After being out for most of September with mild, yet nagging, COVID, October has been quite the experience.

I’m more of a humanist now than I was in the summer. This is mostly because the symptoms of despair that came from my bout of COVID led to a timely enlightenment. Even if the catharsis proves beneficial, I wouldn’t wish that level of despair on my worst enemies. I spent the recovery time serenading myself to oldies, like the delightfully verbose song, “Along Comes Mary” by the Association.

The despair cultivated itself into true enlightenment when I returned to community college.

Stepping on campus again induced an overwhelming dose of familiarity. In those long two weeks I was gone, nothing had changed– except me.

That one pretty girl with curly hair was there again. A fellow writer of roughly the same age was still clacking away on a typewriter that outdated him. I reunited with our curious generation, such as the girl who asked our stats teacher if he would lick an orca on the basis of its appealing texture.

Best of all, the communal nature of the place didn’t blow away with the autumn leaves during my absence.

The high point of my return to college life came in the form of a conversation with a professor that took place on a bench overlooking a gravel patch for auxiliary parking, with trees in the background swaying with that trademark Los Banos wind. It was a rather beautiful sight– beautiful in its unceremonious palette.

Little was said in the conversation, but the mere presence of another voice, especially one that wasn’t coughing, made me overcome with emotion. Subsequent conversations with him helped me think and express myself more clearly, through his empathy and eloquence.

As the Dodgers ended their season with a whimper, I am left with the emotional malaise that comes with the uncertainty bound by boredom: the “Now what?” feeling that spreads like disease among the young and bored.

If nothing else, I have a place to go five times a week that provides an indescribable kind of sustenance. The kind of place that takes the question of “Now what?” as a challenge– a challenge to provide knowledge and the opportunity for growth, wrapped in a warm, metaphorical blanket of comfort and familiarity.

Jonathan Simione