I’ll start with this knife.

The blades are dull, but it is clean and unused. It doesn’t carry stories upon it, because the stories it was waiting to receive never came. Not in this universe, anyway. I knew about the knife from before, because I’d gone to help retrieve his camping stuff from the mangled truck that was parked at the discount auto repair smack out on Highway 130 where it had been towed and everyone could see it when they crested the hill coming into town.

Maybe they didn’t know the story of the truck, and thought perhaps the driver had successfully walked away from the accident. Perhaps the truck hadn’t rolled over, and the driver had forgotten to buckle up, and he’d slid along the bench seat when the other vehicle had smashed into his side.

Maybe they thought they recognized the truck, and remembered it belonging to me, and wondered if I was okay, because perhaps they didn’t know that the truck had passed on to him.

I don’t know, but I guess I meant to start with the knife and go from there, and not talk about the truck. Anyway, I knew about the knife resting inside his camoflauge duffel bag, because I’d reclaimed it from the discount auto repair place. I’d seen it maybe once or twice where it had ended up in a back bedroom of the house my parents had moved into to forget everything. It was still too early then, even though I wanted to take the knife.

I wanted a token to hold. I wanted to carry it around, because 9/11 hadn’t happened quite yet, and I could carelessly toss it onto trays to go through metal detectors. The longest blade was maybe three inches. It was some kind of off brand Swiss Army knife. It had scissors and a Phillips head screwdriver, and an attachment with an eyehole on it–I guess you could thread some line through it and sharpen a hook out of a twig or something to catch fish if you were desperate.

It was hardly what you’d call a premium knife sought by those who knew knives or understood survival. It was just a nice thing to hold to remind me of him. I didn’t fully understand his love of camoflauge stuff–did it come from the same place my brief, early teenage desire for our dad to take me hunting come from, or was it something he’d picked up from a buddy in his Scout troop? He called himself Camo Dude as an alias on some of the Yahoo chat forums he frequented, and was a fan of Garfield. I suspect those things would have changed fast over the next couple of years as he met girls and learned to refine childhood favorites.

One cute redheaded girl came up to me during his funeral and expressed how much she loved him. Maybe she was his girl.

A crazy thing that I never really told anybody–during my mystical years in college, I’d free-associate a lot of random fiction, inventing characters on the fly in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way in hopes of creating future novel fodder. Long after he died, I stumbled upon one such passage where I wrote about getting killed at the same intersection he was killed at–my character was the same age as he was when he died, but was driving a Ford Escort instead of a Chevy S-10. The weird thing was my character’s motive explained that he died driving on to a town up north to see his girlfriend, and he’d never intended to turn right at the stop sign to go to the Scout campout.

I read it once and trembled and put it aside.

I don’t think I ever revisited it because it was too eerie to behold. I’d written it probably two years before he died, and was certainly not envisioning him as the character who died, but there it was–a perfectly rational explanation for why he’d rushed through the stop sign when he was supposed to turn there.

A little redhead girl.

The first girl I ever called my girlfriend was a cute redheaded girl. She lived in the house nearest to the corner where he died. To be clear, we are not talking about the same girl. The girl in my story, a complete work of my late night coffee brain, lived in a town north of this intersection and was my character’s age. As was the cute redheaded girl who professed love of my little brother. Which is to say, she was my brother’s age. I don’t know where my brother’s probable girlfriend lived. My first girlfriend was but a year younger than me. She married a man her own age, who I’d barely known in 4-H and after school weightlifting. He appears to be an all-around great American hero, having served for almost a decade in Afghanistan, and he hasn’t become a basket case or a rabid proponent of the right or left, but a reasonable fellow who was doing his job and finally got to come home.

Anyway, my little brother probably got this knife quite shortly before he died. He thought it looked cool and it was probably more affordable than a real Swiss Army knife. It looks unused and ready to fall in the hands of a Johnny-on-the-spot who can help anyone and everyone with their problems. A ready tool for any cutting or screwing need. The years of sitting in the duffel bag in a closet at my dad’s house have dulled the blades and made it serviceable for merely cutting open boxes and removing hangnails. Actually, I don’t know if it ever would have been good for much else. I don’t know why, but I have conjured up the jaws of life they used to try to cut my little brother out of the flipped-over S-10, and I’m comparing such an intense tool to this knife. Neither tool was effective with saving his life. Nor was the seatbelt that held him in fast to that aluminum frame that sat on an engine block. Nor was my eerily prophetic short story, and a few of the dreams I had of my little brother crashing his truck right before he died.

What good are tools if we don’t know how or when to use them?

What good is it to be a useful thing to people if you never feel like you are more than just that–a thing used by others?

Maybe, you say, it’s my own faulty attitude that corrupts my chances of becoming more than merely a useful thing. As long as I see the world of people and the things they create as my world of things to be used and tossed aside, why shouldn’t others treat me the same way? I suppose you are correct. Do I want to know the people I work with any better than simply know them good enough to have a solid working rapport with them? Am I even fooling myself into thinking that I really expect much more out of my own father these days than being someone who remembers the old days and can talk about them now and then and offer me a place to drop off my dog so I don’t have to leave her at a kennel?

I don’t know. I mean, it’s not intentional. I don’t look at someone and say, “Well, of what value are they to me in terms of filling some material need?” But, unconsciously, I probably do more often than I would like to admit. It’s why I can remember so few names. What were the names of almost anyone I casually befriended in college, especially during my days of working at McDonald’s to pay off my DWI–the one that caused me to forfeit my S-10?

There was maybe one person whose first and last names I could remember, and I could never find her online, so I assume she got married and changed her name. The rest were all mostly friendly for a semester or two–the chubby short girl who clearly wanted me to make a move on her when she invited me over to her apartment, but I just wasn’t attracted to her at all. And then, her former roommate, a girl who thought she looked like Sculley from the X-Files and constantly walked into work bragging about the sex she had with her boyfriend who had a game leg. After they broke up, Sculley got her chubby friend to ask if I would be interested in pursuing a relationship with her, but I thought, no, this isn’t how I want this to start. Sculley was a vegetarian who worked at McDonald’s and bragged about her sexploits to everyone. I was a shy virgin who wanted the perfect first time experience with a shy virginal girl who nonetheless had a dirty imagination that she only wanted to see realized with me. At the very least, I thought that my first time should be with someone I found to be reasonably attractive.

There were the two Mennonite sisters that my dorm friends and I had meanly labeled the Two Nuns, and one of them invited me to see a play downtown–The Importance of Being Ernest, and I could tell she liked me, but she was blocky and peasant-like, while her older sister clearly had potential to be sexy underneath her simple clothes. Needless to say, I didn’t take things very far with either of them. There were many more people, too, that I’d kind of, sort of befriended but they just weren’t my tight group of buddies from the dorm, and so the friendships never blossomed into anything more, mostly because all of these people were just temporarily at McDonald’s before getting degrees in Computer Science, Engineering and Teaching, while my dorm buddies had all pretty much dropped out.

I wanted to use these people, even though I had no idea just how crass and shallow I really was. The same could be said about so many people I would go on to meet after college–women that I’d hoped to have brief flings with before moving on, and coworkers that I hardly wanted to be more than summer drinking buddies with.

This is a painful thing to face–that I’ve never learned to approach friendship with that many people without some type of tit-for-tat transaction in my mind. If I’m going to volunteer to help mentor or feed you, you had damn well better provide me with a sense of fulfillment and allow me to add a line of philanthropy to my resume. If I’m going to help you out at work by showing you something you are having trouble learning or writing a reference for you, then you had damn well better deliver when I hit you up on LinkedIn for a favor. Of course, I am not consciously that crass, but I am afraid that I am really that shallow in practice, and this is why I’ve gotten the results that I have from my social encounters.

***

You wake up this morning and it is that time in August where fall drops a whisper into your ear, then leaves and doesn’t return for two months. This has been a nice, gentle summer for Central Texas. There were no 100 degree days until this August. It was a lot more like a summer in Missouri, except for there being less rain. As you get older, you think more about your Missouri days, because you can see that they were fragile and beautiful days that you generally spit upon.

You can’t have a mid-August morning without thinking back to what it was like to return to school. It’s been twenty years since you loaded up the S-10 and made your first official trip to Columbia as a student. Your parents weren’t going to caravan with you–the thought of having to remain connected to them on such an important trip was unbearable. You were kind of shocked after you’d hurriedly dismissed them from your dorm that most of the other kids had gone to eat lunch somewhere with their families.

You didn’t let your misconnection with proper collegiate behavior get in the way of your narrative, though. You were pretty sure you knew most of the rules about how to become cool in college, because you’d seen Reality Bites the year before, and had tried hard to keep up a regimen of smoking Camel non-filtereds to be like Ethan Hawke.

After returning from lunch with his family, you finally got to meet your roommate. You’d requested a single room, and had been one of the lucky few freshman who got one. But then, just days before school was to start, you received a notification in the mail letting you know that one Everett Masterson was to be your roommate due to a last minute registration.

Everett was actually pretty cool in ways that you would never be. He was a proto-hipster, who knew the right amount of rebellion required to be hip and approachable. He understood that you listened to punk rock like the Ramones, but you also needed to listen to the Smiths. You drank a little and smoked a little weed, but you never drank to the point of blacking out and puking everywhere. You might peroxide your hair a little bit, but that was mostly something you’d already tried in high school. And really, most of the so-called freedoms that freshman were enjoying were freedoms that any self-respecting cool kid had already been experiencing for the past two years.

“Yeah, Columbia’s okay, I guess. But, I’m from Jeff City, and I’ve been coming up here to shows and parties for two years. So, whatever.”

Everett was the college kid I thought I wanted to be. “Have you read Jack Kerouac? John Irving? I’m going to see if the new John Irving novel is out yet, want to come with me?” I’d never heard of either of them. So, apparently, reading books WAS cool. I had stopped reading books unless I absolutely had to read them for a class, and even then, I tended to just skim and ask other students what the books were about.

You have to appreciate the fact that I probably had the social skills of a twelve-year-old at that point. Just about a year prior to entering college, I’d finally started going and seeing movies in theaters. My mom had taken me to see Winnie-the-Pooh when I was three, and I hadn’t entered a movie theater again until I was 17. At first, I was too scared to drive all the way down to the North Kansas City theaters, not because the drive was too far, but because I couldn’t come up with an excuse for why I had been gone for so long. But then, I did go and see my first movie in a theater since Winnie-the-Pooh, and it was “The Stand” with Michael Douglas.

I had seen a few PG-13 and R-rated movies at friends’ houses, but for the most part I was an indiscriminate consumer of cinema who erred on the side of trying to see everything so that I could easily converse with the cool kids who were always talking about the movies they had just seen. Just about a month ago, when the university had had its orientation for incoming Freshman, and I’d stayed there overnight, I thought I was being especially grownup and sophisticated to take in “City Slickers 2” with Billy Crystal.

I provide this background to give you an idea of how mostly unprepared I was to hold a conversation with cool kids about literature, indie films or indie bands. I thought I liked alternative music because I owned cassette tapes or CDs of every album Soundgarden and U2 had made. I thought I was being cool when I finally got to buy t-shirt with a rock musician on it, and I purchased a couple of shirts with Jimi Hendrix on them. When I was out strolling the campus before the actual kickoff of classes with my friend Clarence from back home in Murphy Falls, I just knew I had to get a couple of cool dorm posters to decorate my side of the room. Naturally, I wanted to make an impression on all of the guys who dropped into the dorm and show them what an all-around cool guy I was, so I bought a couple of posters of bikini-clad women on all fours in the sand. These were extremely generic, Swimsuit Issue kind of women, heavily airbrushed and pumped full of silicone. I was unsure if I was even all that attracted to them, but I did love the compliments I got for my discriminating taste from the older, more manly sophomores who peaked in when the door was open.

Everett the Coolest was not the least bit impressed. Of course, he’d probably sniffed haughtily at them, and had one of his feminist friends remark on what a misogynistic jerk his roommate was turning out to be. Everett had some punk album by a band like the Kennedys where the lead singer was making fun of just the kind of douche I was becoming. A guy who lives in a dorm but probably should be in a frathouse and has beerdrinking trophies on his shelves and majors in business. I thought I was being cool by embracing both aspects of the collegiate experience–the crude Animal House male as well as the Indie kid. I returned one day to find a note posted above the poster I’d hung on the side of my closet that faced anyone who was walking down the hall form the east entrance. He’d written something like: “This poster does not represent the sexual preferences or confusion of both inhabitants of this room.”

I was stunned. When I’d hung the posters, I’d gotten a smile and nod from him that I’d taken to be a smile and nod of approval. I thought for sure he’d get how uber-meta I was being by playing the role of the Collegiate Neanderthal in both an ironic and unironic sort of way. Surely he got that I didn’t wholeheartedly subscribe to the objectification of women that was taking place in the posters, and that I was playing a particular role of being the consummate collegiate male while really seeking to establish myself as a credible alternative and punk hero at the same time.

I was angry. I wanted to punch him. I wanted to demand what the hell was this passive-aggressive bullshit, though I’d yet to hear of such a term. Most of what I wrote in the above paragraph was hardly how I would have articulated my reason for buying the posters at the time, but I suppose a more simple and obvious explanation was that I was a socially retarded people pleaser from a hick town who thought he could magically transform himself into being both Ethan Hawke and Pauly Shore and get hundreds of women lined up outside his room and hundreds of men hooting in approval of his actions.

To be fair, Everett Masterson was hardly someone who should have been my role model. Sure, he was a little bit more worldly wise and socialized than I was, but he was also your perfect proto-hipster, sneering at everyone and everything for being into things he was into first. Like a lot of hipstery kinds of people I would meet later, he carried this aura of being someone who no doubt possesses a lot of genius and talent as either a writer or artist, but then he would leave stupid little nothings of scribbles that he and his feminist friends had created while smoking weed and watching Pulp Fiction. Of course, he’d already seen Pulp Fiction twenty times by the time it became so mainstream and popular with everyone else.

Everett never seemed to open his mouth except to “tut-tut-tut” in a snooty, sarcastic way at whatever he thought was my attempt at humor. He was the kind of fellow who probably went on to become a professional student for ten years, working on his PhD in English while traveling the world and doing a little bit of this and that. I would hardly be surprised if he ended up being one of those guys in independent bookstores or video stores who has a sneering comment to make about everyone’s purchases.

If I had taken the time to be more involved in social events in high school, and had a more realistic picture of the world and the people who live in it, I am certain that Everett and I would have been quietly agreeable roommates with very different life philosophies. I doubt I would have purchased any posters other than perhaps one or two well-known works of fine art by a painter in the periods between Cezanne and Pollock. I probably would have majored in something safe like Accounting, and started visiting the Newman Center, with an eye to joining a few groups, clubs and committees, converting to Catholicism and meeting my future wife.

None of the guys from the dorm that I did end up befriending would have had much to say to me, other than some pleasant passing conversation. I suspect I would have been a lot more like Nathan SturdEt next door, a chubby, affable fellow who was simply going to school to get a business degree and join his dad’s insurance firm back home in the Ozarks. Nathan was already as grown-up and as much of a man as he probably ever would be, which is to say he had ten years of social and emotional maturity on someone like Everett, who was every bit an eighteen year old kid. But, Nathan was always friendly to the rest of us, and never became one of the weird recluses that inhabited some of the rooms up and down the wing. We never turned him into a caricature with a nickname like we did to a lot of people, but he never really joined our gang of nerdy misfits, either.

It’s funny how much my dorm friends and I were alike in a lot of ways. None of us had girlfriends during the time period we hung out together. We were all probably virgins, or about as close to being virgins as someone could get. We were all more or less from similar backgrounds — smaller Missouri towns where we weren’t the most popular, athletic or smartest kids in our classes. We all liked heavy metal, but were slowly getting into alternative music. We were quite satisfied with ourselves to meet up as many nights as we could and make as much noise as possible while imbibing whatever alcohol we could score.

And, getting booze became the most important thing to me, and I think it was to most of them as well. Sure, we were trying to keep afloat in our classes, and yes, it would sure be nice to have a girlfriend, but the paramount activity, our reason for being at college, was to be as drunk and loud as possible without considering the consequences of our actions.

You might think that we weren’t that different from a lot of college kids. And, I could argue yes and no to that. We certainly weren’t the only people on campus getting drunk on weeknights and having loud dorm or frathouse parties. But, the more time we spent together, the more we seemed to isolate ourselves from the rest of the college experience. Doing something like going bowling down at the Student Center or taking part in any number of the school traditions became something to be considered in a sneering tone and derided for being stupid and a waste of time. We were too cool and way past a lot of the things most of the students were doing, except we weren’t getting laid, and most of us weren’t keeping up with our classes.

Everyone from my group of friends dropped out except for me. I was the only one of us who had the fortune of seeing Daddy pay for the entire college experience, and feeling the pressure not to have Daddy yell at me for getting grades that were too terrible and flunking out. So, I gladly reset my expectations of becoming either a Physicist or Anthropologist down to being a Poli Sci major (because I’d done exceptionally well in a basic government class, and my mom had said that the Lord told her I would be in government some day–so I thought this would keep my parents happy, and be a much easier major to work through), and then finally ratcheted it down to the English Major when I realized I was probably going to have to stay in school for another year to get my degree if I remained a Poli Sci major, and I hated the grade some professor had given me in one of my Poli Sci classes.

By becoming an English Major, I was now the same major that Everrett Masterson had declared himself to be during that first semester that I knew him, and plus, I argued with myself, I really am a great writer and I do love books and I used to read lots of books when I was much younger, so this is the thing for me. I never quite lost that sense of needing to do something that was in line with my “calling” even though I’d rejected God for the most part during that time period. I somehow figured that I’d gotten all of the weird kinks of the socially retarded, small-town people pleaser out of me, and by becoming an English Major and reading a lot of books, I would quickly become at least as cool as Everett was on the day I met him.

So, what happened to Everett?

Well, one night during finals week, I got especially drunk on some rum and blacked out, and threw up all over the floor. Some of my puke flowed over to a few of his things that he’d left lying on the floor on his side of the room. I am not sure if that alone was what did the trick, but I’d done my fair share of getting drunk and making noise while he was trying to sleep, and even at times pretending we were going to be great bosom buddies, since fate had placed us together like this. I would seek out the kinds of conversations that were probably better left inside the tents of my fellow Scouts during a completely different life of five years ago. Conversations about what it all means, and trying to get the other person to show his vulnerable, sensitive side, and then consoling him while he cries about Mommy and Daddy getting a divorce when he was nine.

So, I guess I’ll never know exactly what I said or did beyond the puking to set him off, but later the next day, after I’d cleaned my mess up and gone to take my last finals, I spotted his parents coming up the hall toward me. I’d met them once before, and smiled and said hello, and then realized from the looks on their faces that I was someone they would never share smiles with for as long as they lived. They were carrying a bunch of his stuff, and I quickly ascertained that I had pissed Everett off for the last time. I politely went outside to smoke my latest favorite brand of cigarettes–Old Golds, and wandered around in the courtyard area between the dorm and parking lot until he was gone.

I ran into Everett maybe once more while still in school, and at first I smiled and started to say hello because he was someone I recognized, and I’d completely forgotten about all the shit I’d done or said to piss him off, but from the look on his face, I could see that he still hated my guts, and probably always will. His real name is one that includes a common word in it, and so he is almost impossible to Google. Maybe he doesn’t want to be found. I think I found his college web page once while I was still in school, and he had something up about how your cat is smarter than you think. Yep, he was definitely a cat person.

I have to confess that while writing the passage about what happened with Everett, I am suddenly overcome with memories of just about everyone I’ve ever pissed off while drunk or bailed on when I decided their friendship or love was of no value to me. I want to make the case that I probably had some kind of Asperger’s as a child, because there are plenty of memories of me acting like those kids do. I certainly was incapable of having normal social relations with those around me before I turned 35, and for the most part, I’ve given up on trying to make friends with people altogether. Sure, I had my years where I seemed to hit it off with all of the cool kids in the dorm, or cool kids at work, but it was mostly due to me going and getting drunk with them and building what can only be described as a codependent relationship with them.

My best friend in college, Jerry, is someone I don’t talk to at all, anymore. I decided one day to stop bothering with it. He privately messaged me a misogynistic ran he’d written when he was clearly drunk and recovering from a breakup, and asked me to review it for him as if it were an article he could publish next week in Vanity Fair or at least Maxim. I did my best to consider it objectively, but the whole thing just stank. It read like the writing of a child who had never grown up past the age of eighteen–both the content and the writing style. While he was one of the first to drop out of school, Jerry had prided himself on striking more of an intellectual pose than even I did. Except, any time you visited him, the only book on his shelf was the Portable Nietzsche. I certainly don’t think Nietzsche is someone to sneeze at, but you are not going to develop your writing style much if all you do is read a few selections of one writer.

Jerry probably hates me now as much as anyone else that I have abandoned or actively worked to kick out of my life. I suppose I have a history of doing that: welcoming somebody with the heady anticipation that the very fact we two of all the billions of people in the world have been brought together means that we are either bosom buddies if the other person is male or soulmates if the other person is female. And then, almost immediately, all of their faults are laid bare, but I’ve committed myself to them as if I’m going to be joined at the hip to them for life. So, I start feeling guilty about how much I’d really just like to stop seeing and talking to them altogether, but I’m afraid to break things off, and so I slowly just start letting myself passive aggressively abuse the other person emotionally, verbally or both.

At least that was pretty much who I was up until the last time I saw Lucy–with her, I’d met my match. Here was someone who was a genius at turning her light for you on and off depending on her mood, and she could make you feel either like the king of the world or like you needed to kill yourself right that very instant. She could make your heart sing one day and everyone would say you were glowing, and the next day, she’d break your heart to the point that you wanted to rip it out of your chest because it was giving you so much pain.

After Lucy, I tried extremely hard not to get too close to anyone until I was absolutely certain that I wasn’t going to end up deciding they were hardly worthy of being my friend or girlfriend. So, that is to say, I got close to no one until I met my wife, and I really haven’t gotten close with anyone since.

I am not sure if the love we take is equal to the love we make, but I can attest to the fact that if you become too much of a taker in life, you will be presented with nothing but like-minded people, and you will lose heavily.

I am still trying to decide if being more of a giver nets you more friends who are givers. For all I know, I’ve never really succeeded at becoming a true giver.

It’s funny how I can look at college through one particular lens and find it to be one of the periods of my life that saw me at my worst and most unhappy, and then look at it through another lens and see it as really the best time in my life in spite of the fact that I missed out on so many things that a lot of people who went to college at the same time as me got to do.

It was a time where I probably had the least responsibility and most freedom that I’ve ever had and ever will have in life. As long as I was churning out mostly Bs and As each semester and not too far off a track to graduate in four years, I could pretty much do as I pleased throughout the day. I could skip the majority of my classes if I wanted to, and most of the time, it didn’t seem to matter. I quickly picked up on the professors who made it worth my while to attend and the ones who didn’t. In all honesty, I probably fell more in love with my Art History classes than any other single subject, with maybe the exception of my one Classical Mythology class.

I didn’t pursue either subject because I got tired of being told I could only be a teacher at the suggestion of a particular major. At least with an English degree, I thought, I can proofread, edit and write–or be a teacher.

I loved the old library, and spent more and more time there. It was in an 1800s building, with big marble steps and radiator heaters. I loved drifting in and out of a nap with a book inside a study cubby hole while melting snow lazily dripped down the window and the heater clanked. I loved going to the gym and the pool and would find myself at the start of every semester embarking upon the most ferocious of exercise regimens that usually lasted no more than a month.

Most of all, I think I appreciated the hard starts and stops of the semesters. I knew exactly where I was at in terms of my overall progress, and what I needed to do to reach my goal. I have never been able to replicate anything like it since then. It always feels fake to set up schedules and make five-year or even six-month plans. Life comes along every single time and demolishes them.

I went on after that first semester to read everything John Irving and Jack Kerouac had written. Mostly, I was able to keep the fact that these were Everett “Too-cool-for-school” Masterson’s favorite authors out of my mind by thinking that he’d probably long since moved on to writers either more edgy and unknown or had embraced the canon of old standards, depending on the route his academic development had taken. I developed relationships with John Iriving’s characters like Iowa Bob that were very independent of Everett Masterson. I suspected that Neal Cassidy would have probably offended Everett and his perpetually perfect taste a million times over, had Everett met Neal in real life.

One thing I miss probably the most about where I lived in Columbia was being able to walk from where I lived to either the downtown area or onto campus, without having to pass under a dirty, noisy interstate, or otherwise feel like my life was at risk from careless motorists. In all the years I lived in Austin, I held down a tiny studio apartment a couple of times where this was almost possible, but the feeling of being a part of the town and the university never came. Once you’re off campus and out into the “real world,” you don’t feel very welcome back on any campuses. You are clearly an old man who is not a professor, and so your business better be short and sweet because we don’t take kindly to dirty old men lurking around on our campuses. But, seriously, you feel completely removed from the college life once you sever ties with it.

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