“Barnard Banjo Club, ca. 1897” I can’t help but stop to ponder this photo, as I walk through the tunnel. These women - with their hair pulled severely back in buns, and their billowy dresses that come down to the floor - are my predecessors. My sisters. Yet, their faces, their posture, their poses, the banjos in their arms – they could be putting on a play!
Except they were putting on reality.
What would it have been like to be them?
Some days I feel far away from myself.
Detached from reality.
Thoughts quiver, like the hairs of a bow barely touching a violin’s strings. One of those strange days.
Thoughts go by like items on an assembly line: too much homework, sunny day, need to find an internship, what’s for dinner.
But then – thoughts I don’t recognize emerge.
A couple strange, vaguely familiar strands. Perhaps from dreams, thoughts that the people close to me are feeling, suppressed childhood memories…or maybe from past lives.
Yet they flow easily between my own normal thoughts, so that it takes intense concentration to catch these thoughts in action, drag them up from the bottom of the ocean of my mind, while they wiggle in attempts to escape.
And then – I’ve lost them.
It’s a bizarre moment when you catch yourself in your thoughts;
Catch a phrase. Catch the voice in your head. It only happens rarely.
Rarely do you pause and think about the act of thinking.
And think about how one day you won’t be thinking,
But the cars will still zoom down Broadway; still barely stopping for annoyed pedestrians.
The light will still be beautiful on the river, in the springtime when the leaves of the elms reflect on the water: a thousand emeralds shining.
The bells will still chime at Union Theological Seminary, while an English class meets outside, because it’s finally reached the 70’s, and one girl will carefully sit down so not to get grass stains on a new spring dress.
Everyone will rush to class, work, home, downtown, uptown. Borough to borough, day to day, the subway spitting people up, and subsequently swallowing them. No stopping, no wrestling the clocks into submission, you can only flow with the current, flow with the current.
And perhaps only one of those people will look up at the sky and smile and feel glad to be alive. It’s funny how days don’t really exist.
How can they exist, if one week later we don’t remember what we did, wore, ate, said, laughed at.
One year later can’t remember our state of mind.
Ten years later, all we remember is that we went to Barnard, liked it.
100 years later you’re a photograph on a wall that someone passes, and gives ten seconds to wondering who you are, what it was like to go to Barnard in your day.
“Girl sitting on Lehman Lawn, typing on laptop ca. 2010”