A Blue & White
CLAIRE SHANG, CC ’24, Editor-in-Chief
SYLVIE EPSTEIN, CC ’23, Managing Editor
KAT CHEN, CC ’24, Digital Editor
HART HALLOS, CC ’23, Illustrations Editor
MADI HERMANN, BC ’23, Illustrations Editor
DOMINY GALLO, CC ’23, Issue Editor
CY GILMAN, CC ’22, Issue Editor
VICTOR OMOJOLA, CC ’24, Issue Editor
HAILEY RYAN, BC ’22, Issue Editor
MICHAEL COLTON, CC ’22, Issue Writer
ELIZABETH JACKSON, CC ’22, Issue Writer
ANOUK JOUFFRET, BC ’24, Issue Writer
KELSEY KITZKE, BC ’23, Issue Writer
LEAH SAMOA OVERSTREET, CC ’24, Issue Writer
MAC JACKSON, CC ’24, Issue Illustrator
AMELIE SCHEIL, BC ’25, Issue Illustrator
JACE STEINER, CC ’22, Issue Illustrator
MAYA WEED, CC ’22, Issue Illustrator
Table of Contents
A Love Letter From the Editor
by Claire Shang
For the Love of College Roommates by Kelsey Kitzke and Madi Hermann
Love, Actually! by Leah Samoa Overstreet
Erik Gray by Anouk Jouffret
Our Funny Valentines
The Case for Dating a Guy Like Me by Michael Colton
Verily Veritas: In Which Our Hero Is Lovingly Pursued by Elizabeth Jackson
A Love Letter From the Editor
Love is unexplainable, so we're writing about it.
Sorry—you just can’t escape love in this special issue of The Blue and White. Here, each writer wrangles with love in a different way. Our “Blue Notes” column has become “Pink Notes” for the occasion, in which our staffers extend love beyond its romantic connotations. Kelsey Kitzke and Madi Hermann, co-staffers as well as cohabitants, write about a love that exceeds the perfunctory descriptor of “roommate.” Deciding to take herself on a date, Leah Overstreet stars in a rom-com of her own making.
In other words, it’s clear we’re always learning what love is. We start this process well before college, of course, but this discovery and definition is even enshrined in the Core, which pushes first-years into Hamilton to discuss Plato’s Symposium. In it, Aristophanes shares his theory of love: that humans were originally eight-limbed and spherical before we were punished and split into two by Zeus. Love is a constant search for our exact match, a quest by half-beings for wholeness. In the way I read it in Lit Hum at least, love necessarily emerges from a bleating lack.
English professor Erik Gray gives Anouk Jouffret a more judicious reading of Aristophanes’ proposal. In their Conversation, he suggests that recognition—of “the thing that you didn’t know you had lost”—animates love, not necessity or lack. Professor Gray gives us another theory of love: that what we think of as love is shaped, at least in part, by a lineage of love poetry.
But love is as mundane as it is precious; that’s partially what makes it so hard to describe. So of course we have as many humor pieces as we do completely earnest ones—you’ll find them in the “Our Funny Valentines” section. Michael Colton asserts that we all deserve love—yes, even him, an “oddball, left-brainer, big-thinker.” Our esteemed mascot, Verily Veritas, takes this to heart; at the mercy of writer Elizabeth Jackson, we see him for once open himself up to love, coming to see its merits as he’s relentlessly pursued by fangirls across campus.
In September, I found Love: A Very Short Introduction in my dorm hallway and kept it in the bottom of my bag. I picked it up whenever I remembered to; only in this remarkably inefficient way could its 116 very small pages last me months. I’m not sure I retained very much from my piecemeal reading method. In fact, just one line stands out in my memory: “Love is sometimes characterized as a sharpened clarity of attention.” By this definition, these writers write with love as they write about it. I’m sure you’ll feel it as you read.
Illustration by Amelie Scheil
For the Love of College Roommates
Illustration by Madi Hermann
A room of our own.
By Kelsey Kitzke and Madi Hermann
I (on various occasions) call our celebrated illustrations editor Madi Hermann my boyfriend, my girlfriend, my wife, my husband, my live-in partner, my future one-who-got-away, my collaborator, my adviser, my personal artist, my events coordinator, my social media manager, my comedic partner, my audience, my first-reader, my translator, my cheerleader, and my twin flame. What I rarely and only hesitantly call Madi is “my roommate” though that is, to an outsider, the most accurate term to describe her relationship to me.
I (on most occasions) call ever-brilliant staff writer Kelsey Kitzke my roommate. It’s an incredibly ambiguous word, revealing little about our relationship other than the fact that we live together, but for some reason, it’s the only one I can come up with. After all, what’s the word for the person who always gives you their last bite of food, who always laughs at
your jokes? What’s the word for the person with whom conversations and silences alike are always comfortable? What’s the word for the person who knows how to keep you grounded? What do you call the person who has become your home?
When we moved in together we had not seen each other for nine months—longer than the time we first shared with each other at Barnard. We met as nervous first-years during orientation, though we’ve now forgotten exactly when and where. During the next five months, we got to know each other as we got to know Columbia. We watched movies on each others’ raised dorm beds, found a favorite spot in Milstein, and tried to focus on readings in Hungarian. Covid took away the context of our first-year friendship. And in the childhood bedrooms and familial homes to which we returned, the relationships between us and those we lived with were clearly defined and socially normative.
We stayed in touch, planning to return to New York and move in together in spring 2021. We picked a charming (read: old) apartment on Claremont that we would come to call home for the next eight months.
By December 2020, our move-in plans were set, and we were in the process of preparing a new backdrop for our friendship. How would we divide the dishes? I’ll bring cutlery and you can bring plates? Maybe we should just order a new set of pots and pans? Split the cost? But then how will we divide them up? We asked all the logistical questions that, in part, concealed a larger one: How do you live with someone whose precise relationship to you remains unarticulated? We wondered how much of our relationship would come to be just a function of the pots and pans we share.
Now, our relationship is, as it turns out, a lot about the pots and pans we share. But that is not to discount how communal kitchenware has shaped our lives. Setting up an apartment is not always akin to building a home, but it certainly was for us on Claremont Avenue.
Together we took the first real steps of adulthood. We suffered through the heat and hysterics of a New York summer. We wrote late-night poetry on our fridge with word magnets for the other to wake up to in the morning. We joined Blue and White Zooms from our kitchen countertop. We wondered what we should have for dinner and on some nights decided on tequila. We came to terms with identities and anxieties and that persistent question: Who will be there for me when I cannot be there for myself?
Our friendship—our love, even—was built on the foundation of our apartment buildings. When you live with someone, you see how they exist at their most unguarded. I know that Kelsey’s hot sauce collection rivals her book collection and that when she likes a song she’ll listen to it on repeat for hours. And I know that Madi snoozes her alarm for an hour before she gets out of bed and that nothing gives her more joy than re-organizing her crystal collection along her windowsill. We know these things not because we’ve told each other about them, but because we’ve witnessed them.
It is undeniably frightening to share this unguarded self with those who do not have to love you, who can walk out of your life with relative ease. Maybe that’s why people often say not to live with your friends. But how wonderful it is when someone sees you at your most vulnerable—and your most boring—and chooses to love you anyway. How precious to have someone who sees you at your worst and still asks, do you want some tea and my second piece of toast?
Go fuck yourself!—but take yourself out to dinner first.
By Leah Samoa Overstreet
Haven’t you heard? I’ve met the one! Don’t look now, but she’s staring back at me in the mirror!
I was performing that ritual we all do in preparation for that special someone. Eyeliner, blush sticks, brushes, and glitter were strewn across my Columbia-issued desk, catching their breath before being snatched back up and put to work. I widened my eyes with every reverential swipe of mascara. Father, Son, and Holy-Spririted my way through a perfume spritz. Took a moment of silence to painstakingly wing my eyeliner.
My latest Spotify playlist burst from my MacBook speakers and swayed its hips up and down my 125-square-foot dorm room. I shimmied with it, clad in only my extra-cute panties and matching bra. I meant business. I bobbed and swayed, maintaining giddy eye contact with myself in the mirror as I wrapped my overglossed lips around each lyric. My hair had to be perfectly fluffed and my outfit had to be overthought at least 10 times or else it wouldn’t feel like I’d paid it enough attention. My eyeliner was way too big, my blush was obnoxious, and my Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm was applied just so it could later stain the inside of my mask—but I felt pretty, so it didn’t matter. Pretty and prepared. After all, I had a date.
One less-than-romantic trip on the 1 train later, I arrived at an adorable café somewhere in the vague direction of downtown. When the waitress came to take my order, I half-expected her to demand an excuse: “Oh my date is running late” or “they’ll be here soon.” I figured there would be at least some sort of opening for me to announce with a cartoonishly puffed chest that “it’s just me,” and for the rest of the café to erupt into applause. Instead, the waitress hurried off to get the Berry Matcha Latte I ordered and didn’t give a second thought to my lack of male escort. Shockingly, things have changed since the 18th century and I was no longer expected to have a chaperone. Go figure.
The other patrons sipped their trendy coffee, oblivious to the monumental character development occurring mere feet away. You see, it was my first official solo date. It was an attempt at the apparently not at all controversial activity of spending time with myself. I had committed to romanticizing my own life, as ordained by the self-love royalty of TikTok. That meant actually leaving the Columbia bubble, doing things just because I wanted to, and not worrying about a lack of companionship—a taller order than it may seem.
So I took myself to the cute café. I walked around the indie bookstore for hours because there was no one waiting on me. I didn’t make puppy eyes at the imaginary person holding my hand; I smiled and bought myself the flowers (because I deserved them, God dammit). I spent the day knowing that I am the person I am going to spend the rest of my life with and that I wanted her to know how much I love her.
I had spent a disgustingly large portion of my life reserving cozy cafés and romantic restaurants as “date ideas.” I generated these date ideas only to wait and wish with all my heart that one day that I would date someone and finally escape single purgatory. I’m not exactly sure where I got this idea from. Maybe it was the YA romance novels I devoured growing up. Maybe it was Society—with a capital S—that shoved it down my throat that a partner (specifically my white, cis-het, prospective Prince Charming) was the grandest thing my little sandwich-making, childbearing heart could hope for. Maybe it was me, who just wanted to be someone’s “darling.” Maybe it was all of us, choking me with the pressure of Happily Ever After. Whoever I point my finger at, the result was the same: I had been waiting in my metaphorical tower for a prince to sweep me off my feet and take me out on the town. What a fucking waste of time!
Sure, maybe one day I’ll go on 50 First Dates and Meet Sally and Love Actually. Maybe I will date someone who goes out of their way to make me breakfast in bed each morning. Maybe all of the rom-com fantasies will come true. In the meantime, I’m not going to keep waiting around and wishing on shooting stars. I can’t rely on someone else to get down on one knee and offer me the life I’ve always wanted—and it wasn’t fair to myself to limit my happiness in that way. I’m the one who has to stick around once the credits roll and the screen fades to black. Relationship or no relationship, I wanted my feet swept! And sometimes, if you want something done right, you have to do it your damn self.
I treat each day like I’m going to spend it with the love of my life (because I am!). So every day I put on what makes me feel like my best self, regardless of whether it’s too much or whether there’s someone to watch me from afar. Watching myself pass by storefront windows is reason enough to put on the dress. I am the occasion.
It took me too long to realize that I am worth that crazy, rom-com level, shout-from-the-rooftops, grand gesture kind of love. I deserve to be romanticized and cherished and held. I have every right to give that love to myself and so do you. A great love could be right around the corner, but who am I to ignore the one I have right here, smiling back at me in the mirror.
Illustration by Mac Jackson
A Rendezvous with Erik Gray
On love, lyric, and longing.
By Anouk Jouffret
When something emerges in my life for which my realm of knowledge offers no explanation, I seek a person who has the expertise, the information, the skill that I so bitterly lack. This may sound like a platitude, and certainly it is; when an issue presents itself, we look for someone with authority on the matter. If there is a leak in my roof, I contact a carpenter. If (more like when) I forget the recipe for Swedish meatballs, I phone my grandmother. Say I have sprained my ankle, well then I limp my way over to Mount Sinai’s emergency room. But what of matters of the heart? Does anyone have any authority on the subject beyond their own experience? My mother, a therapist, my closest friends, Buzzfeed? Perhaps.
In light of Valentine’s Day, a tradition filled with letters, love songs, and poems, I sought someone who could speak to me about the expression of love in literature. I found such a person in a book-clad bureau on the sixth floor of Philosophy Hall. Erik Gray is a professor in Columbia’s Department of English and Comparative Literature, whose courses include Love in Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Sonnets and Elegies. In 2018, Gray published The Art of Love Poetry, which analyzes and historicizes love poetry across the Western tradition. At last, I found my guru.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Blue and White: Can you give me a brief history of love poetry? How has love poetry evolved over time?
Erik Gray: One of the most surprising things about love poetry is its consistency over time. There was a very influential idea that found a new life when C.S. Lewis, in 1936, wrote a book about medieval love poetry and prefaced it with a blanket statement that said that love as we know it, and as we practice it today in our society, was invented in the 12th century, in the south of France, by these poets called the troubadours. That in other societies and in European society before the 12th century, all the things that we take as being instinctive and inherent to our experience of love—the sort of obsessive attention on the beloved, the jealousy, and all these other aspects of love—just seemed alien. It had not been thought of that this really had a beginning that then dispersed itself so successfully into our culture that we take it for granted. It was a very influential claim because it seemed so shocking.
But then people started to counter it and say, well actually there seems to be very similar effects in classical Arabic poetry, and actually there’s some ancient Chinese poetry that sounds very similar to love poems that are written today. And finally people were saying, well, actually Babylonian poetry—which is the earliest written poetry that we have—has exactly the same expressions of longing and commitment and inability to sleep, all the things that we associate with love. That doesn’t mean that love is experienced the same way across all times and cultures, but that there are basic elements of love that do seem to be very consistent and that have been expressed consistently in poetry. If you read Sappho, which is about as far back as you can get, you find a great deal in common with the sorts of things that people are going to be writing in Valentine’s cards.
B&W: Do you think love poetry influenced what we think of as love, how we define love?
EG: Absolutely. Well, Lewis would say that love poetry has determined everything that we think about love. Even if that is not a claim that is held up, it is still clear that a great deal of our experience of love is based on our expectations of what it feels like to be in love, and that part of the pleasure is seeing your expectations met. The same way that, when you get married, your wedding is obviously a unique moment for you, and yet people keep in the ritual of walking down an aisle and of saying certain words because part of the pleasure is seeing yourself do this thing that you’ve seen represented so many times. So the pleasure of falling in love and being in love is partly a visceral and instinctive one, and partly an acculturated one. That comes for most of us today from love stories that we see in movies, read, or see on TV. Those stories used to be told in verse—there is a direct continuity between ancient love poetry and the representation of the same emotions in narrative form—but in the end it’s all the same thing.
B&W: In The Art of Love Poetry, you write that poetry is a natural outlet for erotic love because it lends itself to the paradoxical tension between public and private that is always present in love. What is it about the form of lyric poetry in comparison to other poetic and art forms that makes it so well-suited for the subject of love?
EG: Lyric poetry is the term that we give to what we usually think of as a poem—not a narrative, not a drama, but something that’s usually shorter and that has an intensity of expression to it. Lyric is usually associated with inner states of feeling. And yet it does have exactly that strange tension, which is that it’s an inward, sometimes a very private emotion that by the very fact of being expressed in the form of a poem takes a public form. Even if you never show it to anybody, your poem is written in language and language is something that we all share. And if it’s written in any sort of verse form—let’s say you write a sonnet that begins with “roses are red, violet are blue”—it has that public aspect of having borrowed a cultural form to it. On the one hand, that might seem like a limitation—that is to say, you don’t want your inward private feeling to be associated with something common and public. On the other hand, love for another person is necessarily a sharing of your privacy with someone else. That’s why I suggest that the form of lyric, which always has this tension, is actually apt to love, which has that same duality.
B&W: Given that love poetry is both directed at an individual and often published for a greater public to read, I wonder who the audience of love poetry is.
EG: There’s a theorist of lyric poetry named Jonathan Culler who uses the term “triangulated address” as a descriptor for all lyric poetry. Many poems have some form of apostrophe—in other words, addresses to whatever it is that they’re describing, or, even if they’re not in the second person, it’s about a subject and an object and my own personal perception in relation to that object. But [Culler] says, just by the very fact of having been written, the I-You relationship is in some ways being triangulated with an understood audience, and therefore publication is just formalizing what is already implied by the very act of composition. That triangle is in a way essential to the effect, certainly, of love poems. There are various theorists of love who say that interpersonal love between two people is in a way impossible without a third point. This doesn’t have to be a third person to mess things up and that we’re jealous of or anything like that. It can be, for instance, language itself. The fact that I am communicating with you through this poem is a marker both that we are connected because we have this poem in common and that we are separated, because if we weren’t separated, I wouldn’t have to use language at all. What invests that third point of the triangle with so much erotic power is that it is necessary to complete the circuit between you and me.
B&W: What do you make of the tradition of giving published poetry to a love interest? Isn’t it odd that we borrow other people’s words to convey our emotions? In your book, you write that poetry is capable of conveying universal emotion with rhythm and rhyme in a way similar to music, while expressing the individual-specific emotions so emphasized in erotic love. Is it comparable to sharing a song?
EG: I think it is exactly comparable to a song—songs and poetry in most languages are the same word. A great deal of love has to do with a sense of recognition. And I’ve already mentioned that the excitement of being in love is partly a sense of novelty as well as the exhilaration of recognizing in yourself what had hitherto only existed in romances.
But another form of recognition would be the Platonic one. In Aristophanes’ speech in the Symposium, he says that we fall in love not with something that is extrinsic to us but with something that we recognize as having once been part of ourselves. And in Socrates’ contribution to the Symposium, the wise woman who is teaching him says that when you fall in love with somebody, you are recognizing in that person the absolute beauty that you have always known of, because we have a vague sense of these absolute forms, but which you only truly see when you recognize it in someone else.
In both cases, there’s the sense that recognition of the thing that you didn’t know you had lost, or didn’t know was within you until you saw it in another, is what makes us fall in love. We often feel that when we hear a song, or read a book of poems, or any other book, and think, “That’s it, that’s what I feel but I could never express it or I could never play the music.” It’s natural to want to give that to somebody that you are in love with because it is an expression of you that you yourself could not produce. And also because it has this triangulated sense—that if I can love this and you can love this too, then somehow we are connecting through it the same way we would connect through some other triangulated point.
B&W: I found the fourth chapter of your book to be very interesting because you highlight the presence of animals in love poems. You write that love poets include animals “as signs of erotic uncertainty, queerness, and inconclusiveness.”
EG: Animals have that quality of being both different and similar to us. I guess that’s true of anything but in animals it’s particularly striking, which is why they appeal to love poets. That is, if love has that quality of being simultaneously new, different, wonderful, and also recognizable in the way that we were just talking about, then love in animals is going to have that necessarily because they are both different from us and similar to us. So when you see pigeons cooing and billing and necking and doing funny little dances for each other, it’s beautiful because it’s reminiscent of the funny little dances that we do in our own mating rituals, and yet of course displaced into this surprising or unusual form. So that’s one way in which animals appear in love literature, specifically love poetry, as a displacement that allows us to view our own modes and feelings.
But then sometimes an animal can also serve as a very powerful point of triangulation. There is a wonderful poem by the ancient Roman poet Catullus about his beloved’s pet sparrow in which he focuses on her physical relationship with it, the way it jumps around in her lap and the way she feeds it and the way it nibbles at her fingers. If he’d been writing a poem directly about her lap or about how much he wants to nibble her fingers, there would be something unappealing about that. But somehow having it mediated through this figure—an animate figure and one with a personality and a will but not another human being, which would make it a very different poem, say if I were jealous of your other lover—it manages to have some of the tension of what we usually think of as a love triangle, in which there’s somebody coming between us, but nevertheless operates more like one of the other types of erotic triangles that I was mentioning, where the pleasure comes from the completion of a circuit that’s made visible for us and made complete for us by the externalizing into this third point.
B&W: Can the use of animals in love poetry also function as sources of inclusivity? I wonder if including animals potentially removes gender from the equation and could make the poem read as more universal.
EG: I think that’s a great point. And it’s true that poets will turn to natural figures like animals in order to give either specifically queer or, as you say, more universal ideas about love. The expansion of it beyond our species makes love less culturally specific, reduces constraints, expectations, and just broadens, as you rightly say, the definition and the possibilities.
B&W: For those of us who have not delved deep into the annals of love poetry, is there any particular poem you recommend we read this Valentine’s Day?
EG: No one poem will do for everybody. There is a poem by Tennyson called “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal,” a short poem that I have always found unbelievably beautiful and seductive. Back when I was first dating my wife, I thought, the moment has come. I was in England and she was in New York because I was abroad for a year. I thought, it’s Valentine’s day, I’m going to share this poem. So I texted it to her, and of course I was five hours ahead, so I did it right after I woke up, thinking she will find this when she wakes up. One of the refrains of the poem is “waken thou with me.” So I texted it and I immediately got a reply saying, “I am awake.” It hadn’t occurred to me that she would have her phone on overnight and that getting the text message would wake her up. So when I got the text message, my first reaction was thinking that I must have mistakenly texted this to the person whose name is right before hers alphabetically in my list of contacts. Which, as it turns out, would’ve been the worst possible person I could ever have texted this to. And so I panicked, but then I looked again and realized, no, it was the person that I meant to send it to. It was just that she was texting me back at what would’ve been 2:30 in the morning her time, or something like that. In the end it all worked out well and now we are happily married and live happily ever after. But that was the poem that I reserved for the special Valentine’s Day moment. And I recommend it.
Illustration by Kat Chen
Our Funny Valentines
The Case for Dating a Guy Like Me
Illustration by Hart Hallos
It's not easy being the most eligible bachelor in Morningside Heights.
By Michael Colton
Well, it’s Valentine’s Day again. If you’re anything like me, that’s bad news. It’s hard out there for guys like us. You’re probably reading this in bed right now, alone, next to a stack of dense leather-bound books, a cup of black coffee, and a notebook of your totally random thoughts (Cryptocurrency, but in a physical—maybe paper?—form). You’re probably wondering if romance is dead, or if you’re just a worthless piece of garbage that nobody could ever love.
I can see why you’d feel that way. I sure do. Year after year, the Valentine’s Day posts cluttering my Instagram page—or Instagram cage, as I sometimes call it (that one might take a bit for most people to understand)—make it more and more clear that the current dating economy is downright hostile toward people who present anything but the same old stuff.
It’s tough out there for weirdos like me. Left-brainers, big-thinkers who couldn’t care less about the trivial stuff like taking you out to dinner or treating you nicely, but who do care about the real problems in this world, like whether popular democracy is an efficient form of government, or if we’d be better off putting our country in the hands of some real revolutionaries like Elon and Jeff (first name basis).
I’m rambling again, as oddballs like me tend to do, but my point stands. People hate me for no reason. And I can’t get laid, despite how much I bring to the table. My suspicion is that we oddball thinkers are being ruled out simply because of our confidence in our personal and political beliefs—rejected without ever being given a chance, all because we dare to question the basis of our societal, governmental, and romantic customs.
So, at the risk of writing a freaking novel about it, I’d like to provide an honest glimpse at what it would be like to be in a relationship with me, or with any of the other lonely brainiacs out there. If that sounds unappealing to you: I challenge you to keep reading. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you’d find.
Our days would go as follows:
8 a.m. sharp, I greet you with a cup of OJ, a cup of joe, and a thick, sandy protein shake. Fluids are a huge part of my mental wake-up.
By 8:30 we’re on page A17 of the Wall Street Journal. That’s the opinion section, an even huger part of my mental wake-up. Guys like me can’t stop theorizing about the spaces and places around us, so I put quite a bit of emphasis on discussing the day’s paper. If you’re so lucky as to bed a Kafka like myself, be prepared to dive in deep on questions such as, “Do teachers deserve health care?” and “Is it time to shift to a 60-hour workweek?” This sort of conversation usually tides me over until about noon. After that, I treat you to brunch, again in the form of a protein shake.
Our afternoons would be spent debating and laughing and pining for a better tomorrow. You might wonder whether I am employed. I like to say that I’m in the business of challenging your preconceived ideas about yourself and this country. The work of the vanguard is constant, and cannot possibly fit within the hegemonic confines of a corporate office. A relationship, a true connection, would provide all the wages you or I could ever need. This is to say that any partner of mine ought to quit their job even before our relationship is born. Call me archaic or deluded, but I don’t believe there is a place for work in a house of love and intrigue.
At 4 p.m. each day, we will call Janet (my mom’s assistant) to thank Mother for the day’s food and leisure provisions. At 6, a short jaunt down to Hudson Yards for a meal with her and my father, whom we must only address as Sir. My family is, like me, idiosyncratic.
In the evenings I like to catch a show: Shark Tank or Mad Money with Jim Cramer. Like I’ve said, my tastes can border on eccentric, and yours should too, if you plan on taking this partnership to the next level (large-scale property management, as a couple).
None of this is new information. At least not to those who read my blog (www.envelopepushr.weebly.com) or subscribe to my Patreon. The point is, though, that the singles of the city seem totally unaware of what they’re missing out on. A relationship with yours truly is no less a partnership than it is a constant entanglement of wit and wisdom, a constant push-and-pull on each other’s sensibilities. I know I’ve been in “academic mode” thus far, but I promise that I have fun as well. For example, just last week a friend and I took some photos—or rather, had some taken of us—at the Museum of Ice Cream in SoHo. What a riot that was.
I hope this much is clear: A guy like me—someone who is, on the surface, rejecting the norms of society and dedicating himself to the intersection of big business and small government—is actually quite multifaceted and well-prepared to enter a long-term relationship. That I haven’t already been “snatched up” is a testament to the fact that my sort of worldview is growing less and less accepted, that my oddball traits are sticking out more and more against the mundanity of the dating pool. Is there anyone out there who still prefers Equinox over Planet Fitness? All joking aside, there is. Consider this column a call to action to find that person and make it work. You can email me at email@example.com, or get in touch with Janet to set up an introductory call with my folks. I really look forward to hearing from all the readers out there who are as desperate as I am to find someone in this city with the same quirks, questions, and quests.
And for those lonely dozens that I addressed at the top of this piece: If nothing else, I hope you take this article as a sign to keep going. With enough effort, we can all find love on our terms. Once that happens, though, it’s back to business deconstructing the liberal charity-state.
A Very Verily Veritas Valentine’s
In which our hero is lovingly pursued.
By Elizabeth Jackson
Illustration by Maya Weed
Holidays are particularly poor occasions for practical jokes, in Verily’s opinion. And a practical joke was the only possible explanation for the ostentatiously packaged red velvet box of chocolates that someone had deposited on the Oriental rug outside his door.
Verily cautiously examined the box as though fearing potential detonation, peering at it from every angle before daring to lift the lid with a bold flourish. A folded note immediately fluttered out, panicking Verily into scattering miscellaneous confections across the hallway tile. Eyes narrowed in aggravation, Verily snatched up the note, which read, in irritatingly precise script:
I remember you’re not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day, but here’s a sweet little something to say thanks for being a great neighbor, when you’re not translating Aristotle aloud at 3 a.m. or trying to put marble busts of Homer in the lounge. It’s also to celebrate the anniversary of your acquaintance with Felix the cat. He misses you. As do I.
Verily crumpled the note in his fist. Really, it was just like Amare Aspera to try to gain his sympathy in this indefensibly sycophantic fashion. Verily was well aware of her ongoing campaign to install compost bins in the residence hall lounges. These baneful bonbons were clearly a misguided attempt to curry favor with him as Hall Council president. Little did she know, Verily Veritas was not to be bested by such transparent bribery.
Later that afternoon, Verily was listening attentively in Physics for Poets when he was blasted backward by the opening strains of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” sung aggressively a cappella over the lecture hall’s booming sound system. Before Verily’s eardrums could recover from the auditory assault, a blur of blue-blazered men bounded up the aisle and halted right next to Verily’s seat. Faced with the vexingly velvet voices of the Columbia Kingsmen, Verily cowered in mortification, counting the seconds until the end of the ballad.
“That,” announced one of the songsters, “was a valentine for our pal Verily, sent by the lovely Echo Emeritus. She’d also like us to pass on the message that Verily’s solo rendition of Handel’s Messiah at the last 1020 karaoke night was a smokin’ hot revelation.”
“Your pal?” spluttered Verily, because that seemed like the easiest fallacy to handle first. “My good man, I do not even know you!”
The blazered warbler clapped Verily none too gently on the shoulder, bellowing, “We all take the liberty of thinking of you as a friend already, Verily. Your reputation precedes you!”
Just as Verily was formulating further questions on the origin of the valentine missive, the Kingsmen bowed to the rest of the class and pranced out of the chamber, belting Doja Cat’s “Woman” until they vanished.
Echo Emeritus. Verily shook his head. How utterly pedestrian to stoop so low as to publicly humiliate one for one’s song choice in a karaoke competition. Verily had noticed Echo at a booth in 1020 that evening, nursing a vodka-cranberry for upwards of two hours. The poor, petulant girl must have performed something prior to Verily’s arrival and been miffed that his performance had lain waste to all his competitors. As someone who could become a trifle competitive himself when the situation warranted, Verily mustered minimal pity for Echo, but it could not compare to his outrage at the lecture disruption.
In need of some tranquility after his heretofore disastrous day, Verily charted a course to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. If peace was not to be found among the living on this day of ill-considered gestures of affection, it might be found among the blissfully reliable deceased.
Approaching the entrance to Butler, however, Verily found his path blocked by a gaggle of students, several of them holding large cardboard signs bearing messages like “Verily Veritas, a stupendous stud,” “Happy Valentine’s Day, Valiant Verily,” and “Verily, Will You Go to Prom with Me?” At the head of the pack was Daphne Delta, a curiously forlorn individual who could usually be found sitting on the floor in the stacks, being swallowed by her overcoat while reading Edgar Allan Poe. She was nearly unrecognizable now, sporting a vibrant fuchsia sweater and bouncing from foot to foot while brandishing her own sign: “Verily, be the Odysseus to my Penelope!”
Noticing him standing, mouth agape, several yards in front of her, Daphne dashed forward and seized his sleeve. “Everyone, he’s here! Ready, three, two, one!” On cue, two confetti cannons let out deafening thunderclaps, and the entire assembled company shouted, “WE LOVE YOU, VERILY!”
“UNHAND ME, WOMAN!” Verily roared in response. “What is the meaning of all these public displays? To which conspiracy to dupe me do you belong?”
Daphne was not to be deterred, however, and, swinging Verily’s arm in an obnoxiously chummy fashion, she half-giggled, “No conspiracy, Verily, we just realized we don’t tell you enough that you’re a heartthrob! You’re the bedrock of our college experiences, the Harry Styles of Columbia’s hallowed halls—”
“No!” Verily exclaimed, firmly extracting himself from Daphne’s vise-like clutches. “I shall not fall prey to these insincere overtures from persons who have shown me nothing but contempt or indifference! You cannot mean the things you say, Poe disciple, and though I cannot discern your nefarious plot as of yet, it shall not succeed! Be gone with you!”
Turning abruptly, Verily darted to Joe Coffee, seeking the healing powers of a hot vanilla latte. He thought he was in the clear until the barista handed him his steaming cup, saying, “Here you go, honey, no charge for you on this day of love.”
“GAH!” Verily yelped, slamming the cup down and sloshing steamed milk all over the counter. “Why do even you force me to flee?!” Leaving her dumbfounded, Verily exited, sans coffee, and hastened back to his chambers.
In the hallway, Verily caught sight of Amare, crouched on the floor near his door.
“Amare, please, I cannot bear any more of your antics today.”
“Oh, you won’t have to, Verily. Thanks a lot for throwing my gift all over the floor.”
Verily realized with a shock that she was sniffling.
“Why are you incapable of handling people being nice to you?!” she screeched, and standing up, threw a handful of recovered chocolates at him, hard, so that several hit him squarely in the face. “UGH! Enjoy being alone!” And she stormed down the corridor.
Slowly drawing a hand across his cheek to wipe the jelly and shards of chocolate away, Verily felt a smile creep onto his face. Passionate, firebrand Amare. There were worse Valentine’s Day companions. He would be the Petruchio to her Kate for the evening, he resolved.
“Amare!” Verily shouted after her. “Would you perhaps be interested in a nighttime flight around the city? You can luxuriate in the cabin whilst I pilot the plane!”