Bonus Tip: Everyone has a story.
Sometimes it's easy to forget other people exist, so remember.
As mentioned in my closing remarks, what I spent more time on was thinking about people rather than being homeless. Having been in college, all the experiences I observed felt familiar, but seeing them as an outsider (since I'd been away from school for ~3 years) gave me the feeling that I was watching some secret rite that I didn't quite understand anymore, but had done.
The distance helps clarify things, so to really wrap it up, here are my observations on the students around UCLA.
Day 13: May 23rd, Wednesday
I slump in a couch, I pass out, I wake up, I pass out. I see a lot of couples holding hands walking back to their dorm rooms. There's the fob couple who speaks in Mandarin to each other (the girl always smiling big, arms around the guy), there's the lesbian couple who hold hands and keeps silent, there's the slick hair white boy and petite asian girl couple, there's me and the couches of De Neve. I pass out. I wake up. A girl and guy are talking near the stairs in front of me down to where the other couches are. They both sound white; they are loud. I check the time, it's 1:30am. The girl is venting to the guy about several problems —insecurity over her grades, insecurity over dressing and wearing eye-catching clothes, she dresses for herself she says, the guy listens, doesn't say much, the girl often giggles and laughs after revealing a story that humiliates, degrades, or otherwise lowers herself. She's enjoying herself. I can't fall asleep. I listen to their conversation. "I'll always have a little doubt," she says, "He's that type of person who's always going for 'the one'," the guy and girl continue talking, I pass out. I wake up; "It bothers me that he knows that I like him," she says then launches into a different story about how she applied for some position and didn't expect to get it but then got it and then was nervous about doing it since she didn't expect to get it since she only applied just for the hell of it, but she got it. "I'm not very smart," she says and the guy intervenes immediately, "I don't think it has to do with smartness, you just have to learn to game the system!" He explains. I pass out, wake up, check the the time; it's 4:30am. They are still talking. I think the guy likes her —I consider that I've done this before too. I wish he would try to kiss her and let it be. I should take my own advice. I pass out.
It's 5:20am. I hear her voice, "He tries a lot, but then he doesn't really have friends if he has to try all the time." I pass out, wake up, 6am. They are finally gone. I fall asleep and wake up at 9:12am. I start my day. For all my troubles, I find a plain room card key on the ground near the Magnolia room bathrooms.
That night around midnight...
I head upstairs De Neve and try to find a couch, but each couch I visit has someone occupied in it. I suppose it's getting closer to finals, people are staying up later... the De Neve Auditorium doors are open, so I head inside. All the lights are turned off and there's a FOB couple seated a section of seats to the left of me; they are the only ones in the auditorium, and they look at me as if I was intruding on their territory. The double keep looking at me as if asking me to go away, but I sit in a chair, take out my laptop, and start working. I smile, their dissatisfaction pleases me, I am outnumbered —but I will not renounce my claim on the free space that is De Neve Auditorium, I will claim my rights! They continue kissing; I pass out.
Day 19: May 29th, Tuesday
I sit around for the next few hours half working, half being distracted by all the students that are still up. Finals time always seems to bring with it that anxious yet excited feeling, especially Spring quarter where everyone will have to part ways until the next year. I can feel it in the air, but I'm not in that air anymore. It's like being teleported to the top of a mountain and seeing the view that you've seen before, with all the same surroundings, and yet because this time you didn't climb the mountain to reach the top, to see it, to feel it, is unwarranted, surreal.
At around 2:30am, I begin to feel incredibly tired. I'm sitting on the usual couch, but there's still a lot of commotion. A guy and a girl in the corner near the entrance of the plaza room are petting and kissing each other, but it's not the girl who's in love —it's the guy. He's like a puppy, licking away, squirming around, kicking his legs, squealing —he's in the height of some ecstasy. I look at them baffled, the girl, who's sitting against the wall seems to realize some change in the guy's behavior and twists her body to look around, and sees my intent looking expression. She's not pretty at all! They get up and leave.
I recline in my couch and notice another couple by the entrance to the bathroom. They hug, kiss, then look into each other's eyes like lover's watching their beloved leave to another country. Maybe one of them is leaving. They both head into their appropriate gender bathroom. Perhaps love really is that intense that the thought of parting to go to the bathroom is too much. They eventually both come out and walk off together.
Another guy and girl are walking towards the double doors near the Sycamore room to get back to their dorm room(s). The guy is singing to the girl in an opera-like fashion. It's 3am. They fade out of sight, I pass out intermittently. Each spell of waking up and falling asleep feels easier than the next. I'm tired, but getting used to being tired. I have vivid dreams I immediately forget after waking up. Wisps of thought come to me and pass as well; I cannot entertain any thought other than to submit to the war of my senses. I'm a light sleeper, but I need sleep so my body does both. As the sun comes out of the windows from the big glass panes, I check my phone for the time. It's 7:30am.
As I'm reading in De Neve Rec room, a Mexican couple come down to play pool, I've seen them before. It's like a ritual, for them to let their frustrations out on the pool table, saying with deep regret and languid sighs, "Fuuuuuckkk," and "AHhhhhhh," or "Serriousssllly?" "Wooooww!" I hope they have sex afterwards after all that foreplay. The girl is wearing white pants today. "OOOMmmmGGG.. What the fuckk was that??!" If they didn't have this pool table, they'd have to find a different way to engage in foreplay. I admit, I can't think of anything better than what they are doing.
Day 20: May 30th, Wednesday
There's a guy and a girl —both asian, I don't think they are dating since the ones that are literally can't stop hugging each other as the girl is practicality latched onto the guy. I've seen this pair before though, they must like talking here —specifically about relationships. It seems like everyone has their little routines, has their go to friends —it's just funny seeing it from the outside, the same ritual every time.
Another average asian girl is talking to another tall lanky white guy about her boyfriend. They are playing pool. She recounts a story, "So, this one time, I texted him, and I asked him if he was on campus, and he said no... but then 30 minutes later, when I got on campus, I saw him, and I asked him, and said —'you said you weren't on campus!' and he replied, 'yeh, I wasn't 30 minutes ago, but I am now.' Why do guys do that? Is he stupid?"
Lanky white guy says, "No... guys just mean what they say, so like —"
She cuts in, "But wouldn't he understand that I texted him that because I wanted to spend time with him and that I was going to be on campus?"
"No... I mean—"
She cuts in, "Like say, I ask a friend, 'do you want ice cream' that like means, do you want to get ice cream now."
"No.. I could answer yes I want ice cream, but that doesn't imply that I want to go get ice cream..."
"Then what would you say if you wanted to go get ice cream?"
"... 'Want to get ice cream?'"
"So why is your boyfriend stupid?"
"OH well because —..." she trails off into a story about how she was at a sorority event and the sisters were asking bonding questions. One of the girls asked for everyone to talk about their "highs" and "lows", good and bad moments in their life. She had heard that and immediately said, "that's gay."
"Why'd you say—" lanky white guy asks.
"Because it's gay! Why can't they ask some normal people questions like what you're doing for summer or some shit..."
"Yeh, I guess—"
"I don't know, I just don't see the point."
Eventually they start talking about a girl that the lanky white guy is interested in. He doesn't really want to talk about it. "WAIT, who IS IT?" the girl squeals. He looks at her, "She's in our class... I'll give you 3 guesses." The girl looks baffled, "NO NO, you have to tell me!" The guy repeats that she has three guesses, but eventually gives more details —he took her to SOME LOCATION IN LA #1, "AWWW THAT'S SO CUTE."
The guy replies, "Yeh... that was the plan, but afterwards I sent her a message and she replied, but when I looked at it I was like 'oh'... and I got the message."
"What did she send?" the girl's eyes intent.
"Nothing, it's just something I would have sent to someone if I wasn't interested, so I got the message."
Eventually the girl says she has to leave. They hug and she heads out. He continues playing pool. It's 5pm, and I can't focus. I get up and ask if he wants to play pool. We play a few rounds and talk. His name is Joe Bruin #8.
He heads out. The 'fuckkkk' couple arrive. They play pool. I leave and sleep near the Magnolia room under the steps from 6pm to 8pm. When I wake up, there's a group of three asian girls sitting in a circle by the windows in front of me.
The girls are engaging in random chatter. One of the girl's receives a text and asks the group, "What's HF?" They sit around and look at each other, I'm stunned they don't know because I don't know any acronymns, but I know this one: "HAVE FUN! ... It's a middle school thing," I blurt out, and they look at me briefly, say thanks, then continue talking. I remember when kids used to sign the year books with H.A.G.S. —Have a good/great summer, in middle school, but HAGS didn't sound so great. It was enough during those days. The girls segue into hieroglyphics and clay sculpture they made in middle school which they intuited into pictograms. We're all just children.
"It's good that there's no emotion in The Bible," one of the girl's say, "Like, it's good that it's only The Word." Ah, so it's a bible group. The girl continues, "it's not so modern, but I found it's still very useful and it's helped me..." I continue thinking about the fact that the girls didn't know that HF stood for have fun. I can't believe it! We have all these acronyms and out of all of them they don't know HF? That can't be complete chance. Have we forgotten how to have fun without the aide of technology or other people entertaining us? I think so. Kids before had to play with rocks to entertain themselves or run around and play pretend. We don't need to pretend anymore, we have apps for that now, the app plays pretend for us.
A large group of guys and girls are standing at the top of the stairs leading down to the alcove where the three girls are sitting. One guy puts his hand up to his lips with an index finger raised, the group walks down the stairs slowly, and as they turn the corner... "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO..." They finish singing and there's an awkward moment of silence and standing as they wait for the shepherd to tell them what to do next. "Guys, it's not even 9:10! It's only 8:57..." the birthday girl says. The group laughs and they all take a seat —a middle-aged man with spiky black hair and a silent air about him stays standing and leads prayer. There's about 18 of them, they start going around the circle asking for prayers from each other. "Pray for my Dad! ..." one of the chimes. A moment of silence follows, with a few people whispering under their breath as if they were speaking an incantation. The whole group seems to be in a living trance; I watch, but nothing new develops. After praying, they break off into little circles and talk about random topics unrelated to The Bible with each other. It's social hour! The middle-aged man continues standing, keeping silent, looking at his phone. Everyone else seems to be in an excitable state, the cacophony of voices bounce off the walls to create a collage like being at a coffee shop, but after 9:35pm, all the voices are gone, poof! just like that, no more coffee shop.
Day 21: May 31th, Thursday
I head to In N Out to eat, then Ralph's to buy detergent, and then head to SAC. I get a big cucumber from the food closet and munch on it. I finish it, then get another one for the road; I also take some peanut butter. My feet begin to ache from all the walking, I arrive Covel Commons at 6:30pm. I sit on the bench in the alcove on the first floor. Joe Bruin #9 passes by me in a group and asks how I'm doing. He stops briefly and we talk. "What's all this stuff?" he points to my bags. After hesitating, I explain. "Survival!" he says, then mentions that there will be an SEP after-party at Atrium since it's crossing night for the pledges. I 👍 him; he heads out.
Day 22: June 1st, Friday
I hear a shrill girl's voice down the hallway in the computer lab, "CAN YOU TELL ME HOW MANY SQUARES OUR CODE IS DRAWING? ... YES," she's talking in that teacher voice where you pronounce everything and separate your words like piles of legos.
"GOOD THINKING, SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND, HOW EVER MANY SQUARES YOU HAVE IN THE MIDDLE, WILL REPEAT THAT MANY TIMES. SO FOR HOMEWORK, I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT IT AND TRY DOING IT WITHOUT A REPEAT BLOCK BECAUSE I THINK THAT WILL BE THE EASIEST."
Aren't repeat blocks better than adding the command multiple times? Why is the homework designed to be "easy" or backwards? The kid isn't stupid; she's only fooling herself by talking that way. Just talk like you do when you go to parties —it'll be more entertaining anyways. It's 4pm.
Day 23: June 2nd, Saturday
An alarm starts going off, but I can't tell where it's coming from. BEEEP. BEEEP. BEEP. My head hurts, but I'm too tired to move to a quieter location. I look around to see if there's anyone exiting the building, but it's not a fire alarm, it's just an alarm sound. I recline in my chair and let it bombard my brain. I consider that possibility that I'm hallucinating the alarm sound, but after several minutes it stops. Thoughts flash through my brain —popcorn, the smell of In N Out, pop music in the background, frantic students at the end of the quarter, these last three weeks, and sweet sweet summer again. I realize how much easier it is to sleep with my other jacket on over this one. My other jacket has a hoodie, this one just flairs into a collar. That hoodie made more of a difference than I thought, psychologically and with blocking the light that's right above me.
A girl walks past me then hangs out near the guard rail by the stairs. She takes out her phone and calls a guy, "where are you? I'm on the third floor," I hear muffled male sounds then she hangs up. She smiles at phone. Our phones sure receive a lot of love. I pass out, I'll be in a bed soon... soon.
I wake up to the sound of impassioned speaking, there's an pony-tailed asian girl and a dweeby asian guy with a slight rasp in his voice siding in the two couches left of me. They aren't in complete sight, I can only see their legs.
The guy is speaking, "IT'S A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION. IT DOESN'T MATTER. GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION."
The girl replies, "No... there's a difference between boys and girls," and her voice is very matter of fact. She's right —even if it's a social construction, that doesn't imply that gender doesn't matter. If anything, the fact that it's constructed makes it matter more —there's a purpose behind construction: and in this case, the girl knows it, feels it, her life has been destined differently the day she was born a girl in this society. She continues, "and it comes down to... the thing."
"Is she still here? Oh she's irrelevant, who cares?"
A black girl with two curly pony-tails comes out of the bathroom, "can you guys swipe me in?" and she points to the Sycamore doors. The guy walks over and swipes her in. "You don't live here?" he says. "Nope," and the black girl disappears beyond the Sycamore Room doors.
The girl continues talking when he gets back, "Do you like Josie Bruin #10? She's pretty right?"
"She's nice. She's really wholesome," he seems to hesitate a bit.
"She's really pretty..."
"But she's really wholesome," he counters, "she doesn't go around and mess with other guys."
The topic changes for a moment as if the girl is frustrated about his reinforcing the ideal that girls be non-sexual virgins, but then eventually circles back to Josie Bruin #10.
"She said no to you for prom?"
"No! I never asked her!"
"DUDE! You lost your chance..." she says with that I-told-you-so attitude.
"I still hang with her! She doesn't admit it!"
"How do you know? Did she say she liked you?"
"Joe Bruin #10, 'hold my hand' she said, so I held her hand, and we walked all the way back to her dorm room, but she didn't want to fuck," he's talking very loud; it's 3:30am, they must be drunk.
"But you didn't ask her?"
"I just... slept with her, but I didn't fuck her.... her roommate was gone."
"DUDE. You should have..."
"Yah, maybe I should have fucked her. I would have fucked her."
There's a slight pause in the conversation again.
"Are you a virgin?" she asks.
"You should have..."
"She's such a nice girl. Her parents are nice too... her mom's really funny," he says while looking up at the ceiling as if counting up all his regrets.
"DUDE you met her parents?"
"Fuck. I would have fucked her that night... actually that might have been weird. UGHHH."
"Have you ever imagined what it's like?" she asks innocently.
"UH, yah... it would be good. Really good. So good. It would feel so good. She would be feeling good. I would be feeling good. Like... it's just such a feeling when you're feeling good and they're feeling good. And if we just cum at the same time..."
The girl breathes a i'm-glad-you-were-comfortable-sharing-that sigh, surprised by his answer.
He picks up the slack, "Oh, it's just a fantasy, but it would feel super good," he says, then points at the bathroom door whispering something to the girl.
"Oh, it's irrelevant, he doesn't know us, he doesn't care, he won't hear, it's fine," she says.
They continue talking about various topics, it seems like they are waiting for someone that's in the bathroom, and I consider my own experiences with girls in college. Nothing ever made sense, but here I finally felt like I understood something: everyone was struggling, only I was too busy worrying about my own struggling to think about someone else's struggling. It seemed like it was that way for both girls and guys.
I re-focus on their conversation, "Aw, do you talk to her? Do you think she likes you?" the girl says.
"She doesn't admit it! She can't admit it... because... because..." there's a noticeable frustration in his voice.
"I think that's all girls at the beginning," the girl begins like a teacher helping a frustrated student, "even if she has feelings she won't admit it," she pauses, "but it's not that she's immature, it's because... she's just... —shy," she pauses again as if trying to decide if shy was really the right word, I imagine her thinking "close enough!"
The guy continues, not catching her moment of reflection, "I asked her, you wanna fuck? And she said, 'no.' I... fuckin—."
"You... what?" she seems put-off by his bluntness, but calms her voice, "I... is she the person you like the most?"
"Yah... I guarantee that she doesn't say 'you' though! URHG, why!"
They've been talking for a while; they both seem tired, their voices are dragging a bit, perhaps they are becoming sober.
"He takes like 40 minutes to take a shit," the guy says annoyed, then randomly adds, "Are you not fucking today?"
"No," she replies bluntly, and at this moment, another asian guy, toned, with short dark hair comes out of the bathroom.
"Look G's here! Baby... baby!!" The girl leans forward off the couch, falls on her knees on the floor, kisses G's feet, then stands up and hugs him intensely. She's definitely still drunk.
G, somewhat stunned, says as if confessing, "I didn't hear anything.." he looks at the girl and smiles, chuckling slightly, "What..!?"
The girl starts walking to the bathroom. G comments, "Go! Go pee," and she responds, "You better wait here!" She enters the bathroom.
There's a slight pause, then the guy talks, "have you ever fucked her while she's peeing?"
G replies, "Uhh... yah?"
The guy didn't seem to expect that answer, "I don't know..."
G continues, "It's kind of messy since it's on the bed..."
The girl comes out of the bathroom and smiles. They walk side by side towards the Sycamore room and past it to the double doors, their voices joining together in drunken stupor so that's it's hard to make out the conversation. I hear a random snippet, "He came inside you!?!? Are you okay then?" the guy asks. The girl replies, "No... uhhh," and the voices fade as the double doors close. It's 4:00am. I'm so tired.
I actually didn't know the Sycamore room was open at night. I'm going to sleep here because it's dark. It's 4:30am, I'm sick, I pass out.
The door opens, the light switches on, and automatically I say, "woah woah woah!" A guy wearing a UCLA front desk collared shirt looks at me. I continue, "I didn't want to scare you is all."
He looks at me and replies, "Nah it's good," he leaves. I consider why I felt it was necessary to not alarm him by making noise —I consider my tiredness is having me paranoid over nothing. It's 7:24am. I pass out.
At 9:15am another janitor comes in. I wake up and head to the 6th floor of Dykstra to shower. After my shower, I get a text from Joe Bruin #9 saying I can come over after 1pm. I settle to arrive at 2pm in SOME LOCATION IN LA #2. I arrive at 3pm and take the elevator to the 9th floor. At 5:30pm, I pass out —on a bed. Thanks Joe Bruin #9.
Epilogue: June 3rd - June 15th
For the next 12 days, I slept on the 9th floor of SOME LOCATION IN LA #2 in one of the suites. I enjoyed the dining halls around UCLA on occasion, came back late, read, and enjoyed the occupation that comes from having roommates and the sorts of idle conversations that happen in-between moments. I'd missed those moments dearly after leaving college, and I felt myself back on familiar territory.
I reflected on all my experiences, started writing all this, and prepared for what I was going to do after my sublet ended at the start of September, 2018. There's a lot more I have to do, but in the meantime, it was nice to feel at home.