An Ode to The Van

Photo credit: Anya Schwartz

The vacant space in the front of Van Meter stands stripped and naked. As you walk up the steps off of Van Meter Highway and gaze into the front window of Van Meter building, you contemplate your warped reflection and the strange lack of coffee grounds filling the air. Lately the only thing you have to look forward to when going inside is the safety from the wind, not a warm muffin or a hot latte.

The Van was a weird, strange kiosk, a bodega and a café and a magical haven that presented food in the most dire of times. The lone soldier on the sidelines of the fight who brought brave, slowly-dying fighters sustenance in the midst of battle. The Molly Pitcher of Goucher, The Van was the true hero of the everyday combat against the rest of the academic quad, standing firmly on the side of the students. You can vividly remember the quick sprint from Hoffberger to The Van in the ten minute stretch between classes, desperate for a bagel with cream cheese, the extra 50 cents for more than one cream cheese cup be damned. The “bathroom” breaks that were actually only to grab an iced coffee. The Van was always there for you.

Now The Van has been shot down, another casualty in the campus evolution this year. As if its closing wasn’t enough, its bones have been knocked away, its skeleton removed from its fossilized husk. All that remains in its place is the chalkboard sign upon the ground, the writing still intact, runes from an ancient language newly deceased. Someone wrote those words, whether they are still on campus or have moved on; you wonder if they know that they have outlived this tiny creation, this fractional piece of their soul, if this small artistic act while on the clock is something they even remember having performed.

In its place there is now a small lounge. Or…something like a lounge, you’re not really sure. There are a few chairs and a table. If you ever felt like spending more time in Van Meter than you already do, it’d probably be a picturesque gathering space, right next to the window, the perfect perch to overlook all the way across campus. But it feels too wrong to be relaxing in the same place where The Van used to stand, proud and strong.

Because the brick wall in the inside of Van Meter used to be an exterior wall, some poor professor’s office looks into the entryway, directly into where The Van used to be. Now their window is free, unblocked. When you stand in the place where The Van was, the professor in the window stares at you, alarmed, shy, afraid. They are shocked that there is light on the other side of their window. They gape straight past you, as if you aren’t even there, at the trees on the outside of the building. You wonder how long it has been since they last saw the sun. How many seasons have gone by? How many dining halls and food repositories have disappeared since then?

In the hallway, someone says, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was, like, a place to get some food between classes?” One day the ignorance of the first years is going to actually kill you. They don’t know what this place used to be, the heroes that you have worshipped and watched fall. They tramp across a hallowed site, a holy place, without even knowing what used to reside here. But you know, and you say a silent apology to the discarded chalkboard now laid to rest. The Van was its own type of Giving Tree; it gave to all whenever they most needed it, until it had no more to give.

Anya Schwartz is the editor for the Fiction section of the Q. She is a second year English with a Concentration in Creative Writing and Mathematics double major, and she is from Brooklyn, New York.

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