Second Time Around: Pets

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Hello! My name’s Dolan, and I’m in my second semester at Brown, having transferred in as a sophomore last fall. I’m happy to offer insights gathered from my time here in Second Time Around, in the form of stories of varying degrees of coherence. So, if you please, read ahead!

There’s something about exiting the Rock on a winter night. The breeze brushes against your face. Then it vanishes, leaving nothing but a sting that lingers on the lips like a one-night-stand that generates a lifetime of “what ifs?” University Hall peeks out over a thicket of trees; on the pavement, its spotlights cast skeleton fingers from their naked branches. But the mood that the shadows create is more Disney than Romero: their movements add a certain liveliness to an otherwise quiet landscape. It occurs to you that some of the buildings that surround you predate the country, and suddenly the econ midterm that you’d been stressing about seems small in comparison.

Turning the corner as you head up the hill, you spot a woman walking her dog. Closer inspection reveals it to be a corgi, and, at the sight, the Cowboy Bebop lover locked in your tenth grade memories bursts free…until apprehended by your anti-weeaboo convictions. Yet, as Mitt “Binders Full of Women” Romney knows well, a split second was enough for the damage to be done: thus begins a fit of wallowing in your lack of animal companionship. Yes, you think to yourself, you’ve adjusted pretty well to life at Brown. You’ve avoided floorcest as if it were the chicken at Jo’s, and, although a few of the friends from your previous school will probably stick with you like plaque in your arteries, you’ve managed to replace them. However, you can’t really substitute new friends for a pet (at least not in most social circles). Hence, you glare at the dog-walker with a jealousy unknown to all else but Mariah Carey as Ariana Grande absorbs her powers.

You swipe into your dorm. The hallway is empty, and you are concerned: after all, it’s midnight on a Friday. You’re having serious déjà vu back to the mountain pass scene from Mulan, and expect a Hun invasion at any moment. Then, it dawns on you: your floor consists of STEM majors, whose indentured servitude to the SciLi won’t be up for another three hours. You spy an opportunity to revel in your status as a humanities concentrator. Given that, three years from now, you’ll probably be making less money than you would have had you answered the email from that Nigerian prince, you grab onto that shitake quicker than if it were glazed with General Tso’s sauce and offered to you by a Panda Express worker.

Unlocking your door, you are surprised by a light emanating from the top of your desk. Immediately, you wonder if that guy from the History Channel was right about aliens, and resign yourself to having your innards probed by an extraterrestrial. Wait, that’s not much different from an average weekend. Selah.

Also, that mysterious glow is nothing but an aquarium. But why, you wonder, is there an–

With a cloud of dust and a thud, I come Shawshank Redemption-ing through your wall. This time, you don’t even bother to ask what I’m doing here: everything that you thought you knew of reality is shattering, and, like a Detroit Lions fan in the last game of the ’08 season, all you can do is watch.

“Evening!” I say, as I make my way toward the tank on your desk. “I’ll bet you’re wondering how this got here.”

You shake your head “yes” with the enthusiasm of a draftee.

“Well, I couldn’t help but notice your pet situation– or lack thereof. So, although animals aren’t generally allowed in the residence halls, I figured I’d take advantage of a little loophole that allows students to keep any one of God’s creatures that they want, as long as it fits comfortably in a 10-gallon tank…without drowning. The end product: your very own axolotl!”

You shift your gaze to the aquarium. A sausage-shaped creature with the complexion of a corpse and gills reminiscent of tonsils infected with mono meets your eyes. Opening its mouth, it sucks up a worm floating above its head. Disney’s “Circle of Life” plays in the room next-door. All is right with the world.

For more about what makes Brown unique or to ask about the wee bit of leg room in the “no pets” policy, please feel free to direct emails to dolan_bortner@brown.edu or leave a comment below!

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