There is a note in my phone from early in the semester, when my fingers were reliably numb with or without gloves and I had never heard the word coronavirus, that says “i love georgetown so much more than i ever loved anything.” It’s from 1:19 a.m. and was recorded while I stood at the far end of The Tombs’ bar. Looking past the dangling golden pitchers, I could see my roommate dancing with a mug of beer she kept spilling. Michael Jackson was playing — I think “Billie Jean.”
I stood there alone and time elasticized. The phrase appeared, reverberating off my senses long enough for me to write it down. It wasn’t about something in particular; the vodka cran haze distilled disappointment into a simple object, an amorphous anything. I was never quite sure about love, but Georgetown University always took my sadness and twisted it out of itself so when I looked at Healy Hall haloed by a gentle sunset, I felt a little softer than before.
There are plenty of things I could never stand about Georgetown: its dining hall eggs that definitely gave me food poisoning once; its inanely complex course search system; its distance from a Metro station; the School of Foreign Service requirement that forced me to suffer through four — four! — economics courses; its students who don’t realize most people don’t own a $1,200 winter coat.
There is a word in Galician and Portuguese, saudade, that means a deep nostalgia for a memory, longing for something that will never happen in the same way again.
That night at The Tombs, senior year seemed almost endless. Every night for the next four months I’d ask the DJ to please, please play Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” and he wouldn’t, and I’d stay ridiculously late hoping that he would, and I’d lose my house key and headphones doing a cartwheel on the front lawn on the walk home. Every day I’d wake up and trek to Uncommon Grounds, order a dirty chai, not complain when they just gave me a regular chai latte — about one-quarter of the time — and try and fail to do some reading. It’d be Groundhog Day: College redux, starring me. Then, one humid day, I’d graduate, move out and start the job I surely would have found by then.
Georgetown had a way of making the redundancies of college life — moving between the same five buildings and seeing the same people and doing the same things — feel bigger than its bounds. Standing in my college bar, spellbound by my blithe classmates, it seemed like my time at Georgetown could either last forever or never happen the same way again.
We all know how this story ends.
There is little profound about drunkenly leaving notes for myself on my phone. Georgetown, though, took my small understanding of the world and pulled every edge of it until it had a new shape. Professors who changed my beliefs, friends who changed how I see myself, colleagues who changed the way I write — Georgetown is far more than its spaces.
Its people are what I fell for the most. Saudade flickers in my memory of that night at The Tombs, but the experience of Georgetown presses on in the people who compose it — no matter how sharply my turn ended.
I keep trying to find a way to end this slowly because good endings are planned, not the real-life version of the Oscars music coming on before you thank the Academy.
Please, DJ, play “Like a Prayer.” I love you, Georgetown.
Katrina Schmidt is a senior in the School of Foreign Service