by C/Laahi Jano
This is about my loneliness during Thanksgiving holiday. I’d to entertain myself
| My Solo Thanksgiving Campus Tour
I’m sitting in my room. Bored. Tired. It’s the beginning of a four-day Thanksgiving holiday. No school. No library. No gym. Heck: no humans. The streets are deserted. Silent. The only noise is silence itself. A deafening one. The roasted turkeys have imposed a curfew on the city people. I feel isolated, stifled.
I resolve to escape from loneliness. As I shamble, I stumble upon a Subway paper in my room. I flutter, with my hands flailing. I almost fall—thanks to ab workouts, I regain my balance. Ha! This is not the first time I trip over litter in my studio room.
I’m disorganized. Messy. Untidy. This triggers my frustration, but entices my imagination. I am relieved when a friend visits—I feel obliged to organize the room. But today, as usual, I’m alone. And frustrated, of course. I must act.
I sprint down the creaky steps to the ground floor fast—my feet drumming on the helpless steps. I have energy. Agility. I fish for my bike key in the pocket of my khaki pants. I’m excited. I don’t know where I’m going, but I know why I’m going—escaping from loneliness.
Back in Somalia, I remember when a national holiday approached, my mother would give me money for shopping. My older brothers would take me as a child and buy me new clothes, shoes, toy trucks, and ice cream. I would go to the movie theaters with other kids.
At home, I ate cookies, cakes, and sweets. Every house would release their children onto the streets, smiling, greeting, and whistling. We looked like butterflies under a rainbow sky on a warm spring day. I would visit relatives; and children from other relatives would visit us, too. And the national radio would play songs for the occasion all week long.
I’m biking, and humming. The hum is neither in English nor Somali; if any, it resembles Chinese. I’m not afraid of embarrassment. Who is there to listen? No humans. I find myself on the University of Minnesota campus, biking around in a zigzag. It is fun. The sidewalks are desolate. I notice the whole campus is mine: I’m the president. I’m the professor. The student. The janitor. The cop. The vandal. The burglar….The only human.
I stop by the library and read its business hours audibly, listening to my pronunciation. But I hear a rustle. I startle: not because of fear, but of embarrassment. My ears prop up as my eyes roll across. I spot the intruder. A squirrel.
“Hey, whazzup!” I imagine greeting the squirrel.
The squirrel nibbles at a nutshell.
“Whey-yu from?” I inquire, mimicking Minnesotan accent.
It scuttles aimlessly.
“Did you know you could get busted for trespassing in my campus?” I ask.
The squirrel stands erect on its hinds, its bushy tail flattened on the ground—watching and analyzing me in bewilderment.
“Relax, sirrah!” I command it.
It noses the rim of my bike.
I watch it. Intently. Its fur is matted, topped by dirt. It must have been creeping in and out of burrows. I wonder if it envies me for bundling up in a warm, dirt-free wool jacket. I wonder if it assumes that my clean clothes reflect a neat room.
“Hey, d’you wanna scavenge in my room ?” I invite it. Unconditionally.
“I’ve Subway stuff in my room,” I persuade it, “full of leftovers enough for squirrels, y’know—we’re both leftovers in the empty campus, in an empty city.”
It’s gnawing. Ignoring me.
“Squirrrrel?” I yell, fumbling over the R and exposing my Somali accent.
I squint at it.
“Gimme one mo’ chance: I promise I won’t mispronounce yo’ name.” I screech.
It strides, vanishing into the snow-coated shrubs.
I am alone again. I realize there is no substitute for humans. I pedal my bike. To home.
I start humming. I walk my bike into the apartment, and get up the stairs, reluctantly. My keys clank as I open my room. I start laughing. I realize that I’ve learned more about the campus than I would on non-holidays. More than I would from the scripted, impersonal tour led by the Admissions Office. I feel the magic of a deserted campus on Thanksgiving holiday, the deafening silence, the turkey-baited community, the loner squirrel that nibbles.