Round Here

I don’t know if there’s any other song in the world that can take me back to a time and place so completely as Counting Crows’ “Round Here.” When I hear it, it’s like I’m physically transported back to another place and time. I’m no longer in my apartment, or in my car, or at the beach. Wherever I am vanishes. The heat of summer or the freezing cold of wintertime are always washed away by the feel of a spring breeze coming through the open window of a dorm room on some random, completely unmemorable night in Oxford, Mississippi in 1994.

It is the spring. It is 1994. Bill Clinton is the president but I didn’t vote for him. Arkansas just won the NCAA basketball tournament but I was pulling for Duke because of their “not as hot as Christian Laettner” center, Cherokee Parks.

I am 19 years old, younger and thinner and prettier than I am now but it doesn’t matter because I was invisible to boys even then. My hair was longer but even then I was getting gray hairs. I’d been getting those since I was 15. Going through rush seemed to make it worse though. I’m not a size 8 like I was when I graduated high school but I haven’t maxed out yet either. Somehow I’m just cute enough, or just able to flirt enough, to be able to get into any bar I want to without an I.D. Even still, I don’t ever have dates for parties unless they’re Delta Gamma parties and I ask the guy myself. I’m somewhat bothered by this because I was raised to not ask out guys or even call guys unless I had a good reason for calling. So mostly, I hang out with my girl friends when they’re not doing something with their boyfriends.

I am sitting on the floor of my dorm room – Martin 410, (601) 232-6060 – working on an art project, doesn’t matter which one. Maybe it was the one with the scissors where I spent hours upon hours cutting out things out of black matteboard with an exacto knife. Maybe it was the one where I copied the Edward Hopper painting. Maybe I was just doing some shitty color wheel. It doesn’t matter. I was always working on some art project. I always had paint somewhere on my body, usually my right forearm from dragging it through paint on something I was working on.

I don’t have a roommate anymore. She moved out on October 1st after a horrible fight. She didn’t like me because I got into a sorority and she didn’t. I didn’t like her because her boyfriend called every night at about 2:00 a.m. and made her cry, which in turn woke me up. She’d never take the damn cordless phone out into the hall like normal roommates did when people called in the middle of the night. She said it wasn’t her phone. She had to have everything of her own. Her own fridge, her own stereo, her own telephone. How many electronic devices do 2 people need in a 12×12 room? But because I have no roommate, save a red and blue betta fish named Rebel, my room becomes a haven for people who are fighting with their own roommates, people who come in to town for the weekend, and people who are drunk and bored. They know I’ll be up at all hours of the night working on one of those art projects. Some of them, like Cam, come in every so often just to see what I’ve been up to. They’ve usually been out at the bars and smell like booze and cigarette smoke. I usually light my kudzu candle and pull out the box of wine from my mini fridge which we’ll pour into plastic wine glasses and chat for a while. Then they’ll go back to their room and I’ll go back to my art.

Funny, I wish Cam was 19 again too and knocking on my door, drunk, wanting to talk about the bars and what bands she heard and how dumb boys are. I’d still drink box wine with her even though I now know that white zinfandel and box win in general is kinda trashy just to relive the old days. Of course, I have no idea where Cam is now. I think she left after our freshman or sophomore year and I lost touch with her. She was fun. I miss her.

I know I’m a little bit different from the other girls I live with. They’re always so happy and having so much fun. They always have dates for Paddy Murphy and Ivy League and Old South to get ready for. They usually come to my room to borrow clothes or have me do their makeup for them. They always make sure I promise that I’ll come to the after-party that everyone is invited to since I don’t have a date for the party itself. I go and I have fun sometimes but there are other times when all I want to do is sit out by the airport and watch the light from the tower spin around. Green. White. Green. White. I can see it best from Gina and Ginger’s room and sometimes they’ll let me hang out in their room when they’re not there and let me use the computer to write a paper. I don’t have a computer in 1994, I won’t get one until that summer. It’ll be a crappy 386 with Windows 3.1 and I’ll use it mainly to play solitaire – but that won’t be until I move to Crosby in the fall…

Mr. Jones came out in the fall. I liked it a lot but didn’t buy the CD for some reason. It wasn’t until I went into Koondog and Perky’s room on the Thursday before Spring Break that I heard Anna Begins. I know now that I have to have this CD. This is a song that will capture me and hold me under its spell. I don’t know at the time that 11 years later it will have the same hold over me. I only know that it’s the best song I’ve ever heard up until that point in time. And I must have it. But I’m not talking about Anna Begins.

I put in the CD.

I hit play.

Track 1.

Round Here.

Every night it starts out the same, just as every morning I’m awakened by the 32 hi-hats at the beginning of Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching” coming from Mallini’s room. Only this is the way my every night that spring start out. It’s usually late and the dorm has already gotten quiet. People are either out or asleep. I’m sitting on the floor in jeans and some random t-shirt that I’ve accumulated from random parties. The carpet’s nasty because all I have is a little dustbroom sweeper. It’s too much of a pain in the ass to go down to the lobby and check out the real vacuum. Besides, the boys in Stockard have basically ruined it. It’s almost the end of the year anyway. There’s no sense in lugging it home. I end up throwing it away when I move out of the dorm in May.

She says “it’s only in my head”
She says “Shhh I know it’s only in my head”
But the girl on the car in the parking lot says
“Man you should try to take a shot
can’t you see my walls are crumbling?”
Then she looks up at the building
and says she’s thinking of jumping
She says she’s tired of life
she must be tired of something

I wonder how it would be if the door to the roof of the dorm wasn’t locked. Am I sad enough to jump? It’s eleven stories. I know it’s high enough. But would I do it? That’s the question. I’m sure that’s why they locked it in the first place – to keep people like me off of it. Of course, I don’t think I’d really do it. I might go up there and look at the light from the airport because you can see it really well from up there. And I might take my clunky discman up there with me and listen to this song over and over again and cry. But I don’t think I’d do it.

Besides, I’m only 19. There’s so much in life to look forward to. I’m sure I’ll get a date for at least one football game next fall. I’m sure I’ll start running again and lose those 15 lbs. I gained. I’m sure… I’m sure… I’m sure…

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One Response to Round Here

  1. Brandi Daniel Ceawford says:

    Wow. Great stuff, Courtney. Really, really took me straight back to Oxford & Ole Miss life, in general. Although I was a few years older, I loved so much The Counting Crows & that CD. (I still do, actually) I never knew some1 loved “Anna Begins” as much as I did! Lastly, my roomate & I had the very same room u later did in Martin. 4th floor, right? I remembered the # b/c she played in the tennis team & thought our # was so clever (6 – love, 6 – love). Like your roomie, she moved out not long into 1st semester & so very lucky am I, Elizabeth Ross (now Hadley) had a similar situation. She lived next door & we moved into the HUGE corner room together 2nd semester. (I met my husband at her wedding) Life is so wonderful and oftentimes strange, strange, strange. Love your blog. Keep writing. Trust me. . . you have a gift. Thanks for the trip down the proverbial “old memory lane.”

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