Audrey Deng

Comparative Literature Deputy Managing Editor (Spring 2016)

I have found ways to rebel against May 16; methods of countering commencement. I am a future ex-student in denial. This is how my resistance toward the scheduled end has manifested itself: a fully replenished laundry card, nine library books which I keep renewing and one new and very large carton of almond milk. These are the behaviors of someone planning to stay on campus, which I am not. I am set up for a future that no longer belongs to me, prepped for a projection of myself that no longer exists, all of which is to say I have too much almond milk and it terrifies me. 

It is a lot of almond milk. It’s a regular 64-ounce carton, but in my hands, the weight of it feels interminable, like a million mornings of cereal. I won’t finish it before I graduate. I know I can’t. I have considered chugging it but that would give me a stomachache, and I know this because I am a senior and as a result, I’m wise. And so the almond milk stays. It taunts me. It calls me a coward from the back of the fridge.

Earlier this year, I remember complaining about conclusions. “Conclusions freak me out,” I said. It was February. I was talking about my thesis. “I can’t,” I said. “I can’t commit to that.”

“You don’t necessarily have to write a concluding statement,” said Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature Zakir Paul, my thesis advisor. “You could end with something related, but new.” He suggested several films which were connected to my list of books and articles.

Later, I left 19 University Pl. and, swayed by the colors of the setting sun, walked westward to the Hudson. If you go out to the pier and touch the metal of the railing with your bare hands while looking into the water, you can pretend that you control the movement of the waves, that somehow you are a conductor of the river, a vessel of the elements. Brain waves translate into wavy waves, water waves. Yes, and my understanding of science ends where David Blaine begins. I stayed by the river until it got dark.

Three months have since passed and I still fear conclusions. Like the thesis, like a darkening river, like an education, like all things that have direction, it is difficult for me to describe an ending to something that feels so constant, so eternally under development.

But it might be good to never find a concluding moment; it might be better to keep moving. And it might be best to replace conclusions altogether with something related but new by pursuing different lines of inquiry. Renew yourself with water; go to the river and ask it silly questions.

How many waves are in a river? How deep is the Hudson? Can it quote Kierkegaard? Can I reverse time by moving westward? Didn’t Superman do that? And so, if I move westward fast enough, could I reverse enough time to see myself four years younger, leaving Pennsylvania? Could I see myself moving into University Residence Hall, hugging my parents goodbye, sitting down in my first college class? Then I could go through it again, all of it: long nights at the newspaper, late mornings at 58 W. 10 St., the scientific process of finding my favorite bench in the park. Hello pigeons. Hello my eventual hatred of pigeons. Hello all over again. Could I do that? I feel like I could; I feel that I shouldn’t. I will return the library books but the almond milk is coming with me.


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