Shoveling snow today, I suddenly thought of them, two college seniors digging their car out from the aftermath of an unexpected blizzard one Sunday morning. They weren’t really my friends. But there I was one winter morning in an unfamiliar Manhattan borough depending on Nick and Joe in their vintage overcoats and converse high tops (sharing a Marlboro) attempt to dig out their car so we could get back to campus in Poughkeepsie. Our mutual friend was a senior named Caroline. Even taller than me with bright blonde hair, her raw energy demanded connection and she was feared and loved in equal parts across campus and somehow had chosen me as her Freshman lady in waiting.
She and I had spent the night in search of a party but in the blizzard’s onslaught we were too short on cash and our heels too high to make it. My head was bent so low against the wind, my chin touched the frozen zipper of Caroline’s shaggy chic coat I had borrowed. Sensing my defeat, she stole some string cheese from a convenience store and handed me a stick. “Fuel,” she said and began to do a Tina Tuner impersonation in the middle of Third Avenue.
We sought shelter in an apartment of a friend of hers nearby. She rapped loudly on door and it buzzed opened with the enthusiasm of a dying insect. The dark, dank hallway made me want to go back outside but I followed her singing like a flashlight. There was a shower in the kitchen and Caroline hopped in and faked a strip tease until even I felt festive. Nick and Joe were there and offered us a ride home the next day. Where did we spend the night? I don’t recall but eventually there we all were in their car, barreling down the Taconic in the blinding sunshine of the new morning toward the safe grid of Vassar’s campus.
As Nick drove, Joe passed him some deodorant and he gamely applied it one handedly. I turned to Caroline, eager for her make one of her perfect jokes but she was watching the city retreat out the window her face gone uncharacteristically soft. “I’m not going back,” she said. “City sucks,” I told her, thinking of my Russian literature homework. “No, school,” she said. And from the depths of her pocket handed me the last of the cheese.