Letters from Andy: 1 (freshman year)

Dear Ceci,

How did you do it?

I was always so envious of the snaps you sent me your freshman year; it made me so excited for us to go to college together. We were gonna be absolute menaces in Pittsburgh, like high school all over again. But I guess college isn't supposed to be like high school. Maybe it was better that you didn't stay.

It feels like I'm wasting my time here, to be completely honest. I can never live up to the bar you set, and if I can't do that, I might as well not go to college. When I asked you how I should spend my time, you said "make the most of it." But what does that mean? My brain interprets that as "optimize your life," which means I spend lots of time worrying about the optimal way to live. I can spend a whole hour just staring at my planner going through every possible iteration of my afternoon. I can't simply start my homework, because there's a correct order to do my assignments, with the right group of people in the right spot in the library. Otherwise I'm not making the most of it. But of course, nothing is ever optimized because optimal means perfect. How did you make it work?

And no, don't tell me to rush a frat. I think you make more sense as a sorority girl than I do as a frat guy. Arthur took me to some Phi Delt rush events, but you will simply not catch me at a frat again.

I also worry about making the wrong choices here. Because for every decision, there must be one choice which is, objectively, more correct than the other. I don't think I've told you about Sammy yet, have I? Remember how I went with Arthur to a couple swim team parties during O-week? It was fun, because honestly if it weren't for Arthur inviting me along, I would have probably stayed in my room all week. But there was this one girl there, Sammy, who was really into me. And so obviously I was excited, because this is what's supposed to happen in college, right? I was completely out of my depth at those parties, though, since it was only like my third time ever drinking. She was going shot for shot with me, but it only took me around four to get completely wasted. She was a crazy heavyweight. Must be that swimmer's metabolism. So when she suggested we go back to her place, how was I gonna say no? I told Arthur about it like a month after the fact, and then he told me a bunch of very troubling things about Sammy. I don't know, I honestly try not to think about it too much.

There's a girl in M&I, Toni, who I'm egregiously down bad for. She's from Seattle I think — which I learned during the single conversation we had at Course Center. I'm trying really hard not to let my imagination get the best of me, but damn if she didn't lean in pretty close to see the solutions I had written on my iPad. Maybe I'll have a couple more conversations with her, and then I'll ask her out. I know I say that all the time, but I'll actually follow through this time.

Did you ever study in Sorrels your freshman year? How come you never told me about this place? It's magical. You know how casinos don't have windows and clocks so you can't tell the passage of time? I think Mr. Sorrels had the same idea. You blink and all of sudden you've been studying for five hours. I study better when I'm surrounded by the familiar faces of all the people who also like studying at the high tables. Maybe I should introduce myself to them.

You ever notice how strongly your brain associates people with places? I've never spoken to my Sorrels friends, but when I see them elsewhere they look so out of place. There's this one girl, she has really cool outfits every time I see her studying, and last weekend I saw her at rolls wearing an SDC hoodie. It was jarring. I think when you make a lot of memories in a building, it becomes more than a physical structure. It gives me weird déjà vu all the time.

Remember those really trippy dreams you had during your first semester? I thought it was just a you thing, but it started happening to me too. Maybe you can use your knowledge of symbols and astrology to piece this one together for me. I'm deep in the Doherty basements, sifting through the original blueprints and floor plans for all the buildings on campus. All of a sudden I come across a manila folder filled with handwritten letters, and I realize they're almost exact copies of my letters to you — except they're dated from 100 years ago. It's as if somebody else named Andy went through the same experiences as me a century ago. But I always get so eager to read into this person's future that I forget to handle the paper delicately, and the letters crumble in my hand. Then I realize I'm alone in the building, and I have no idea how to get out. I look back at the floorplans from earlier to see if they can help, but they're gone. In their place, I find pages filled with hundreds and hundreds of black and white photos of CMU students, organized like a yearbook. Next to each photo is their name, graduating class, and the manner of their death. Then I see my own picture, and then I wake up.

Pretty weird, huh?

I'm excited to be back for Thanksgiving. I should host something that weekend, because we gotta get the group together again. I want to see Shaun and Rafi and Lily again. I know our group chat has been pretty dead the last month, but I still miss them.

I have a whole lot more to say, but we'll catch up soon enough.