I’m in the cafeteria with Chloe and I can feel the room has a warmth that was not there before Thanksgiving break. When we first met talk was easy, interesting, and limitless, then it was more difficult, and now it’s better. It’s familiar and pleasant. Sometimes we laugh without much restraint. And I project this near-euphoric familiarity into the atmosphere of the room: It is like the dining hall is blushing: happy, excited, and a little shy.

Almost as soon as I’m conscious of this new happy feeling, I am self-conscious. Maybe it’s temporary, and maybe she’s only laughing because I am, but I think I detect a real desire to hang out when she says that she wishes she had smoked her weed with me instead of another person. There is ease in our conversation, and what I suspect is mutual enjoyment.

I listened to an interview Julie Klausner did with the writer Gaylord Fields. At one point he told her that since he’s black and most of what’s on TV is white people doing white people things, he felt like a cultural anthropologist whenever he watched it. He didn’t look to movies and books for reflections of his own experiences, but to examine the customs of a different culture. I’ve felt a similar relationship to my own life. When I’m with Chloe and I affectionately notice one of her mannerisms or I laugh at something we’re talking about, and especially when I hang out in a group and with new people, I feel like I’m collecting data. But it’s not like I’m reading about or watching a documentary on some unfamiliar culture—whereas I used to only be able to observe human behavior from a critical distance, I now feel immersed, like with enough time here I could actually become part of this foreign civilization. I feel an increasing familiarity with my classmates, my tenuous ties to them strengthening each day. I still can’t imaging having a fully formed social life, but I see a hazy form in the distance. I can’t make out the shape of it, but it’s there. And things are gaining momentum. I’ve been enjoying my hanging-out times with Chloe more and more.

I feel like I’m finally ready to be with people. Or like I could be ready. Or like just being with them means I’ve been ready for a little while. I think weed is a revelation. Chloe and I hung out with some older girls in their room, and it was like a layer of noise and static had cleared away. My thoughts felt logical and clear, talking didn’t hurt, and my stomach felt OK after it all.

These are all good feelings and all good things. ♦