some poetry readings. He always read the same piece of writing, as if he could not duplicate it, and needed to cling to the bit of fame he had from it, since nearly everybody hearing it for the first or second or even third time, admired it. Those hearing it often, looked forward to it with dread, since as good as it was, it was also extremely long.

But he wasn’t reading anything today, just talking.

“I talk, but I’m not listened to,” he said. “Can anybody hear me? It’s me speaking. Hello? No answers. I don’t even get silence. That would be a relief. Silence has a meaning, its own way of speaking. I hear everybody else speaking, but it’s never to me.”

If he saw me in the room, he didn’t indicate. He was staring out the window up at the ridge where the old dormitories now Humanity Department offices stood.

“Can you hear me?” he yelled. “I am talking. Respond. Tell me something. I’m so full of fucking rage, but no one listens even then.”

At which point, he turned around, walked out of the lounge and out of the building, leaving only the echo of his footsteps to fill the silence.

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