Writing Exercise: I Remember…

We are crowded into the room, sitting on the floor, all of our legs toward the middle like some childhood gym class activity. I don’t know square inches, but perhaps the room was ten feet by ten feet. Maybe it had once been the janitor’s closet for the dorm, or maybe a meeting room. But it was downstairs, all the way down the hall, had no windows, no ventilation, and at this Lutheran private college, it was the student’s “smoking room.” I say students, but it was really “our smoking” room. Our group, our friends, we all met down in the smoking room after class that year, the year of my sophomore year. We were just, what, nineteen year olds, and the inhospitable Minnesota winters, the wind howling on the hill, drove us indoors to indulge in our now-unacceptable rebellious behavior, most of us in Doc Martins and rolled up jeans with holes ripped out from thigh to calf. We smoked and we talked and we were a tribe. I couldn’t tell you much about any of these people any more. I know there was me, and my two roommates from the previous year. A boy named Chad who smelled of patchouli, had hennaed hair and gay flamboyance. And a boy named Jeff who cut our hair and took our picture, all pouts and angst. There were other peripheral friends, those who made us into a group, and when we all left the smoking room, we wore the badge of our friendship through the volunteer torture of sitting in that space, sharing each others’ breath, smelling of smoke and confinement.

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