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  • Hailey Ryan

In Which Our Hero Takes a Gap Semester

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

By Hailey Ryan

Well, this just won’t do, thought Verily as he opened President Bollinger’s infamously verbose, oft-lampooned email announcing the complete shift to online courses. Lesser students would turn to group chats, Columbia Confessions, or perhaps even Reddit to find consolation and communion in these trying times. But Verily is not like other students. Quill in hand, he exhumed his favorite Columbia stationery from his chest of drawers and began penning a letter to the big man himself.

Verily questioned the purpose of an education devoid of comforting mahogany beneath overworked derrières, the oh-so-erudite smell of coffee-stained books wafting into dormitories, or the Palladian symmetry of campus easing stresses for College Walk sashayers.

And lo! How was Verily supposed to over-caffeinate with his family’s Keurig when his palette had grown so accustomed to the Hungarian Pastry Shop’s cappuccino?

A couple of days later, Verily’s beloved great dane, Vergil, delivered the President’s letter to the foot of his bed. In stark contrast to his email, Bollinger’s response was brazenly curt—a pithy “no” that brought Verily’s world to a veritable halt. “Not even nay?” Verily gasped. “Chivalry died at the President’s Mansion this morning.”

Self-righteous though he may be, Verily couldn’t bring himself to register for Zoom classes after desecrating their name. Plus, he knew that his ancestors, philosophers and scholars alike, would roll over in their graves if they knew their grandson attended Zoom University. Without the Core, he would have to recreate the Ivy League experience on his own. Home-school humanism would be the only solution. But oh, my! How to achieve such a feat in a small suburban town?

In a moment of weakness, Verily flirted with the idea of strolling onto the local college campus—ever a risky move in Ithaca. When he did venture onto campus one morning, cloaked in his most discreet trench, he stumbled upon what the Cornellites call a darty. “What is this blasphemy?” Verily asked the nearest masked frat bro. “If you are going to have a party, there at least has to be a little party powder. None of this Natty Light tomfoolery.”

Disenchanted by the apparent depreciation of the Ivy League’s good name, Verily solemnly strolled home, prepared to abandon his scholastic ventures for a gap semester of Downton Abbey reruns and perfect focaccia. He was trudging past the local saloon when, all of a sudden, he was hit by a stroke of entrepreneurial genius: “Aha! If the saloon is the working man’s saving grace, then a salon will be mine! Every intellect worth his salt establishes a salon!”

Illustration by Rea Rustagi

Reinvigorated, Verily seized his trusty quill and began drafting letters in his finest calligraphy to tap the most worthy scholars from Ithaca to Troy. Verily was on the edge of glory, on the precipice of a tour de force that would surely leave its mark on Columbia’s hallowed halls and herringbone bricks.



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