“Your shirt smells like Stimson,” someone tells you. There’s not a specific smell that you can pinpoint as smelling like an entire building, but you know exactly what they mean. Yet — you haven’t been in Stimson in, like, eight months. Actually, you can’t remember the last time you were in Stimson. Also, this shirt is brand-new. Does that mean that everything you wear smells like Stimson? Do you just smell like Stimson?
“Stimson was supposed to be knocked down in the seventies,” an upperclassman said once, back when you were still a freshman. It was a funny joke; Stimson was the focal point of the entire campus, the meeting grounds at which clumps of people would reunite each mealtime. Now the administration is saying again that Stimson will be gone soon. Isn’t that what they promised last time? Maybe there will always be cycles of new people saying that Stimson will be destroyed every decade or so. Maybe you should switch your means of measuring time to be the last time someone said Stimson would be eliminated. How many years has it been since 2010? Oh, I don’t know anymore, but it’s been seventeen years since someone in a suit promised last Stimson would burn.
“I swear I heard a mouse last night,” your roommate used to say, back when you both lived in Winslow 3. Now whenever you walk past Stimson, all you can see are mice. They have built a home for themselves in the abandoned hallways of Connor. They seem to watch you through the windows through the cracking mesh screens, leer at you with their vacuous stares. One of them seems to be wearing a crown. They have colonized the land that was once yours, made it their own. They live amongst the ruins. They are all that is left.
For the last few years, nature has been waging its own war against the aging collection of buildings called Stimson. First came the mice, but then the spiders, and the moths. They live in the showers, buried into the carpets, hidden underneath the closet doors. And do you remember the bees? An entire swarming colony of them. “Docile,” the Public Safety email said they were, but when you saw them, you knew they were anything but. Their buzzing seemed to you like screaming, like a warning, Stay out. Or, possibly, Stay away.
The new campus fulcrum, Mary Fisher, looks upon Stimson with jealousy. It has glass windows that, for some reason, are cloaked in black fabric, and updated appliances and cool orange chairs. But you know better. The orange chairs are too high for anyone to comfortably sit upon. The white floors are too clean, they smell like Lysol, sterilized and shiny. There are no stains here. Mary Fisher wages a war against the nature that controls Stimson now, fights back. It says, You may have won that battle, but you will not take me.
In sandwich line at Mary Fisher the other day, you overheard a freshman say to another freshman, “Stimson? I don’t even know where that is.” You have been here for a thousand years, and these freshman are so young and new and you feel sorry for them. You think of the smell, of the line outside by the corkboard, of the mice you cohabited with, of the recycled promise of its downfall. And you smile to yourself, because Stimson was more than just a building that may eventually be conquered, it was a talisman, a memento, an inspiration, of resilience and strength. An old friend that smiles at you sadly from the far side of Van Meter, but you never quite have the energy to go and say hello.