The End of April: An Ode to Senior Year
AJ Worsley ’22
The end of April feels a lot like the end of the world when you’re in your final year of college. It’s not long until the student discounts fade away. Spotify returns to ten dollars a month. Unidays gets deleted from my phone. Netflix is…still raising their prices with no signs of implementing a student discount.
Graduation is just a month away. We picked up our cap and gowns last week and I lay in bed all day after. It never really feels like it’s going to end when it’s just beginning. You forget cap and gown pickup is even a thing when you’re a freshman and your orientation leaders are walking you from one building to the next showing you around the campus that very quickly became home.
It goes by even faster when over a year and a half was interrupted by a pandemic that led to your entire college experience being transitioned to Zoom, an app we’d all come to collectively hate.
The worst part of the end of April is the impending doom, the weight on your shoulders, the light that seems to be getting bigger because you’re getting closer to it. The worst part of the end of April is doing homework and overhearing a nearby group of friends talking about their acceptance to their dream grad school, and the rising juniors to your left talking about going abroad next year, or the rising seniors talking about their internships, all with futures and goals. And it’s a beautiful time but an envious one when you accept that your education here is ending. Whatever is next for all of us, PC will begin to feel like a childhood home we’ve all moved out of: a home we sometimes drive by and recollect the different drunken memories we shared at certain spots on campus.
The end of April is filled with attempts at soaking it all in to compensate for the Zoom year. It’s filled with little sleep and running on the highs of doing the worst assignments because these are the last assignments. Finals have a whole new meaning. It’s filled with “sure, I’ll go out tonight,” even though you don’t want to, because there are so few opportunities left to do so. This means going to McPhails and drinking on a Tuesday, not because you’re an alcoholic, but because there is a new sense of urgency to hanging out with your friends. This means attending every event you see advertised at the stairs near Dunkin’. It means 222 Nights turns into 22 Nights.
The weather is getting warmer and walking through campus feels like a treat again. The people are wearing shorts and t-shirts and overwhelming Canada Goose jackets are nowhere to be found. The lawns are a luscious vibrant green that can’t help but remind you that so much of your tuition goes into landscaping. The walkways feel different when you’re a senior and it’s April. You notice the cracks in every brick and you begin to appreciate them. But walking through campus at night is even more rewarding. The gooseneck lighting feels brighter. Students are practicing their sports. High school always ended when the sun was still up, but high school never felt like home. Club meetings are at seven and eight and no matter how busy I am, it’s impossible to forget May 22.
And it’s hard to say goodbye to a place you called home, even if it was just for four years. These walkways became my neighborhood, and nothing outside the stone walls along Eaton Street mattered. Every tree, every squirrel, every building on campus looks back at you this time. Your headphones play “Where’d All the Time Go?” by Dr. Dog and the statue of the Veritas flame urges you to look at it a little bit longer every day. And since the weather is getting warmer, perhaps grab a blanket and a laptop. Have a picnic on Slavin Lawn, alone or with some friends. Bring a camera. Document it. Document it all. You are living through your memories right now. Go to one last party even if it is your first because it is only too late once you’ve crossed the stage and moved the tassel to the left. The end of April means basketball season is over, and even though I’ll never watch a game from the student section again, “You Belong With Me” will play in my head any time I enter the Dunk. The loans will kick in soon and the student discounts will be long gone, but no amount of tuition could cover these memories, these people, this place. The end of April means writing one last piece for The Cowl.
AJ Worsley ’22
“I didn’t even realize it was the same place until this morning. My hands were vibrating, and I had no idea where I was. The side of my face, only mildly sticky from drool, glued me to my pillow. My bed was no longer the only familiar environment.”
I am standing in the middle of the woods when it begins, standing alongside trees taller than Him, the clouds rolling through them. I kick my sandals off my feet and run my fingers through my pockets. In my rummaging I find a set of keys. I look at the keys in my hand and drop them down into the sand. Why is there so much sand in the forest? Barefoot and empty pocketed, I begin running. Eventually there is an opening in the trees, and I run towards that. Upon getting closer I realize it is a cliff and I cannot slow down my momentum causing me to run and jump into what looks to be a massive quarry in the middle of this forest, at the bottom of which lies a lake for me to land in. For a moment I am flying. It’s the shortest moment and simultaneously the longest ever. Trees surround the quarry, the true heart of the forest, and in looking down I see the water is not a bright crystal blue, but a muddy green, tainted with ecological hurt. It resembles a Missouri swampland, beautiful shades of green that you fear because of what lies beneath. At the moment of impact, I rush under the water like a missile, my feet touching the bottom of the lake, sending me popping back up like a float. When I rise above there are suddenly dozens of worn houses floating on the lake. They are decrepit, worn, with massive holes on the side, shards of glass from broken windows on their front porch, likely housed by alligators. There are trees down in the water now too. They hang over the houses and decorate the landscape for a much less fearful green. There is only one house that is intact, so I swim towards it. Pushing myself up onto the porch, I hear rattling in my pockets. Soaked, I stick my hand in and feel the same set of keys. I knock on the door, and nobody is around to answer. After trying several keys, the last one finally unlocks the door. As I begin to walk in—
“And that’s where it ends every time. I wake up. I never get to explore the houses or familiarize myself with the environment. I expect to wake up in my bed soaked every time, but I am always dry. There is no quarry, no house, no forest.”
Her pen moves across the paper rapidly as if she were a sketch artist.
“What’re you writing down?” I ask.
“Do you consider yourself a pessimist?” she asks, dodging my question.
“Well, if I was an optimist I probably wouldn’t be in therapy.”
“Have you heard the theories about what it means to jump off a cliff in your dreams? On the negative side, people have said that it could relate to some sort of distress in your conscious life, a lack of control or a strong sense of impulse. On the lighter side, it could relate to a recent victory, or a fresh start.”
Her buzzer goes off.
“Well, that concludes our session for today,” she begins. “I’d really like to pick this up from right here next week.” She puts the pen and paper down and turns around to drink from her glass of water.
I lean over to see what she has written down but all I see is a vivid drawing of the quarry and the tall trees. I don’t question her. I just look forward to returning to the woods with the keys in my pocket with the hope that next time I will see what lies in that house.
How to Write a Love Poem
AJ Worsley ’22
Light a candle, admit your flaws, set the tone.
Don’t let the process turn your heart to stone.
Find warmth in lost love, but always try to keep it in your sight.
The best love poems are written after the love has gone to light.
Compare your lover to a flower, delicate and beautiful.
Nature’s divinity couldn’t compare to what we have.
Sing a proper country song in a thick Western accent,
Skip around the town, each step its own cloud.
Think in terms of pink and red, anatomically incorrect hearts,
Cupid’s bow never turns arrows to darts.
The most important step to writing a love poem is this:
Know that love exists beyond everything.
Love exists for the memory foam pillow you rest your head on after a long day of tiring work.
Love exists for the trees you pass on your daily commute, each vein designed to satisfy such rich fruit.
Love exists for the people who make life a bit easier,
A lighthouse in the distance, they bring your mind back to its body.
Love heals and often feels like rehabilitation,
Like a dove set free from its cage, love is liberation.
An Ode to 2020
by AJ Worsley ’22
Conspiracies roll around in my mind as I do in my bed. Another night where I cannot fall asleep. I turn on my fan for noise but I am not warm, so I aim it towards the ceiling. There’s something about my bedroom that has never felt so unfamiliar before. My bed. Returning to my bed after a long day of work and school was my daily dose of euphoria that I needed to take me to the next day. Or what about the days where I would go to concerts, wait in line for hours, jump around and scream my head off for a couple more hours, drive home for about another hour. After all those days, seeing my bed meant returning to a safe space. It meant comfort. It meant that I had survived another day. Now, I never want to see my bed again.
Sitting on my bed, I open Netflix and while it loads I look out my window. On one side of the street a man zooms by on his bicycle. Here and then gone. On the other side of the street, I see a woman walking her dog. She is well-kept. Leggings, running shoes, looking down at her Fitbit. She goes on walks regularly, probably even when it’s raining. Her hair is in a ponytail and it swings back and forth like a metronome as she walks pridefully by my house, unaware that I am watching her with envy. Netflix is done loading.
But in all this free time, I was able to scroll through various social media platforms, all of which reminded me to go easy on myself. “You’re only unproductive by the standards of the world we lived in two months ago,” I read on Instagram. “Keep your head up, things aren’t easy right now,” Facebook yelled at me. I quickly became a victim, hostage to my own anger because I finally had the free time I desired and wasted it rewatching television shows I had already seen. At the same time, I had become the villain, because I knew what I was doing, and I knew how it made me feel, and I made no changes to my daily schedule.
But not even a good television show could distract me from the horror. The news became the only piece of media we followed. It screamed at us: “America’s numbers are up. Will school return in the fall? Concert cancellations. Sports cancellations. Bars and clubs and convenience stores shut down. Potential cure? Not for a while! Pandemic is good for the climate crisis! Less emissions!” Better to be overinformed than ignorant, but I’d kill for the bliss.
Another sunrise had occurred, and I had missed it, waiting minutes before my class to wake up. Roll out of bed. Put my glasses on. Take my retainer out of my mouth. Open up a window so that my classmates did not think I was getting my degree from a morgue. Join the call. Pretend I knew what was going on. Leave. Repeat. Most days feel like this. The slightest sound could get stuck in my head. The dullest image would linger in my mind for far too long.
Unfortunately for man, we do not get to pick and choose when pandemics rise and kill thousands of people because the weather is getting nice and it’s becoming harder to stay indoors. Sure, on average, ten to twenty people walk by my house during a fifty-minute lecture, but I was not one of them.
After a long day of Zoom calls, I sit on the porch and watch the sky get darker by the minute. Time goes by, as it does, and soon enough stars fill the sky. I had not seen this many stars in the sky in months. One night prior I remember looking out the window and seeing no stars. But on this night, it was impossible to look at the sky and feel like you were looking at anything less than A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I mourned the things I had found and rejoiced in the things I had lost.
AJ Worsley ’22
get down on your knees
rub your face across the grass
tickle your cheek with excitement,
you feel something.
drive to the water, one hand on the wheel, your other is holding on to life.
you haven’t felt alive in a minute.
the skylines reek of hope but you never drive there, you stay in your comfort zone because it’s easier to joke about yourself than to fix the things you joke about.
but you’re never actually joking are you?
you’re genuine. you’re hurtful. you’re hateful.
you’re a bad person, if not to anyone but yourself.
so grab a cloud and put it in your pocket,
save it for a rainy day when you can ride it like a wave.
climb a mountain and accept defeat.
close that social media app, you’re far too comfortable in your loneliness to be here.
break your rear view in the process of getting that mask on your face.
you don’t know where your soul is or where it belongs but right now it isn’t where it needs to be. you need a new spot. a new playlist. a new love.
you’re aware of the things that make you happy but you don’t grant yourself access to those things because you’ve convinced yourself you don’t deserve them.
kiss the grass and bite it. love the earth you’ve been given while you’re down there, but when you come up, climb that tree and look down on a world who has put you at the bottom of the list.
don’t expect to be others’ first choice when you can’t even put yourself first.
you are small and inconvenient. make mistakes and forgive yourself for them. don’t dwell. you aren’t here long enough to dwell.
let lightning scare you, and love that fear but don’t let it last forever.
so much world you want to see but you can’t even make it out of your own head.
it’s the window that reminds you of a portal. or the staircase that takes you from one life to another. the door. the change you seek but never acquire.
listen to your elders but never let them try to control you. shave your head if you’d like. identity is whatever you want it to be.
it’s hard to share your thoughts, your words that you hate, the creative vision in a world that’s already created your idea. you are not original. you are the first to ever put those words together.
the truth is, there are no rules so there cannot be a rule book. your God wants you to love, but if your God is dead then be your own God and remind those around you that life is constructed by something greater.
we don’t know what comes next so the present is not something to reject. modernity is a beast, let’s come together and put it on a leash.
death is far more feared than that lightning, but kiss the grass that grows in spring, and find comfort in the life that awaits you when the life leaves your body.
pass me the telescope dripping with nostalgia so i can watch her dancing on the moon from my car parked by the beach.
the seasons will always change. they did before your time and they will continue to after your time here. see the world. respect your God, deny tradition.
you have the time. you have the energy. you have the love. you have the life.
you tell me you couldn’t imagine your life without me,
i urge you to try a little harder.
replying to text messages at red lights
by AJ Worsley ’22
it’s not that i didn’t have the time,
in fact, it’s precisely the opposite.
i had too much time,
too much time on my hands with nobody to occupy it.
but if you keep with that attitude you’ll only ever have friendships,
never any best friendships.
everyone else in their life, a vacuum for their presence.
your time will come, but you have too much time,
it already should have come by now.
but what good is the poet if they don’t know the power of their ink?
and when do they turn the lights off in this parking lot?
do your hair the same way you’ve been for years.
put on that same hoodie and start the car.
drive somewhere in a pathetic attempt to be busy to mimic the lives you once occupied.
“sorry i can’t right now,” a dead phrase in my life,
i can, and i will every single time.
to cope, i apply pressure to the few people i have left,
and in return it actually pushes them further away.
they tell me i’m too dependent on them,
but i’m just dying to get inside their head because i’ve been stuck in my own for far too long.
and the truth is, the only thing i’m dependent on is this steering wheel.
Dying Shades of Blue and Green
by AJ Worsley ’22
I’ve been here for about six…ish days now. It’s dreary and anxiety inducing. My mother always told me that hospitals should be considered a safe place because if anything were to go wrong with your health, who’s going to address it faster than doctors in a hospital? Better to have a heart attack in a hospital bed than your actual bed. But it wasn’t. I’ve been here for sixish days and I barely see any nurses stop by. They swing by my room less and less; they’re no longer concerned about me—at least, that’s how it seems. Surely they’re busy tending to other patients who are in more dire need of their attention. I am just lonely.
As bizarre as it sounds, I can’t even remember why I am here. Anytime I ask someone in scrubs why I have to stay here, they express a look of concern, type something really fast into their chart, and proceed to say, “We’re just monitoring a few things, you should be out of here in no time.” Then, another day passes.
Eventually one of the nurses communicates to me that I came in for an extreme fever of 102.2 and no matter what they have done to try and lower the fever, nothing has worked. No amount of liquid hydration, ibuprofen, or cooling cloths lowered the fever. Ironically, it seems the more efforts we make to lower the fever, the more it actually rises. I came in with a 102.2 and fiveish days later I was up to a 103.8. I know why they are keeping me here now. The fever is gradually but steadily rising. As it turns out, they are monitoring my pulse and blood pressure to find out why it is rising. The memory loss is a direct result of the high fever. However, my body reminds me why I’m here just after the nurse does. The hot flash comes and won’t go away. This causes a coughing fit. I can’t sit comfortably in bed. The sheets touching my skin make me even more warm. One of the nurses comes in to check my temperature.
“Open your mouth.” I open it.
A minute passes by. The thermometer reads 105.7.
It’s rising faster. The nurse exits the room.
I assume the nurse is going to get something or someone to help me, but I am once again left alone with my thoughts. Time passes and the sun goes down, but there is still plenty of heat in my body. I watch outside the door of my room. People in scrubs and pure white lab coats down to the midpoint of their thighs walk by my room. One after another, not a single person peers into my room.
“H-hey!” I yell out, muffled by the sound of their footsteps.
“Hello!” Louder than the last time, but they continue walking.
“HEY!” I scream. Nothing. Staring at the alert device on my bed, I press the nurse call button to urge them into my room. I smile, assuming that this has to work, but to no avail, I remain unheard.
Why are they ignoring me? I feel like I’m dying and they’re just walking right by me! Maybe I already am dead and they’re walking by me because they can’t save me…
Sweat tickles my upper lip and I lick it away. I close my eyes and try to calm down. Pleading is effortless and it is wasting the little energy I have left.
I get up and walk slowly out of my room and towards the nurse’s station, where they will meet with me face to face, unable to ignore me. Without hesitation I start screaming, pushing a nearby cart down the hall, which I eventually hear bang into the wall as I wipe the counter of the nurses’ office clear of any paperwork.
“SIR!” a nurse yells at me.
“Oh, why hello! You mean to tell me you see me? DO YOU HEAR ME?”
“Yes, we hear—”
“I AM DYING AND NONE OF YOU CARE,” I plead. “YOU ONLY NOTICE ME NOW BECAUSE I’M BEING DESTRUCTIVE.”
A needle enters the area near my neck. A sedative.
A voice calls out “Earth, time of death—”
No, I’m not dead, I’m alive, how else would I be hearing you? No, no, no, no, I’m not dead! You can’t call time of death for a man who is conscious and coherent! I’m alive! And if I’m not, it’s your fault! You all ignored me every time I tried to ask for help! You killed me! There’s blood on your hands!
a highway is no place for a deer
by AJ Worsley ’22
happier when i’m away, i do my best to keep a distance.
all i hope for is that while i’m away you forget my existence.
if that were to happen, i’d have no reason to return,
you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, a lesson you’ve yet to learn.
pick and choose between red pill, blue pill, but why pick one?
take it all for yourself, everybody prefers a purple tongue.
these things are never easy, and i don’t belong here,
this danger creates anxiety, like a highway for a deer.
i want off the rollercoaster, i’m nauseous and numb
these loops and turns have stripped me of sympathy and i’m not having fun.
it’s like a dwindling flame, and every time the fire wishes to die
you bring it back to life with some gasoline and a thoughtless lie.
always everyone else’s fault that you’re so alone,
God gave you a body but you just have to show bone.
i’m either selfish or depressed there is no escape,
in constant battle with myself where thoughts take new shape.
both parties can’t win, so who do i choose?
myself for the first time, or you? a lose-lose.
so tell me, why should i be your savior,
if there are no rewards for good behavior?