So my travel wife, we’ll call her “Alessandra” for the sake of anonymity, decided to come along with me to one of the evening readings. It was the first time that we’d be driving to the campus with the intention to actually park in the garage. It was hard to find, and once we’d found it, we then had to fight our way through the rubble of construction and bush-whack from the back end of the campus to find the theatre where we’d get to hear the reading of one very boring presenter book-ended onto one of the most engaging readings of the series.
When the reading was over, it was time to bush-whack back again, and we discovered the easiest way to get back and avoid the construction was to avoid the sidewalk and instead cut back through the empty residence
And they were creepy! They didn’t look like anyone was coming back to them. Bookcases against windows. Mattresses leaning on walls. Empty, darkened game rooms and Laundromats with unopened boxes that made it look like everything was in suspended animation. It made me want to watch Chernobyl Diaries (no spoilers – I haven’t seen it yet!).
The next day, when I was leaving the Books Arts Seminar, I was traveling with a fellow student back past the garage and onto campus. For her anonymity, I’ll call her “Trusting.” So Trusting was kind of lost, having never been behind the garage and off campus like that before, and I say, “Hey, let’s cut through this deserted part of campus that’s deserted and spooky!” And she, not knowing me at all, says, “Sure!” Because she’s obviously never watched a horror movie.
Well, luckily for Trusting, it wasn’t a horror movie, but at some point between the previous night and that afternoon, someone put up “Caution” and “Restricted” yellow tape in a big X, trying to stop anyone from exiting – but not entering, which was really strange. We had to cross through the X to get out.
And in that moment, I flashed on the movie I’d seen about urban explorers, and something tripped in my brain, and I was no longer content looking at pictures and videos of urban exploration, I got the urge to do it. The person in the movie was right – there’s totally something that makes you want to go wherever you aren’t supposed to go. If I didn’t have a witness with me, and if the security cameras weren’t as blatant as they were, perhaps I would have tried some doors and windows.
Instead, I think that flush of excitement is what led me to agree when the MFA program assistant, let’s call her “Flunkie” for this, pulled up in her golf cart and offered us a ride to the edge of campus, right next to the drawbridge, to help reduce our walk. It was starting to drizzle. We both said yes. Since I had two bags (my computer bag and my purse), I took the back bench that faced outwards.
It was the scariest carnival ride ever. No, there was no fear of it being old and creaky, but it was fast and felt out of control, hitting every bump of the bricked drives, swerving at the last possible moment, and hopping the curb (“Ooops,” Flunkie said), and missing a turn because she called out and waved to her friend on the porch of Plant Hall, losing track of her driving (“This is fun, kids!” she said, missing – or finding it ironic – that we were both almost twice her age.).
We got off and I won’t bothered with the clichéd weak-kneed, but I did feel like I had just survived a near-death experience, having spent most of the trip picturing myself flying out of the car and into a face plant with maximum injury and maximum bloodshed.
And then it got even more fun. As we walked across the bridge, it went from a drizzle to a cloud burst. I walked my mile back to the hotel with squishy sneakers, dripping wet hair, and a waterproof bag that leaked.
Still in Tampa…