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Haunted (Part One)
by: R.B.

May 29, 2006

     I am here on the mostly-empty Pomona College campus, the sketchy alumnus who returned for one last five-week trip down Memory Lane. There are no voices wafting down from Marston Quad, no random from-a-distance "Hey"s from kids walking on opposite sidewalks, no drunken parades, but I can still hear ghosts, semi-translucent spirits--half matter, half ether--whispering to me, reaching through Time but confined forever to this Space, bound inextricably to this place, pieces of hearts left behind, still beating strong and regular though the body has moved on and the circumstances have changed. Heartbeats that keep the time for the songs of the soundtrack for what could be termed "The College Experience" though it was so much more than just that--a lazy waltz here, a frantic jive there, a heavy and dark pulsing beat that conjures up images of writhing bodies dancing in a sweat-thickened haze on a sweat-slicked dancefloor, or a single snare tap-tap-tapping out a slow and semi-unconscious march towards completing that last paper before daybreak.
     With all this time alone with my thoughts, and nothing to do at present, I am faced with two options: confronting the spirits of the past or dealing with the impending and uncertain future. The latter can wait a little, I suppose. I am here now, after all, so why not gain some closure from this place by communing with the ghosts and putting them to rest in a specially-prepared mausoleum in my mind, a platinum shrine for diamond-encrusted memories, a monument four-years in the making, one that will stand for all eternity, unweathered by the ravages of time...

* * * * * *

     Last night, I stood in Lyon Garden, under the spot-lit foliage of the trees that towered over the fountain like titanic guardians watching over the dancing figures in the center, shielding them from harm so that their perpetually motionless dance celebrating the 'Joie de Vie' could continue uninterrupted. Suddenly, the sky exploded with light--a white hot sun appeared above me to the southwest--and a horde of Freshman filled with a mixture of uncertainty and hope for the future took form before me, standing around the fountain. They spoke, but I could understand nothing, English though it was. Some jumped into the heavily chlorinated water; others followed with a little coaxing. Smiles graced their faces--Joie de Vie. One girl would not come in, despite their pleas, and suddenly, I heard a phrase I actually understood:

"I can't swim."

     They laughed. They tried to tell her the water was only one foot deep. They joked around with each other. They splashed water all over each others' bodies and faces--clothes be damned. They continued to frolic in and about the fountain, completing the dance suggested by the frozen figures in the center. I felt their
Joie de Vie infect me as I watched. A smile slowly crept across my until-then emotionless face. And as I smiled, I closed my eyes ever so slightly, blurring the figures in front of me into a shapeless mass of light and color. When I reopened my eyes completely and the world came back into focus, everybody was gone. The sun had retreated once more into the infinite darkness. I was alone again.
     And I could not quite recall if the girl got into the fountain or not.
     I produced a cigarette from its pack and lit it, pressed it between my lips and inhaled. I walked out of the garden, smoke trailing behind me, lingering in the air back towards the fountain.
     I heard a cough that sounded like my own, but it did not come from me. I turned around and saw no one, but I felt a wetness under my clothes that I couldn't quite explain, and the scent of chlorine overpowered the cloves that I was smoking...
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