The first months of my first year, I avoided Fireside like estate-sale furniture. I could just feel the dandruff from one North Face crawling over the Columbias and Eddie Bauers to canoodle with the dandruff on some charcoal pea coat's collar. If someone's foot had touched one of the couches, I would have been curling up in their sock, resting my head between their toes. And if someone had sneezed, why not just use their snot as massage oil?
Plus, those kindergarten-colored statues look like they just walked off of an acid-aided performance of the Nutcracker.
However, these days, I am such a Fireside junkie that I even stretch out on that ridiculously feathery couch and stare at that colored painting in the hallway (all of them!) with my hands behind my head. I take my shoes off; sometimes I don't even sneeze into my elbow. And once I awoke from an ancient Chinese lit-induced slumber to find my shirtsleeve damp from my own drool. Fireside has become my living room.
I'd like to refer to one Fireside moment, arguably the Fireside moment. If you weren't there, you've heard about it because you wondered what happened to that couch. Well, I was there.
My roommate, some friends and I were chatting in the double couch alcove next to the actual "fire" place. It was 6:55 p.m. damp and dark outside and the last straggling dinner rush was in motion. A couple sat on the couch next to us, illuminated by one of the three lamps in Fireside. She kind of leaned into him uncomfortably. I figured she was just stressed. Nope. Her mouth opened like a sewer faucet, vomit spilling down her North Face and onto her boyfriend's lap. I jumped and stared directly back at my friends, prepared to ignore the situation. It wasn't that I didn't want to help, but my stress barometer felt more pressure than a real barometer does during July in Northfield. I couldn't deal with it.
In contrast, my roommate snapped into action. She ran up to the boyfriend, and he nodded. Then Fireside snapped into action. My roommate ran for paper towels; this brown-haired sophomore guy ran for a cup of water from the Cage; this brown-haired senior guy ran for the trashcan next to the computers. But there was no way the girl would have been able to lift her head that high (she was pretty busy), so I sprinted to one of those unisex bathrooms to snag another trashcan. Someone else called the campus EMTs.
A hush fell over the jolly chats of the Fireside people. Aside from those of us who covered the vomit bases, nobody moved. It was as if they knew their physical acknowledgements would make it worse.
Fireside watched on in sympathy while the EMTs came, cleaned her up with care and escorted her and her boyfriend elsewhere.
A group of first-year girls announced that they would go for the custodians, and a kid with dreads spread newspaper over the flaky couch.
Fireside acted as a unit. There were no redundancies. It was a fine-tuned response to a very sticky situation. It was a communal haven. A girl barfed up her entire week three feet away from me, and I still made it to the caf in five minutes. Being a part of that machine felt really nice, as if I'd accomplished something for the greater good of humanity.
Fireside serves its main benefits with a side of anxiety. The three o'clock sun that weaves through the maples and onto my scholarly article may be spoiled by the foot stench coming from the chair next to me. Or some children could scramble in to play hide and seek. Or I could be stretching into that lazy nap, but that group of people two clumps over thinks they are so incredibly funny.
Fact: as much as people peeve me, I don't go to Fireside to be alone. I go to be a part of something, to witness all the human eccentricities and maybe add a few of my own.
But humans are the source of anxiety. One can take comfort in that just as one can take comfort in human fallacy.