His (Our) Odyssey

by trogers5


Creative Non-Fiction


people in a classroom
photo creds: pixabay

Aidan Lerner ’22

Bringggg. Bringggg. Bringggg.

As a unit, over eight hundred kids arose and walked toward the wing of classrooms. The full mass of the entire student body was not something which Eddie had ever taken for granted, given his claustrophobic instincts and fear of crowds. But on the list of triggering things in a high school, the morning scrum was relatively low and something to which Eddie had grown more accustomed.

Eddie’s first class was Spanish III and he was dreading it. Señora Mafrey demanded that no English be spoken from the beginning of her class to the end and the results were mixed, to say the least. Eddie slumped into his seat next to his friend Anthony.

Hola Anthony. Como te weekend?” Eddie sputtered. “Tú escribes el homework? Eso sucked.” 

Hola, el homework made me hate my vida,” Anthony replied quickly and with much less effort.

Solamente Español!” Señora Mafrey yelled.

Eddie sighed, exasperated. He grabbed the bathroom pass, a miniaturized mariachi-style guitar, and walked into the hall. It was during walks such as these when Eddie came to appreciate the simple design of his school’s hallway. The white brick and purple streaks were so much more appealing when observed alone.

Eddie took care of business in the first-floor bathroom. The smell of vape lingered as always, but Eddie counted himself lucky to not have encountered a squad of vapers. He washed his hands, considering how he could prolong his time outside of the classroom by taking a drink from the water fountain, when he heard a bang and the lights cut out.

Eddie was thrust into total darkness. Only the very edge of sunlight lingered around the corner where the hallway windows gave way to the outside world. Eddie felt his way along the wall and stumbled into the hallway. He had always hated the noise of hundreds of students, but now the silence was disconcerting.

As he looked out into the sunlight, Eddie saw something that thrust a chill into his stomach. There was a hole in the window. It was small and round and broken glass lay underneath it. The glare of the sun hurt Eddie’s eyes as he stared at the hole, wondering if it was the source of the bang he’d heard.

He walked towards it slowly, aware of every deep breath. He thought he could see something just beneath the glare. Maybe he saw someone dressed in so much black he might just be a shadow. Eddie stopped, and the shape did too. The lights flickered as Eddie reached the hole, staring into a shapeless, colorless thing. He was paralyzed by fear.

Against the black, a pop of yellow crawled out and multiplied. The sun was blinding him, but he heard the buzz of a hornet. Eddie could feel the air pouring through the hole.

“Attention students. This is a lockdown,” Principal O’Shaughnessy’s voice announced over the intercom.

Eddie jumped. The beekeeper, clad in all black, sealed the hole closed and backed away. The first hornet sting surprised Eddie more than hurt him, but his move to slap the bee away disturbed another. The second sting elicited a yell and freezing in place was no longer an option. Eddie wheeled away taking sting after sting all over his body, on his arms and legs.

Eddie sprinted around a corner, yelling and slapping the air. Eddie found the nearest classroom and dashed inside, nursing multiple nasty stings and gasping for air. For several seconds, the only thing Eddie was aware of was the absence of pain. Then, he became aware of the darkness as well as the sound of breath.

“Hello,” Eddie said into the silence. “Who’s there?”

Out of the shadows, a reply breathed into the empty room.

“I’m normal.”

“O–okay,” Eddie stammered, unnerved.

“I kissed a girl just last night. It smelled nice.”

Eddie was reaching for the doorknob, wincing with every creepy whisper that punctuated the dark.

“So, some of us are normal. We’re not all weird. We’re not all alone.”

Eddie found the doorknob. He asked, “Who’s ‘we?’”

The darkness laughed. “We’re you, you aren’t. I’m the punchline to her joke.” 

“What?”

“I’m going to do it to you now,” he said. “I want you to know why. It’s because—”

Eddie leaned on the door and fell into the hallway, sliding and slamming the door behind him. He shot to his feet and ran. Adrenaline was failing him now, and he felt his stomach open up to a new level of fear he had not previously known. Instead of butterflies in his stomach, it felt like, well, hornets.

Finally, he saw light emanating from a classroom and burst inside, screaming for help. The violinist continued playing undeterred while a minster shuffled his notes.

“Welcome, welcome, welcome!” a girl in an elaborate dress greeted him. “Are you here for the bride or the groom?”

“What? No. Th-there’s a man with a you-know-what. We need to hi—”

“Oh, Cassie, don’t be silly,” a woman’s voice interrupted. “Eddie is the groom!”

Eddie turned to his right and saw his date to the prom, Allie, adorned in a full-length wedding gown.

Eddie was floored. “Allie, what the—“

Allie smiled wide. “Eddie, please marry me. It’s time to take the next step in our lives.”

“No, you don’t get it. There’s a guy out there with a thingy.”

Allie waved her arm dismissively. “Oh, I’m sure there is. No point worrying about that right now. The ceremony is about to begin! Look, I wore my prom dress!”

Eddie stared, mouth agape. “Allie, that’s a wedding dress.”

She laughed hysterically. “Eddie, I know you like me. Let’s just do it. I mean, are you really going to find anyone you like more than me?”

“I don’t know, maybe,” Eddie replied, “Couldn’t we just date first? Also, I’m a little distracted at the moment.”

If Allie was disappointed, she did not show it. “Okay! I’m going to go marry that guy then! Take a seat!”

“Alright,” Eddie said, baffled.

The music swelled as Allie walked towards the minister and her new groom. Eddie took a seat and tried to listen to their vows. Allie got a laugh from the attendees when she asked the minister to remind her of the groom’s name. Then, the groom died.

He fell like a bag of bricks, and the sound echoed through the classroom. No one moved or made a sound except Allie, who turned to face the audience. Her face was half-covered in red, but she was smiling as radiantly as ever.

“Okay, folks! Looks like we are going to switch gears here and have a little child funeral!” Allie turned to the minister. “Minister, I assume you packed your child funeral materials?”

“Yes of course,” the minister replied. “I never leave home without my child funeral toolbox. Before we begin, does anyone wish to say a few words about the deceased?”

Eddie craned his head and recognized the shape of the man walking forward. He walked to the front and placed his thing down carefully behind him. As he spoke, Eddie realized that the man was really a boy.

“Why I did it,” the boy said slowly. “You arrogant little tyrants. You grow up here all fat and happy, sucking the life out of people with real problems. No. You don’t know true adversity, true pain, until it arrives without warning. It strikes from the dark and makes the continuation of your life feel unfortunate. You should thank me. All of you have everything one can have except suffering. And now you have it.”

Eddie stared into the eyes of a boy, brimming with pain.

The shadow continued, “So, why did I do it?” The boy grinned. “I did it because it was WAY easier than solving derivatives in AP Calc!”

Everyone, including the boy, devolved into hysterics. The sound of laughter drowned out all else; even the minister had tears of mirth streaming down his face.

Eddie shook his head. He had had enough. Still clutching the mariachi guitar bathroom pass, he left and began the walk towards his Spanish III classroom. Behind him, the lights flickered on and Principal O’Shaughnessy announced that the lockdown was over.

Eddie opened the door and walked towards the desk with his name on it. He joined his classmates in standing with his hand on his heart..

“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”

Stellar The Batman Delivers the Batman of Comic Book Lore

by Jack Downey '23
A&E Co-Editor


Arts & Entertainment


Stellar The Batman Delivers the Batman of Comic Book Lore

Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson Give New Life to the Superhero

Aidan Lerner ’22 

Matt Reeves’ The Batman is the most accurate depiction of the character to appear in a live-action film with regard to the film’s adherence to the characteristics that have been foundational to Batman since his 1939 comic book inception. 

In March, The Batman became the first solo Batman film released since 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. Zack Snyder’s attempted murder of the character in assorted, horrible Justice League movies from 2016-2021 does not count. In 10 years, this reporter has probably watched Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies upwards of 20 different times. That said, a fresh take on the character was much-needed, one that would leave behind some of the quirks Nolan and his Batman, Christian Bale, brought to the role—self-seriousness, bizarre combat edits, a raspy voice, etc. In that regard, The Batman is a slam-dunk.

The Batman follows a Bruce Wayne who is about two years into his crime-fighting journey. The film does a good job portraying a Batman at this early stage in his career without falling into the trappings of the origin story that viewers have seen so many times. For one, throughout the film, Batman’s tactics and gadgets lack polish. Batman struggles to execute his patented glide, and his Batcave is noticeably low-tech. A great sequence throughout the film captures Wayne’s many attempts to gain access to the Iceberg Lounge: he initially does so clumsily by force before figuring out a stealthier way in by the film’s climax.

A common complaint about The Batman is that it does not portray the “traditional” Bruce Wayne, or the billionaire playboy. Robert Pattinson barely cracks a grin for the entire three-hour runtime, and his version of Wayne has none of the charisma that past iterations of the character have. In fact, this Batman movie, more than any other, predominantly features Wayne’s masked alter-ego, and viewers can count the number of “Bruce” scenes on two hands. It was a bold take on Reeves’ part, but it paid off. Bruce Wayne, the playboy, is window-dressing. It is more fitting that the character’s formative years see him ignore everything else in his life as he fights crime. The Batman’s Bruce Wayne is not pretending at any point in the movie; he is Batman 24/7.

The best part of Pattinson’s performance is that he truly imbues it with a clear character arc in mind. This is a movie about how Wayne learns to become the Batman audiences know and love. The voiceover that bookends the film was a little too on-the-nose at points, but it was worth it to show Wayne’s journey from agent of vengeance to genuine hero. Indeed, after all of the film’s violence, it is a perfect touch to have Batman’s final act in the movie be to guide Gotham citizens to safety. Paul Dano’s Riddler, predictably insane, truly believes that Batman is his partner in crime, and audiences can see why. For most of the film, Batman acts as little more than a thug, chasing clues and beating up bad guys.

Take the Batmobile chase sequence, for instance. This Batmobile forsakes sleekness and is instead a ferocious demon of vengeance unto itself. It is a rip-roaring new vision of the iconic vehicle, and it mercilessly succeeds in hunting down Colin Farrell’s Penguin—but Batman only does so because he believes Penguin to be the answer to a riddle.

Dano does a great job imbuing Riddler with both intimidation and desperation. Viewers fear him for being one step ahead of the film’s heroes, yet it is easy to sympathize with his mission, as they can see what the city’s corruption has done to him. At the end of his trail of bruised bodies, the Riddler is genuinely dismayed to discover that Batman is working against him, just as Wayne is dismayed to realize that he has been doing everything Riddler wanted.

This is why the resolution of The Batman works so well. There is a recognition on Wayne’s part that his cycle of vengeance can only get him so far. He realizes that Batman can be something more than he ever intended, more than just an expression of his childhood rage. In several Batman stories, it is said that when Bruce Wayne dreams that he is Batman, he considers the cape and cowl to be more a part of his identity than his daytime appearance. The Batman embraces this lore and uses it to give the character his most complete story to date.

A review of The Batman would not be complete without reference to Zoë Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright as Catwoman and Jim Gordon, respectively. Both are exceptional at playing off Pattinson and nail the tone of the film and the essence of their characters. Kravitz, in particular, harnesses a chemistry and energy that elevates the film every time she is on screen.

The Batman delivers on the anticipation surrounding it and proves that the Batman franchise is in the right hands with Reeves and Pattinson. The runtime, though daunting, is not overlong, and it is a real delight to spend time with Batman in a boldly realized red-black Gotham. More content set in this Gotham, including a sequel, is bound to come, and fans should be excited to watch Reeves build on the tone and cinematography of this installment. 

Ironically, the future is bright in Gotham.

Rating: 9/10 stars

I Forgot to Write my Cowl Article for this Week

by trogers5


Creative Non-Fiction


person thinking
photo creds: pixabay

Aidan Lerner ’22

 

I forgot to write my Cowl article for this week. Today is Sunday, and I am a little panicked. I pride myself on my ability to be responsible and to come through for the people who rely on me, whether it be in work or school. That is why I am very disappointed to report that I definitely did totally forget that there was an issue due this Saturday. Did I agree to write a half for this issue? You bet I did. What have I written so far? Exactly this much. 

In my defense, I am a senior and this week was Spring break. The jet lag of going from the central to eastern time zone is absolutely brutal and you add daylight savings time! That is a nightmare combination. So, yes, I will shoulder most of the blame for forgetting to write this article, but let the record state that I have many, many excuses ready to go. 

How about I outline some of the things I had planned to write about, had I not forgotten due to the unforeseen circumstances of not remembering. One thing I love about writing for The Cowl is that I truly do feel as if I can write about whatever I want in exactly the way I want. I have written about things that I consider fun and some things which I consider more serious. This week, I had planned to write about something more serious. I wanted to write about the complicated nature of morality and the online world. 

Dear reader, now it is my privilege to take you into the kitchen so you can see how the cake gets baked. Here is how I would figure out how to write about such a heavy topic. First, I would figure out what exactly I am trying to accomplish with my piece. Generally, I find that it is either a first-person argument or some sort of allegorical anecdote. Normally, I use a fictionalized version of myself as the subject so that I can be a little sensational with what I say. In this case, I would probably do a combination of both.  

I would start with the story of a Twitter account. The Tweeter is a hard worker and is always kind when you ask him a question. He is knowledgeable and passionate about the same subjects you are, and he adds a lot of entertainment to your life. You are one of his most consistent followers. One day, you find out that the man behind the account has been accused by people in his life of doing heinous things. What does that mean for you? Are you immoral for enjoying his content? Are you dumb for not seeing through his kind words? 

Those are questions I would have asked in my article. Then, I would get personal with my narration.  

As a self-declared writer, I often find that lying is frighteningly easy. In the era of texting, I feel as if I can spin any tale and people will believe it as long as I write it well enough. When all people see are the words I put on a page or a screen, I can make it so they see whatever version of me they would like. I can come off as gracious or rude, confident or nervous. The author of the words has all of the control. 

Even the most honest writer would struggle to communicate who they are with just words. It is nearly impossible to give anything but a window into your true nature. Our anonymous Tweeter can be a source of joy online and a monster offline: different aspects of the same complex person. On the internet, no one is who they say they are because no one can say who they are. So, it is our duty to be careful and recognize that there is a lot beyond the words on the screen. If you think you know who someone truly is based on their online persona, you are wrong. 

I would write something like that, and then I would wonder if it makes any sense. I would hope to myself that someone will read it and think about some of the questions I raised. Since we are outlining this together, I will spell out the conclusion I really hope readers draw. Will they wonder if I am telling them the truth? Who am I behind The Cowl? Did I really forget to write my Cowl article this week? 

(I totally forgot. Ask my editors.) 

The Pauper and the Princess who Didn’t Ask

by The Cowl Editor


Portfolio


tiara

 

by Aidan Lerner ’22

The Pauper burst out of the foliage, his makeshift chainmail clanking and disturbing the Sphinx’s slumber. His armor was singed, and he was walking with a limp. The Sphinx got to her feet slowly to block his path.

“Who dares cross?” she snarled. 

“I do,” the Pauper replied, “and I just slew a dragon! Or is it ‘slayed?’ I don’t know, but it was incredible.”

The Sphinx nodded solemnly. “Ah, so you have passed the penultimate trial. Now, I shall give you these riddles three, and the Princess awaits.” The massive cat lowered her voice and looked the Pauper in his eyes, saying, “What goes on four feet—actually, one sec. I was expecting Prince Charming.” 

The Pauper pulled up his slight frame and adopted a heroic pose with his hands on his hips. “I am Prince Charming,” he said with an awkward wink. 

“No, you’re not.” 

“I am too.” 

The Sphinx was confused. “The Prince is muscular, handsome, well-dressed.” 

The Pauper frowned. “Hurtful. But fine! I am merely a pauper, but I am the Princess’ true love, and I have come to rescue her.” 

The Sphinx chuckled, “Okay, Mr. Cliché.” 

“I am doing something noble!” the Pauper protested. 

The Sphinx rolled her eyes and asked, “Did you bring a sidekick? Perhaps some sort of talking animal?” 

The Pauper grimaced. “No. Does a zebra count as an animal?” 

“Yes, obviously.” 

“Okay, fine, but—” 

“Is the zebra funny?” the Sphinx interrupted.

The Pauper sighed. “He’s a humorous zebra, yes.” 

The Sphinx cackled. “Okay, clichés get free passage, no riddles required. Get in there. I have to prepare for the Prince.”

The Pauper stalked past haughtily, heading for the caves. “At least my entire life doesn’t consist of giving out the same dumb riddles, you fat cat,” he shot back over his shoulder. 

The Pauper entered the cave as the sound of the Sphinx’s laughter faded into the background. It was a small cave, completely barren except for the beautiful princess. The Pauper grinned ear-to-ear. “M’lady,” he announced, “I have come to rescue you!”

The Princess turned quickly, but her own radiant smile quickly shifted into confusion. “But you’re not Prince Charming,” she said.

If the Pauper was annoyed, he did not show it. “No, I am just a lowly pauper who fought through every trial to declare my love for you. And, at last, I have succeeded! Now, follow me to freedom!”

The Princess was devastated. “Well, I can’t. You can’t leave the cave without your true love. I thought that was very clearly posted on the Prophecy Scroll. Was there not sufficient signage along the path?” 

“Uh no, that was very clear,” the Pauper responded, “I was kind of hoping you would just, like, fall in love with me.” The Princess stared at the Pauper without speaking. The Pauper continued, “So, do you want to do that, now?” 

“Do what?” 

“Fall in love with me.” 

The Princess sat down. “I don’t really know how I would do that. Should I just stare at you really hard?” 

The Pauper’s enthusiasm was drained. “We could try a kiss,” he suggested. 

“No, thanks,” the Princess replied. 

The Pauper nodded slowly. “Well, I’m uncomfortable,” he said aloud, “I don’t really know why I came here.” 

“Yeah, I didn’t ask you to,” the Princess remarked. “So, I’m just going to hang out and wait for Prince Charming to come and get me out of here and then you’ll…” 

“Be stuck here unless my true love saves me, but she won’t because she’s you,” the Pauper finished for her.

“Yeah,” she said.

An awkward silence lingered in the small cave as the two sat staring at different walls.  

The Pauper started talking, “You know my friend told me this funny story once. He’s a talking zebra…”

An Honest Discussion About Parietals

by The Cowl Editor


Portfolio


silhouette of a guy and girl holding hands while walking
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

by Aidan Lerner ’22

As Cowl readers will know, parietals have been in effect since women were introduced to Providence College in 1971. Their purpose was to encourage same-sex intimacy among first year students before they are exposed to the free world of non-gendered dorms. Is this performative wokeness? Sure. But in fairness to the College, performative wokeness was rare in the early 1970s and they did not get much Twitter applause for the initiative.  

While parietals are certainly a measure made in good faith, they do have their critics. The biggest concern brought up over and over again is safety. When I was a freshman, this was something I grappled with myself. On occasion, it is safer to host a female friend for the night rather than sending them out to contend with the campus at large between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m… As an off-campus student now, my friends and I have a rule which prohibits walking home alone after dark. If you can’t drive, then you can sleep on the couch until morning because, frankly, Eaton and the surrounding streets are not safe at night. 

Now, this piece does not intend to argue against parietals: quite the opposite. It would have been a shame if visitors had interrupted the closeness evolving between myself and my roommates. No, parietals have a definitive purpose and are a part of what makes PC special. For the solution to the issue of safety, I will turn to a different experiment begun during my days in the dorms. In my freshman year, my RA had a rule: we were required to walk our guests home. Why? Well, because men are monsters. 

If you are a man, you have probably heard women say this and have shaken your head, lamenting that women will not recognize that you are a “nice guy.” Well, I would encourage you to look at the world through a different lens. What would you call a testosterone-fueled muscle-bound figure who is more physically dominant than you in the same way that a car is to a squirrel? Also—fun side note—three times a week they imbibe a substance that makes them prone to aggression and removes their inhibitions. I call that a monster, and women on campus have every right to fear monsters. The beauty of my RA’s rule is that these “monsters” have the chance to be put to good use. If you are a man, you can put your physicality to work and make sure your visitors get home safe.  

Once again, dear reader, I know what you are thinking: What if I get in a fight protecting my visitor? Never fear, this is the article for you. I will teach you how to fight, with ease. First of all, do not worry about your visitor. Once you step up to confront the other man, they will be able to escape, leaving the two of you alone. Now, it is time to go to work. In my experience, it is wholly unnecessary to go all the way; these situations can be defused without getting messy. Step one is trash talk. You want to activate his primal instincts. You can comment on his intelligence or his sense of style, but the best thing to do is go after his looks. You want to whip him into a frenzy and make him want you to come at him hard. When the blood is rushing towards action, it is impossible to think straight. As you continue to whet his appetite for a fight, you throw a jab at the tip of his nose. This will cause him to tear up around the eyes and he will be disoriented. At this point, both of you will be primed for an explosion of violence. Aggression is in your DNA! But you will not give in. As quick as possible, you need to pull out of the encounter and streak away back towards the safety of your dorm. Once safe, you’ll realize that the parietals were respected, your visitor was kept safe, and no one was hurt! Congratulations, you just left the campus better than you found it! 

Ultimately, parietals have a purpose, and it is a purpose worth respecting. The traditions of Providence College are what make it so special. As a senior, I hope that life here can continue to be safer for everyone. Let us look out for one another and stay safe! 

 

Thankful: A DWC Paper 

by The Cowl Editor


Creative Non-Fiction


harkins hall image
photo creds: Wikipedia Creative Commons

By: Aidan Lerner ’22

Since the beginning of time when the first man evolved from clay or fish or from apes, there has been higher education (I would assume). Aidan Lerner ’22 is a current student at Providence College who thinks positively about his experience. Lerner is a finance major, a writing minor, and a senior who lives off campus. He is a good example of the type of student who would be thankful to have chosen to go to the College. In this paper, I will argue that Aidan Lerner is thankful he goes to PC because of his living experience, the positives from COVID-19, and his fear of graduating. 

Aidan Lerner has lived in Guzman, Davis, and DiTraglia. Lerner talks a lot about how he liked that he had a bathroom in his room in Guzman, saying, “Having the bathroom was an incredible time saver. Also, it was a good way to make friends because people would barge in to use it” (Lerner,  phone call with his mother). This quote shows that Lerner values comfort because he is clearly lazy and does not want to go into the hall to use a communal bathroom. But I also think it shows that Lerner values the friendships he was able to form. Lerner refers to his direct roommates as “his immediate best friends that he was not really truly close with until second semester which he learned is a natural process for friendship” (Lerner, conversation with Yuck Truck guy). This mangled, contradictory quote shows that Lerner did not find friendship to be an instantaneous process, even though he hoped it would be. It took time, but he learned to appreciate the people around him. Furthermore, this is shown later on when he moved into Davis and then DiTraglia with new roommates. Lerner always talks about how he hates change, but at each spot, he formed new close bonds. I think Lerner had a great living experience because he formed friendships that became as strong as he could have imagined. 

According to Aidan Lerner, COVID-19 was a really bad thing. Many people would agree with that stance, but Lerner is also a legendary COVID-19 survivor who managed to test positive exactly one day before he was scheduled to get his vaccine. Lerner took a lot from the experience that contact-traced all of his roommates and friends. “Yeah, it sucked,” an anonymous friend said. “The timing was terrible, and my initial reaction was that I wanted to find Aidan and slap him silly, but unfortunately he had a contagious virus, and I was locked up in a Marriott” (Anonymous, YikYak). I think that Lerner took a lot from this adversity. He reports that his friends were good-natured about the whole thing. It was no one’s fault, and they all called him during their quarantines. Lerner really felt loved. That whole year was such a challenge for Lerner, but there were a lot of great things about being isolated with a group of his best friends. Lerner showed through his constant positivity and great memories from that time that Providence College had taught him that his friendships could make even the coronavirus pandemic a less depressing time. 

Finally, Aidan Lerner does not want to leave Providence College, therefore, he must be thankful for the school. Lerner was recently heard saying, “Yes, I will be miserable to leave. I am going to miss this place so much, and I want to just be at this place enjoying time with my friends forever. I definitely do not want to leave these people and have professional responsibilities” (Lerner,  job interview for a job he did not get). This quote shows a lot about Lerner and his love of Providence College. He has a lot of fear for his future, but it seems that it is more born out of his deep appreciation for the campus. I think that Lerner values his experiences so much and has managed to carve out happiness in his senior year. It seems he is reluctant to leave and to possibly fail miserably for the rest of his life alone. 

I think that Aidan Lerner is obviously thankful for this school because it was welcoming to him even though he is shy and anxious, and a virus ruined everyone’s fun. This shows that Providence College is a great place that everyone will miss once they graduate. 

Professor Comments: Repetitive, poor central argument, awk, needs better quote integration, C-

 

Batman: The Long Halloweekend

by The Cowl Editor


Portfolio


batman logo
Photo courtesy of pexels.com

by Aidan Lerner ’22

 

October 30, 10:30 p.m., Pinehurst Avenue, Providence RI 02908

Jack Ryder shuddered as he hustled down the cracked sidewalk of Pinehurst. Even by New England standards, this was one of the colder October nights in recent memory. Jack paused to push his phony glasses up the bridge of his nose and looked up to see three hooded men slink out in front of him.  

“Before we take everything you own, what’re you supposed to be?” the biggest one asked. 

 Jack, stammering, replied, “A-uh r-r-reporte-er.” 

 The men chuckled amongst themselves before closing in with menacing leers. Jack closed his eyes and braced for the impending mugging.  

 Suddenly, Jack felt the woosh of a cape and opened his eyes to see a flash of movement with a figure, cloaked in darkness, at the center of it. Batman! In a flurry of fists the Batman reduced the would-be crooks to a groaning heap. He turned, the whites of his eyes becoming visible under his cowl. 

 “Stay inside tonight,” Batman growled.

11:00 pm, The Flame, PC Campus 

 Director of Public Safety, Gordon, lit his cigarette and frowned. The Bat Signal was fully operational next to the Flame and the light shone against the full moon. Batman rarely responded to the Signal directly, but Gordon hoped that tonight he would show. This night, of all nights, Providence College needed The Bat.  

 A voice from nowhere called out, “Activity on Pinehurst. Taken care of now.”  

 Gordon’s eyes adjusted to take in the hulking figure of the Caped Crusader. 

 “That’s the least of our problems, Batman. I’ve heard rumors that Scarecrow is on the prowl off campus tonight.” 

 Batman stared at Gordon, impassive. “Well, what is public safety going to do about this, Jim?” 

 An exasperated Gordon responded, “We are doing all we can. We have a bus that drives people around now. But what can we do against the likes of Scarecrow?” 

 Gordon looked around, realizing he had lost sight of Batman.  

 “Batman? Batman?” 

 Jim Gordon shook his head. Batman had slipped back into shadow, gone.  

 Gordon spoke into his walkie-talkie, “High alert tonight, everyone! New protocol: when people show up at the gate, we need to ask them where they are going and glare at them. Godspeed.” 

 11:30 p.m., Eaton Street 

 The Boy Wonder had grown accustomed to spotting his mentor in the shadows.  

 “I know where Scarecrow is hiding,” Robin declared. Batman revealed himself and turned to question his ward. 

 “It couldn’t have been that easy,” he remarked. 

 Robin replied, “There’s a house on Eaton called Gotham. That’s where he’s hiding.”  

 “How do you know that?” Batman asked. 

 Robin was enthusiastic to make his point known. “There were mass groups of kids stumbling outside, totally lost. Many of them cried about their emotional fears. They looked like they had no idea where to go.” 

 Batman stared at his protégé. “Robin, those parameters apply to every house in the immediate area. This is a college.” 

 “Well, I also saw a bunch of Fear Gas emanating from every window, and I heard Scarecrow laughing.” 

 Batman pulled out his trademark bat-a-rang. It was time to work. 

 October 31, 12:00 a.m., Harkins Hall 

 “Another night, another win for the Batsy crew, huh?” Catwoman whispered with her typical purr. 

 The Dark Knight smiled for the first time all evening. “Scarecrow is taken care of. Off-campus is safe again, for tonight at least.” 

 Catwoman smirked. “Why do you do it? Who are you under that cowl?” 

 Batman strode away with a flick of his cape.  

 “Who am I?” the Bat repeated, “Who are we? One heart. One heartbeat. One community.” 

 Catwoman gasped. She knew exactly who Batman was.

 

You Have OCD and Not the One Where You Clean a Bunch of Stuff

by The Cowl Editor


Creative Non-Fiction


cups lined up on a shelf
Photo courtesy of pexels.com

by Aidan Lerner ’22

 

“There’s poison in your glass.” 

You want a glass of water. You go get a glass, right? You go to the cabinet and you select a glass. Then, you inspect it carefully. You are looking for poison. You may ask yourself why you are doing that. Well, because your thoughts have given you the idea that there just might be poison in the glass. You might as well give the glass a look!   

You’re very thirsty. You just want a simple glass of water, but the first, second, third, and fourth glasses that you checked had unexplained bumps or suspicious spots of dust. You place them in the “maybe contains deadly toxin” pile. Eventually, you decide to risk it. You will drink from a glass that might contain a poison that will murder you. You drink. The rest of your day is spent wondering when you’ll get sick: when death will arrive. In your mind, you prepare for the last few hours of your life. Stress increases and your behavior gets more erratic as you wonder if death will hurt. Aren’t there any final words you would like to say? Final acts for you to do? All responsibilities go out the window. Fear paralyzes you.

You curse yourself for drinking from a glass. When the sun rises, and you’re still alive, you tell yourself that it is better to go thirsty than go through that again.   

You have OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. An everyday torture machine that starts with just one ridiculous thought and spirals endlessly. 

OCD is a tunnel. The simple thought that “maybe that glass has poison” is your entry point into the tunnel. You are in the dark, and the light is one step behind you. Why on earth would a random glass be poisoned? That is absurd. Just drink the damn thing and you will be outside the tunnel.  But you can’t. You check the glass, and you’re in the tunnel. By the time you’ve checked once, twice, thrice, you can’t see light behind you. You can’t see light in front of you. All you know is fear, and every second brings you spiraling farther down the tunnel. 

That is a fairly typical sequence of events, spelled out slowly and painfully. The name of the game is irrational fear. And checking. Always checking. Some of the other things you do are relatively harmless. Every time you walk by the carbon monoxide detector you check it five times. Look at it, look away, look at it, look away, etc. Other compulsions are a lot more rigorous. Once upon a time, getting into your bed took one or two hours. There was a drawn-out ritual; you had to check every lock, pray the right way, organize your bed the right way, and do it all without making a mistake and without thinking the wrong thing. If a thought popped into your head such as “boobies” or “fart,” you were starting everything over.

I think that identity is an underrated aspect of the struggle to be alive. On some level, this thing we do is a crazy rat race to be “seen.” We want to be understood, for at least one person to look us in the eyes and know our entire being. You? You’d like to look in the mirror and figure out who the hell is staring back. In your worst moments, you see a monster. You see a slave to the whims of a mental disorder. Everything you do, everything you believe, everything you feel is OCD. Your feelings are obsessions. Your actions are compulsions. You are so deep into the tunnel that there is no way out.  

In my opinion, you are screwed. R.I.P. you. Nah, I’m kidding. Illness is a part of you, but it isn’t you. Everything your brain has put you through has not been for nothing.  

It gets better. The tunnel has an end, and there is light beaming. I can see you.  

…and I can see your room, and it is nasty. Why don’t you put that OCD to work and get obsessed with something helpful, like dusting? 

Beware the Ides of Career Fair 

by The Cowl Editor


Creative Non-Fiction


 

briefcase
Photo courtesy of freesvg.org

by Aidan Lerner ’22

 I think the Career Fair would have been a great place to croak. I mean, kick the bucket in a dramatic fashion. 

I walk in there with the stylish, pressed suit my dad picked out for me. I am dressed to the nines, with perfectly styled hair and an aroma of cologne lingering around my shoulders. I enter Peterson with my stack of resumes, grateful, for once, to be wearing a mask. It will hide my nervous half-grin and totally disheveled beard. Also, did I even brush my teeth today? As I approach the firm of my dreams, ready to inquire as to how to break into their industry as a post-graduate, I am ready to present myself as a human being who knows exactly what they are doing and how to do it. In five minutes, my future will be secure. Suddenly, I clutch at my heart, searching for breath. I fall to my knees, and I pass away tragically.  

Oh, man. That would have been a fantastic way to go. My friends would have bawled, and my professors would have surely given me posthumous A’s. There has to be a provision in the school handbook that a premature death boosts your GPA. It may have put a slight damper on Homecoming weekend, but far be it for me to judge those who want to indulge in food trucks on Smith Lawn. Go nuts.  

Do I genuinely wish I had perished at the Career Fair? No, of course not. Being alive in Friartown is one of my top three favorite things, behind only soccer and pretending to be Spider-Man. I am simply arguing that my demise at the Career Fair would have had its advantages. Chief among them, I cannot miserably fail in my post-graduate life if I have died. 

You see, at my funeral, everyone will assume that I would have been a massive success. Eulogies will drone on and on about my “bright future” and how I was “destined for greatness.” After all, look at me. For that matter, look at all of us. We are students at Providence College, and that is no small feat. It points to a track record of success in education or sports or extracurriculars. But, post-graduate life is the question mark that has been waiting for me these past 22 years. Where do we go from here? 

As an extremely heartwarming film once said, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I think I will circle option “A.” Potential is not something to be valued. No one ever got paid because they told a pawn shop that they might mine some gold at some point. So, you take the lessons you learned in Providence, you go out there, and you try. I tried to go to the Career Fair, and I still do not know what my future holds. Only thing left to do is accept that, believe in myself, and then lie to everyone I see about how awesome post-grad life is going to be. Kidding, sort of. 

I do not know if they will say I was a “smashing success” at my funeral some day, but I hope they say, “Damn, that guy did what made him happy.” Also, quick side note: I hope I live until I am 101 because then I will have been alive in three different centuries. 

 

Golf Party: Civil War

by The Cowl Editor


Portfolio


a silhouette of a golfer
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

by Aidan Lerner ’22

 

This past week, the Providence College senior class was torn asunder by a significant conflict centered around the bi-annual event, Golf Party. Sources confirmed that a portion of the class would have preferred to host the Eaton Street bash this past Saturday, while the other group fought to have it held this coming Saturday. The fallout has been devastating for all involved.  

One student told me that, “We’ve been through a lot of adversity as a class. There was the time we all found hella snakes in the Ray food, the pandemic that killed millions of people: putting our future as students in doubt, and the time they renamed Suites. In my opinion, this is what finally broke our spirit.” 

Another student relayed their harrowing tale teary-eyed: telling me that, “I have been dating my boyfriend since Freshman year. Yesterday, I found out he voted for ‘this Saturday.’ I broke up with him immediately. I could never be with someone who does not stand with the ‘Next Saturday-ers.’” 

While the two sides seem unlikely to reach a resolution, they do agree on one issue. Late in the battle, a small group of radicals emerged who demanded that two Golf Parties be held: one on each Saturday. Spokespersons for both mainstream parties stated that this concept was, “sacrilegious and tantamount to nihilistic anarchy.” 

I managed to catch up with Mr. S, the leader of this organization of extremists, and I asked him an impartial and not-at-all leading question. 

“How do you respond to those that would say that this entire debate is stupid, pointless nonsense?” 

Mr. S replied, “I would say come ask me at graduation whether I accomplished anything important. They have no idea what I plan to do next.” 

“And what is that?” 

Mr. S answered me confidently, “If we can manage to hold two Golf Parties, that is a massive achievement and a revolutionary moment for the student body. After that, I would like to do everything in my earthly power to make a lifelong dream of mine reality: throwing a party where a bunch of people wear cool stickers. Also, I’d like to end racism on campus. We’ll see what I can get done this year. I am sort of busy, and my GPA sucks. I should probably study every now and then.” 

Lofty goals, indeed. In this reporter’s opinion, I’m free either Saturday so I’ll probably just head down with some of the boys if I see heads.