Darkness, My Old Friend

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to begin our descent into Los Angeles. The sound you just heard is the landing gear locking into place. Los Angeles weather is clear; temperature is 72. We expect to make our 4 hour and 18 minute flight on schedule. We have enjoyed having you on board, and look forward to seeing you again in the near future.”

Let us begin in 2012: on the Science Center lawn, letting stray popcorn fall from our lips, seeing a straight-faced Benjamin Braddock glide along a moving walkway. “Hello, Darkness, my old friend…”

“About what?”
“I guess about my fu-“

Swarthmore acquainted us with The Graduate, in a time when leaving high school seemed to be equally worthy of the title “graduation.” We chuckled at the call-outs during the film, the heaviness of the imagery: the high compression of being submerged in water, feet pounding the pavement, banging one’s head against the wall. Later that evening, I ran across campus, tearing down Parrish Beach’s darkness.

In 2015, I tear down McGill Walk, my backpack swinging into my side with each stomp. It is uncertain whether to laugh. “Everything that begins as comedy ends in tragedy,” says one character of Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives. “Everything that begins as comedy inevitably ends as comedy,” says another.


Watching The Graduate four times is, admittedly, one too many, which is why it’s worth skipping sophomore and junior year. As a senior, I watch fifteen minutes, then go inside. The night is already creeping under one’s jacket this early in the year.

“I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Are you listening?”
“Yes, I am.”

I have one word for you. Are you listening? I promise it’s a punch line.

Instead of watching, I sit in Parrish parlors. “Cara, why are you in here and not watching The Graduate?” a voice taps at my ear. But the source of the voice takes a seat. And we talk. We touch on many things, but those aren’t worth translating here. The subtitles of the conversation capture the gist: “I’ve been thinking a lot about my future.”

My friends and I talk of backup plans: working in donut shops, becoming teachers, AmeriCorps, running away to Portland. We don’t know how often each of the others thinks about these things, except that over breakfast, the water in our glasses trembles slightly as we chuckle.

Seniors living in singles have the especial option of darkness at night. We can turn off all the lights, fold our hands quietly over our chests, think about tomorrow. And the day after. And maybe the day after that. Darkness, the old friend, loves to listen.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to begin our descent into 2016. The sound you just heard is the landing gear locking into place. We expect to make our four-year flight on schedule. We have enjoyed having you enrolled, and look forward to seeing you again in the near future.

“Everything that begins as comedy ends as a comic monologue,” another Bolaño character asserts, “but we aren’t laughing anymore.”

Sometimes, you have to take the cross off the wall and swing it, shattering the significance, the symbol, the signification. The cross becomes a sword, then a lock. A movie is a movie until it’s just a series of images, pixels, light. You bar the door behind you, and you run down the dusty road of it all. Sometimes there’s a bus. But it’s not as if you know the schedule.

Featured image courtesy of ethicsalarms.com

Cara Ehlenfeldt

Cara Ehlenfeldt ’16 is a linguistics major and English literature minor from Tabernacle, NJ. She primarily writes arts & features pieces, which include her delightfully morbid cartoons. When she’s not working on these pieces, she can be found translating Russian children’s literature, laboring over a set of poems, or plunging into a new publishing endeavor. She has also founded/managed and campus literary magazine and interned with the nonprofit publisher Copper Canyon Press. She aspires to live in Portland, Oregon and become a science writer, with some poetry on the side.

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