“X” Marks the Spot at Armstrong Hall

Here you find buried treasure—my buried treasure—containing last ditch efforts and disappointments planted just below shoe prints made by school spirit and broken liquor bottles. This is where you will learn juxtaposition

This is where you prove your high school health teacher wrong.

“If you don’t pick up the habit by 18, your chances of ever picking it up are slim to none.”

You’re nearly 19, competitive, and ready to conquer this challenge.

This is where you watch a stranger punch through a barred window during a psychedelic mushroom trip gone horribly wrong. You’ll put pressure on his wounds and wait for the ambulance as you hold back laughter while he explains, with urgency, the reason for his violent pursuit.

This is where the girls exhausted by the demands of rushing a sorority will storm in herds as they identify themselves through a melody of coughs. You’ll be annoyed, understanding these encounters to be a direct attack against your intelligence.

Those same girls will arrive here after midnight to narrowly escape MIP’s and the main entrance Gestapo because the stoop kids will always prop open the door. They won’t cough. They won’t acknowledge your camaraderie. This is where you’ll learn altruism.

This is where you sit and think of how blessed you are to have gotten lost on your first day of class. You won’t know where you’re going but you’ll be drawn to another lost girl. She will have two classes with you, introduce you to her friends from back home, and you will find family.

This is where those friends will drape you around their shoulders after a night you’ll never talk about again. You won’t remember it. They will tell you that they made sure nothing happened to you. This is where you will see the darkness that humanity is capable of. This is where you won’t let it harden you.

This is where you will grow. Not in a classroom, not at your first Big 10 football game, but on a stoop. You will see that a place can become the leading lady to your own story.

This is where you find healing.

This is where you carve your name in ash and stone.

This is where you return.

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