Winter in Atlanta began on my bus stop one November morning as I wore a precautionary sweater to Joel’s class. I could smell the cold in the bus stop air and was immediately transported to my first full winter a couple of years ago.
Fall’s over. Fall break’s done. It’s Spring but it’s colder. The tree at the bus stop now stands bare and naked and on rainy days, clouds loom as if Dementors might appear any moment while the Whomping Willow sways to welcome them.
This semester, I have a class that I can walk to – it’s 10 minutes away and mostly downhill so I walk to class and take the bus back.
I love walking. I walked to a store 1.5kms away and back once and it’s one of my best memories in my entire time here. (Yes, you may judge me if you haven’t already. I get it.)
The straight road connecting my bus stop and the campus has cottage houses on either sides. Most of them appear desolate during the day, like no one lives there. Yet at night the lights go up, during Halloween pumpkins show up and once in a while a stray dirty GT t-shirt is thrown over a chair outside or on the balcony railing.
It’s 12° but the sun is out today and Prateek Kuhad is singing cold/mess about lemon tarts and broken hearts. The houses look empty like they always do with mailboxes on their front yards and I can’t guess when they were opened last.
The dry leaves are already cleared off the roads and the walk, or there’s a guy very closeby doing that with a loud blower. Front yards with green patches returning. Parked cars. Some posh, some ugly.
There’s an open window with bright red curtains and a light inside at 2pm as a young woman takes out a steaming tray from the oven onto the cosy dining table next to a fridge, while her half-dressed-for-office husband puts a drowsy baby to sleep.
But it is very likely it’s an abode of undergraduate students. Tired baggy eyes, gathering assignments and hurriedly packing bags while throwing on the same t-shirt they’ve worn to (different) classes the whole week. Nobody comes out the door though and I walk past the occupants of the haunted house and their busy afternoon.
A board in a balcony says “What’s your biggest dream for Georgia tech?” with a QR code beneath, abandoned after serving its purpose in a sorority meeting or something. 14th street is where most Indians live so I pass by at least one Indian returning home on foot. The layers of hair on my head bounce as I wish I could leave you my love but my heaaaaaaart is a mess.
At the signal a flock of freshmen-looking boys in short yellow shorts jog by and it’s campus already. That’s when I realize I’m Juno again except I’m not 15 anymore, All I Want is You isn’t playing and boys in shorts are just building stamina for their newly-joined team, something I’ll probably never do again.
The green route bus might appear in the frame at this point but NLP is the one class I walk to and hence do not need to repeatedly check the bus location on the app or rush or wait. It’s liberating.
There are university buildings on either sides now. The Bioengineering Systems building with a low wall that I stopped by to rest on the first day of college while returning from bootcamp. I’d seen some students hang around class talking and had made my way back shortly. It was a Sunday (I know right?) and the roads were empty. Google Maps showed 10 minutes to my place as I saw an uphill climb ahead and swore to always take a bottle with me thereafter. I guess I had forgotten what college was like.
The building’s second floor windows have their blinds up, housing racks after racks with coffee mugs and vases and pen holders by the window sill. Desktops on every desk in every building. Lights on. If you pass by at night you’d see the same sight, just more lit rooms and more people at their workstations with desktops on.
At this point my playlist has given way to Masaan. An ID’ed somebody in a blue shirt and slacks rushes out from one of the buildings. He looks like a young professor but might as well be a postdoc, and has just had a lunch he packed from home in foil. He had prepared another for supper.
The postdoc is heading out to meet someone but one can always smile at a kid going to class.
That’s what I like best about being here. I’m a kid, on my way to class.
Or it might be his PhD student’s room after all that I see. A half-eaten sandwich on the desk and lots of jumbled papers. A plant on the sill that was watered late the previous night whenever they remembered to. Or maybe they are actually organized unlike me and have a schedule for it.
Maybe that’s why I don’t keep a plant.
The thing about being warm in the cold breeze and watching trees and skeletons and smiling people is you simply beam whenever the singer goes Tujhe sochoon tho phoot jaatha hoon, whether you currently have a tu to refer to or not. Everyone owns this warm phase of stolen kisses and shy smiles and attempts to catch the other’s attention.
Because this is after all before any of the cold/mess arrived, and I wish Atlanta could see how it breathes life into this song.
I need to stay alert before Ritviz comes on and ruins the mood.
I usually meet Arun or Soumya before every class. There was a nice ECE student that I talked to on the first day and never saw after, maybe he didn’t get a seat and dropped the course.
Honestly it doesn’t matter how fast-track the classes run, I still love them because – well, because.
I get a migraine half-way through the hour on most days because I slept at 4 the previous night and it messes with my brain and looking out the window and/or a screen doesn’t help. But it’s my only class this semester where I do not willfully trance into other thoughts or find myself dabbling in something else while in class.
Yet behind the professor the squirrels jump from one tall branch to another, one bare tree to the other. Skipping back and forth above a sea of fallen red leaves and a lone building behind. They’re quite unlike the plump ones from ISyE or near the Clough Commons – they’re athletic, even lean, with less bushy tails and never landing on the ground, at least two in sight at a time, almost none by the end of class or when it rains. You cannot stop counting after their hopping rears.
Sunlight filters into the class through the ceiling-tall windows onto your shoulders and your laptops and notebooks, and the professor is still teaching and the squirrels still frolicking around the branches. It’s really hard to not have a song playing in your head as this goes on, but I resist.
There must be others in this class of 100+ that have the exact same thoughts as I and are straining to not be distracted, who love this time of the day and this class. Are you in Atlanta? Or are you in a town that drinks four cups of tea a day and uses classic as an adjective?* You never know, there’s only the sun and the bright room and bare trees and bed of leaves and squirrels, seated amidst undergraduates and graduate students. *UCL didn’t want me so probably not London, but you know.
I’ve always imagined a class like this I think. Like back in CET with trees and sunlight and a lot of humidity and young sweat-lined faces all around.
After class I wait at the bus-stop where office employees have a brief meet up, they cheer at each other and ask about a holiday next week. They’re loud and happy to go home at 4, waiting for the bus as the evening sun hugs our coats.
I guess I can fall in love with winter again after all.
PS : I came home one day from class, googled Kendeda and found this.
PPS : I might’ve ruined it for me by writing this post.