One of my favorite things about living in a college town, now that I am a mom instead of a student, is running errands on a Saturday morning. After a cup of coffee and the paper, I hit the street around 10 or 11 AM, when I’ve been awake for three hours, but the town is just rubbing its eyes after its Friday night revelry. The scenery tickles me with every Saturday morning sojourn.
It’s 10:30 am. On my way home from the grocery store, where I bought popsicles for the kids for the first warm days of spring, I see a beefy young man strolling down the sidewalk in baggy gray sweatpants, flip flops, and no shirt. His chest is bare, not because he just finished up a run – his eyes are crusty (and he’s wearing flip flops) – but because he rolled out of bed cotton-mouthed and hungover, and he needed juice. He’s walking home now, sipping the Snapple he bought at the 7-Eleven. The April sun feels good on his skin, but it hurts his eyes.
Another day, on our way out of town – it’s 11 am and we are taking the kids on a wildflower hike – we drive along fraternity row, where young men move in slow motion under apple-green leaf buds. They lean over slowly, gingerly, on a Saturday morning and pick Friday night’s debris off the grass. On the front lawn of one frat house, a sophomore slouches over his garden tool. He rakes beer cans from last night’s party. A more senior brother stands on the porch, his feet firmly planted as he takes the air. He wears pajama pants and a tee shirt, yet stands tall as he surveys the pear blossoms and supervises the sophomore. He has one hand on his hip. In the other hand he holds a bloody Mary.
My favorite scene, though, unfolds at 10:45 am, as I drive to Goodwill. On my way to drop off outgrown kid clothes, I pass The Waffle House. Five bleary-eyed boys, all in maroon Virginia Tech sweatshirts, lay draped over benches like discarded coats. Last night, when I saw boys like them at Food Lion, when I was buying tissues and milk, and they were loading their carts with cheap beer and chips, their eyes were bright and laughing. Now, they are red-rimmed and suffering. Their heads lean on the brick wall, their arms dangle from burgundy sleeves. The Waffle House is full, and they wait their turn for greasy hangover food.
I smile as I drive by, my eyes clear and my head pain-free, remembering those days.