Authors: Lauren Kunze
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Friendship, #Dating & Sex, #School & Education
“Can I have my bag back now?” Callie asked.
“Which class is this?” he retorted instead, peering through the glass at the students who were seating themselves around a huge mahogany table.
“Postwar Fiction and Theory, with that visiting professor Raja?” As she spoke, an elderly gentleman of Indian descent sporting a purple velvet blazer and huge horn-rimmed glasses slipped through the back entrance and assumed his place at the head of the table. “Why?” she asked, rounding on him. “What class do you—”
“Postwar Fiction and Theory, with that visiting professor Raja,” he answered with a wicked gleam in his eye, tossing her bag into her arms. Then, without a backward glance, he opened the doors and strode into the room.
She stared after him. He hadn’t attended last week’s seminar during Shopping Period. What was he trying to pull?
There was nothing to do but follow. Walking in, she took a seat opposite him. He beamed at her and pulled out a notebook and pen from the inside pocket of his coat. She frowned back, but his attention had suddenly shifted elsewhere, to somewhere behind her head. She turned just in time to see Alessandra bounding through the double doors, late as was—apparently—usual. Callie watched her slide into the seat next to Gregory. His eyes flickered ever so briefly at Callie before he leaned in and kissed her near the mouth.
Professor Raja cleared his throat. “My dear friends, thank you for joining our conversation today.” His British-Indian accent was so distinguished that anything he said would have sounded brilliant, be it about the central components of de Saussure’s structuralist theory of linguistics (signs and signifiers) or what he ate for breakfast (eggs and toast). “Now if you could all be so kind as to retrieve your copies of
, which naturally you have all absorbed and digested since our last meeting . . .”
—a tiny noise of triumph escaped Callie’s lips at the blank look on Gregory’s face as she plunked her copy of Virginia Woolf’s famous masterpiece on the table. Her smile faded a moment later when he leaned in to share with Alessandra.
“Now,” Professor Raja continued, “who wants to provide us with an analysis of the novel’s stream of consciousness mechanism insofar as it relates to the underlying issues of mental illness, existentialism, and feminism?”
The room stayed silent.
“Not properly caffeinated this afternoon, I see,” he murmured, looking amused. “Well, in that case, let us begin instead with the most deceivingly simple of questions. The novel takes place in a single day. Who can tell me what happens?”
“Shy, are we?” Professor Raja commented. “Well, if there are no volunteers, I shall just have to pick one of you,” he muttered, shuffling his papers until he identified the class register. Twirling his finger above the page, he stabbed downward and smiled.
“Miss Alessandra Constantine?”
“Uh . . . yes?” Perky Boobs asked in her low alto. Her forehead was creased, her full scarlet lips drawn in a pout. She looked like someone who could flirt her way out of anything—well, almost anything.
Professor Raja smiled tolerantly. “Shall I repeat the question, dear?” She nodded, and he did. Her face remained as blank as before.
Callie knew it was wrong to feel satisfied. Maybe Alessandra had the answer but felt paralyzed due to her proximity to Gregory, who Callie knew better than anyone caused a certain maddening, tongue-tying effect. Still . . .
“Well, Mrs. Dalloway is going to throw, like, a party—or
, in French—so she’s walking around town getting ready and buying flowers and stuff.”
? Clearly this girl needed to repeat Introduction to Bullshit 10a.
Professor Raja’s lips were thin and straight like a ruler.
“And honestly not a whole lot else happens, unless you count that Septimus guy who kills himself because he’s, like, traumatized. From the war and stuff.”
Professor Raja blinked rapidly, his eyes magnified and huge like an owl’s through the horn-rimmed spectacles.
“I mean,” Alessandra faltered, “that apart from the party with her husband and friends and her ex-boyfriend who also shows up, there isn’t too much going on. . . .”
Gregory, who had been fixated on the page in front of him, looked up suddenly. “I believe what Ms. Constantine is trying to say is that there isn’t too much, ah, ‘going on’ in terms of the
in the story because the majority of the novel takes place in the
of the characters. The characters’
thoughts . . . supersede the
action, which, ah, renders these seemingly insignificant, ordinary everyday events—a glance, a touch, buying some flowers—significant and . . . well, extraordinary. Epic, even.”
Ah, and the man with a PhD in Bullshitology weighs in with a phenomenal—no, make that
—rewording of the blurb on the back of the book.
Even Professor Raja seemed to buy it, nodding enthusiastically as he said, “Excellently put. Your name, young man?”
“Gregory Bolton. I’m a last-minute addition,” he added as Professor Raja scanned the register and appeared to draw a blank.
“Very good,” the professor said, making a note. “Now, Mr. Bolton, perhaps you’d care to elaborate on what you appeared to be suggesting was the paradoxically expansive nature of a seemingly ordinary day . . . ?”
Without hesitation Gregory launched into an analysis of the text, which, it soon became clear, he had read on a previous occasion. His words flowed as effortlessly as he could lob a squash ball into a perfect serve or secure a girl’s phone number with a single look—in the opposite direction. Callie felt strangely envious: not because of the way Alessandra, and every other girl in the room for that matter, was hanging on his words, but because for him, everything was so easy. He had been born with so much—smarts, looks, athletic ability, and more money than she would see in a lifetime—that he never even had to try. How, she wondered suddenly, could someone with everything be so insufferable 95 percent of the time?
“. . . So, as you can see, most of the novel takes place in memory,” Gregory concluded. “The central characters are preoccupied by the past, obsessed in particular with the formative decisions that they made—decisions that may have been wrong.”
A few students had started taking notes, and Professor Raja’s head was in danger of popping off his neck from all the vigorous nodding. “And an example of one of these pivotal decisions might be . . . ?”
“Mrs. Dalloway’s—Clarissa’s—decision to marry Richard over Peter. In choosing Richard she is choosing practicality over passion: the promise of security and a stable life in exchange for . . . well, true love.” His eyes were trained straight ahead. Was it Callie’s imagination or had his face grown the slightest shade darker? He shrugged. “She spends the rest of her life regretting it.”
“No she doesn’t.” The words flew out of Callie’s mouth before she could stop them. Suddenly all eyes were on her. Professor Raja gave her a small smile. “Do go on, Miss . . . ?”
“Andrews. Callie Andrews. And I was just saying that . . . I disagree. I don’t think she regrets her decision. To marry Richard. Instead of Peter, who I’m sure we can all concur is extremely unreliable and incapable of reform, since he never stops chasing other girls and adventures, and is basically kind of a— well . . .” Callie swallowed, unsure if there was a seminar-appropriate synonym for the term
. “The point is . . . that she is happy—very happy—with her choice.”
“That may be so,” Gregory cut in before Professor Raja could respond, “but is she
happy in the aftermath? Happy to play the part of the upper-class housewife to her politician? Because she never actually gives Peter an answer when he asks her,” he continued, picking up Alessandra’s copy of the novel and flipping through it, “on page—”
“It’s at the bottom of forty-seven,” Callie cut in smoothly. “Right after Peter tells her he’s having an affair with a married woman back in India while simultaneously checking out the maid; and right before he falls ‘madly in love’ with a complete stranger on the street and then follows her all around town!”
“Peter certainly has his flaws,” Gregory countered evenly, “but if he’s so screwed up, then why, on that same page forty-seven, does she think that, ‘If I had married him, this gaiety would have been mine all day’—”
“Fun does not equal stability,” Callie interjected. “And even though she
has trouble remembering why she didn’t choose Peter when he’s around because he is quote ‘enchanting,’ that doesn’t mean Richard wasn’t the right choice; in fact, as Peter even says himself, compared to Richard he is a ‘failure’—”
“—or how about on forty-one,” Gregory continued, “when she reflects on how ‘impossible it was ever to make up my mind,’ and then wonders why she ever did decide ‘not to marry’ Peter ‘that awful summer.’”
“That summer,” Callie said through gritted teeth, “the most important relationship on her mind was with her best
friend, Sally Seton, with whom she shared the most
‘exquisite moment of her whole life,’ which of course Peter could never understand, self-centered egotistical narcissist that he is—”
“Everyone goes a little lesbian in college.” Gregory snorted. “Which is beside the point, anyway, because in present day Clarissa and Sally are barely even friends anymore—”
“Perhaps you two ought to reserve the rest of this debate for later,” Professor Raja boomed suddenly, “and allow us to hear from some of the other members of this class?”
Oh. Callie blinked. She had completely forgotten that anyone else was in the room. Blushing, she buried her nose in her book and barely glanced over the top of the pages for the remainder of class.
“You guys got a little intense back there,” Alessandra said, bridging the gap between Callie and Gregory as they all filed out of the seminar room, drawing them together against their will like an oxygen molecule binds two positively charged and therefore normally repellant atoms of hydrogen. “I’m going to have to step up my game!”
Callie stared at her.
“Harvard is, like, way harder than I ever would have thought,” Alessandra continued.
Oh. She means she’s going to have to start actually reading before class.
“We’re going to grab a late lunch,” Alessandra said, stopping in front of the café. “Won’t you join us?”
Callie’s eyes grew wide. “No—I, uh . . .”
“She has to be at work in Lamont in half an hour,” Gregory supplied.
“How did you know that?” Callie blurted.
Alessandra cocked her head.
Gregory shrugged. “Friends know other friends’ schedules.”
“Is that right?” asked Callie.
“Yep,” he said, throwing an arm around Alessandra’s shoulders and leading her into the café. “We’ll see ya later,
And so the two of them broke away, the bond “smashed to atoms,” just as Woolf had written.
The War of the Roses
o all the gentlemen on campus:
Today is the thirteenth of February, meaning that tomorrow is the day you’re going to be in a whole lot of trouble unless—unlike most individuals possessing a Y chromosome—you miraculously remembered that tomorrow is not just Monday but also VALENTINE’S DAY.
Last week a
editor published an article on their already flailing upstart, the so-called “more than daily news” FlyBy blog, claiming to be “What Every Harvard Student Needs to Know About Dating: A Guide in Ten Simple Equations.” Forgetting, for a moment, that “ten simple equations” is an incredibly moronic oxymoron, let’s take a moment to dwell on the disturbing statistic that came to light:
As a Harvard student, there’s a 69 percent chance you were your high school’s valedictorian. But there’s also a 90 percent chance you’re still a virgin.
To remedy these statistical shortcomings (only 69 percent valedictorian: come on, people!), the author launches into a mathematical analysis of dating involving a lot of
statements that seems guaranteed to fail the 2 percent of people on this planet who can even follow his logic.
More important, this piece proves once and for all—in less than twenty diagrams!—why they at the paper should stick to breaking news and leave the social side to our advice experts at
But I digress. And so, without further ado, flow charts, diagrams, or equations:
Appropriate Valentine’s Day Gifts:
A Simple Pyramid Based on the Length of Time You’ve Been Together
A day: A card
A week: Flowers
A month: Chocolates
Six months–1 year: Jewelry
Year+: Really Expensive Jewelry
Not together yet: Tell her how you feel; anything else = creepy
Was that so difficult to parse? If so, then just remember this: whatever you do, don’t get her a freaking teddy bear.
(And here’s hoping that some of you finally lose those V-Cards!)
Alexis Thorndike, Advice Columnist
Harvard University’s Authority on Campus Life since 1873
aliente, can I use your computer?” Mimi asked from where she was sprawled over the overstuffed chair in their common room.
“What did you just call me?” Callie demanded, looking up sharply from her reading assignment for Postwar Fiction and Theory.
“Caliente. It is Spanish. Gregory is teaching me. I switched to 101 because, after my C
, they told me I would have to repeat the entry level
une autre fois
Callie grimaced. Caliente had been Gregory’s special name for her . . . a long, long time ago. “Why do you need my computer?”
“I, er, mine . . . exploded?”
“Yes. Bang, bang? It was all the fault of Justin Bieber.”
“She means she downloaded a bunch of music illegally,” Vanessa offered from where she sat on the floor, cutting paper hearts out of pink and red construction paper. Apparently—as she had explained earlier to Mimi—if you taped them to the walls, they were like dream catchers but for valentines.
Plus, it’s festive!
“You can get in real trouble with the administration for that!” Dana called, popping her head out of her bedroom. After a moment’s hesitation she plopped next to Callie on the couch, unable to resist the opportunity to lecture. “It’s in violation of the university code, and against the law. Students have been kicked out for less.”
“Well, I learned my lesson,” Mimi muttered. “
Un cheval de Troie a mange mon ordinateur.
“A . . . horse . . .
your computer?” Dana scrunched up her forehead. “Is that like ‘the dog ate my homework’?”
Vanessa laughed. “A
horse virus destroyed her operating system.”
Oui, c’est tragique,
” Mimi agreed. “Caliente?
Se mueva, por favor! Ahora!
“Yes, here you go,” Callie said, returning from her bedroom with her laptop and handing it to Mimi.
“Password?” asked Mimi, flipping it open.
“Calbear12,” Vanessa replied, seemingly automatically, cutting a large, pink heart from construction paper she had just folded in half.
Callie stared at her. “How did y—”
Ah oui, c’est vrai,
” Mimi cut her off, her fingers flicking over the keys.
“But—wait—you both know my password?”
“Yes,” said Vanessa, grabbing a roll of tape and standing. “Even if you weren’t the world’s slowest,
typist,” she explained as she stuck the first heart on the wall, “it’s not very difficult to guess.”
Mimi nodded. “One needs random letters and punctuation and numbers—”
“I have numbers. Twelve. That’s a number.”
” said Mimi. “It is also the number on your football sweatshirt—”
“And your gym bag, and your seven pairs of
shorts—which, by the way, we are glad there are seven because they all look the same and we thought you were very dirty for a while.”
“You also sign all of your e-mails ‘Calbear,’” Vanessa chimed in. “At least, when you used to . . .” She trailed off, suddenly intent on taping a pink heart inside of a red one.
“And it is your Twitter name,” Mimi continued, “and your screen name, and—”
“Okay, okay, I get it!” Callie cried. “It’s just that . . . random numbers and letters are hard to remember sometimes.”
“C8H5KO4,” Dana rattled off instantly. “What? That’s easy. It’s the molecular formula for potassium hydrogen phthalate.” Her eyes grew wide. “Oh no,” she muttered, racing into her bedroom. They could hear her fingers clacking frantically at her keyboard.
“Yeah,” Vanessa snorted, “because we’re
going to remember
There was a knock at the door.
“I’ll get it!” Vanessa shrieked, bounding over to the mirror to tug at her curls. “Hello-o . . . Oh. You. Hi. What do you want?”
“Are you going to let me in?” came Matt’s voice.
“Are those for
?” Vanessa shot back.
“Uh, actually, there’s one for each of you,” Matt explained, walking into the room. His cheeks were nearly the same shade at the four long-stemmed red roses in his hand. In the other he held a giant teddy bear, white with a bright red bow around its neck.
Vanessa’s eyes lit up, and she snatched a rose, inhaling its scent like it was the first she had ever received. Maybe it is, Callie suddenly thought, eyeing the paper hearts stuck to the walls. Vanessa frowned suddenly. “Why all of us?” she demanded, suspicious.
“Well, I uh, just thought . . . it’d be nice if . . .” Matt stared at the floor. “My mom made me.”
?” Vanessa repeated. “And who is
for?” she added, pointing at the bear.
“No one! I mean, someone, but no one here, okay—not that it’s any of your business!”
“Thank you, Matthew. That was extremely thoughtful,” Dana said.
“Yes, thank you,” said Callie, accepting a rose. “These are beautiful.”
Mimi echoed, looking up from whatever she was typing.
“So,” said Matt, sitting on the couch, “what’s everyone up to? Art project?” he added, noticing all the paper hearts strewn across the coffee table and floor.
“Just doing some decorating for my favorite holiday,” Vanessa said, unabashed. “Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, when you think about it, because it’s not like I’ve ever had a
Valentine’s Day. In fact, I’ve probably had a lot of bad Valentine’s Days. Disastrous, even. But I’m an optimist! Hey”—she broke out of her monologue, surveying Matt—“You’re tall-ish. Do you think you could reach above the door?”
“Great!” she said, thrusting a handful of paper hearts and a spare roll of tape into his hands.
Callie emerged from the bathroom with her Nalgene full of warm water and started arranging the roses on the coffee table. “We have about an hour to kill before this ‘Stoplight’ party tonight, so—”
“What’s a ‘Stoplight’ party?” Matt interrupted.
“Oh,” said Callie. “It’s a Pudding thing. Instead of the traditional cocktail party they’re—I mean
—doing something a little different for the first event this spring.” Two weeks ago she had asked Matt if he wanted her to “punch” him and he had laughed and said, “Only if I ever do something really, really wrong.” Dana had similarly declined, despite Mimi’s urging that her presence would make the whole thing a “bit less boring,” which, coming from Mimi, practically constituted begging. Clearing her throat, Callie lifted Vanessa’s invitation off the table, where Vanessa had left it prominently displayed, and read:
EMBERS OF THE
LUB, EST. 1770
Cordially invite you to join us for our first Punch Event of the spring
“STOP! In the name of LOVE!”
Like traffic lights, your attire will send *signals* to the opposite sex
“I’m totally available (so bring it on)”
means SLOW DOWN:
“I might be taken—but maybe not (depends who’s asking)”
“My significant other owns a gun (and is not afraid to use it)”
Monday, February 14
2 Garden Street
Stoplight Cocktail Attire
“Sounds . . . like a good way to force a lot of conversations that people might not be ready to have?” said Matt, taping another heart over the door.
“What do you mean?” asked Vanessa. “And watch it! Higher. Those look crooked.”
“I mean what if you’re a dude and you like a girl and you’ve been on a few dates and you think it’s getting pretty serious so you wear red, only then she shows up wearing—”
“Ohmigawd!” Vanessa shrieked. “Oh my god oh my god oh my
. What if—what if—” Her sentence cut off abruptly as she dived headfirst into her closet.
A few minutes later she resurfaced. She wore a pale gold top tucked into a red leather miniskirt and a large necklace, its green stones glimmering. “Is it too much?” she asked.
said Mimi. “You look exactly like an upside-down traffic light, with hair! What?” she added. “That is what you are going for, no?”
Vanessa groaned, sighed, and then looked at Callie. “What are
“Purple,” said Mimi, back to being absorbed by Callie’s computer.
“Red, of course,” said Callie. Of course. Right?
Frowning, she pulled out her phone and texted Clint.
HAT ARE YOU WEARING TONIGHT?
His response came almost instantaneously:
She shook her head.
Callie glanced at Vanessa, who was now limping around her bedroom on two heels of vastly different heights: one red, one a yellow-green reptile print.
O YOU KNOW WHAT COLOR
ELLOW? HE’S ON THE FENCE.
Vanessa moaned and kicked off both shoes, then disappeared back into her closet.
ELL, PUSH HIM OVER: TO RED!
ANESSA = SPAZZING.
ILL DO ;)
“I think you should go with the red one that you already laid out,” Callie called.
would suggest the option most likely to humiliate me,” Vanessa muttered, flinging dress after dress onto her bed.
All of a sudden Matt yelled and leaped back—just in time to miss the door that had been flung open.
“I came just as soon as I heard!” OK cried, bursting into the room. In his arms he cradled several large heart-shaped candy boxes, each wrapped in ribbons that were also affixed to multiple red balloons.
“Heard what?” asked Dana.
“What you were up to,” he said, rounding on Matt. “Very tricky, mate, but I refuse to be outdone by the likes of you!”
“What?” Matt’s face was a complete blank.
OK jabbed an accusatory finger at the roses. “
their favorite neighbor. Ladies?”
“Um, thank you?” said Callie, taking a box of candy. The balloons bobbed in the air.
“Of course you are,” Vanessa agreed, coming back into the common room. “Who else would remember to TiVo
while I was away on vacay?”
“He watches that by himself, too,” Matt whispered to Callie.
“What color are
wearing tonight, OK?” Vanessa asked, ignoring Matt.
“Green,” he said very slowly and deliberately, trying—and failing—not to look at Mimi. “Yes, I will be wearing
tonight. . . . Unless someone has a problem—with me wearing
? Anyone? No one?”
Mimi still appeared completely engaged by the computer.
“Well, then, here you go, Dana,” he said, handing the last of the three boxes to her.