Who is Your Pink Elephant on Campus?
I spent much of my freshman year seeing pink elephants. It did not end there, either. One pink elephant followed me though my entire time at Georgetown, regardless of where I was or what I was doing.
We all have pink elephants, and most of us encounter them every day. You pass them on your way to work, see them dining in Leo’s or exercising at Yates. They are boarding the Dupont GUTS bus, running along the canal at 6 a.m. and waiting in line at Uncommon Grounds.
Let me clarify: Pink elephants are ubiquitous. They are the familiar faces in our lives without names attached. Normally, one charges to the front of the pack in your mind. He or she becomes a person you know, despite the fact that you have never officially met.
It all started innocently during freshman year. During the first two weeks of class, I was blessed with an 8:15 a.m. lecture to which I trekked in a dazed stupor. On my walk (despite my sleep-deprived oblivion) I noticed that I passed the same girl at the same time in the same location every day. In fact, once I even overslept but still managed to cross paths with my pink elephant. Even after the add/drop period led me to a later section, we continued to pass each other — apparently she changed class times too.
This was only the beginning of our un-choreographed duet. Second semester, I saw my brown-eyed stranger at least once most days and not necessarily on campus. If I went to eat with friends at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Dupont, she would be at the table across the room. If I went to a Capitals game to watch Alex Ovechkin lose another playoff series, I would spot her three rows in front of me. Any rational person would consider the possibility that he or she was being followed — and I am sure that is exactly what she thought. I did too.
A couple times I came dangerously close to introducing myself, but ultimately decided against it. I risked appearing incredibly shady or being kidnapped by my pink elephant; either scenario was equally feasible.
Sophomore year brought much of the same. Even when I intentionally tried to avoid my not-so-strange stranger — taking a different route to class, eating at Leo’s at a different time or skipping Yates — there she was.
Finally, we reached an unspoken understanding of our relationship. That is what it was after all: a relationship. I knew her even though I did not know her. We started to acknowledge each other’s presence in small ways — a deliberate glance. We progressed to flashing a restrained grin, followed shortly by a wide smile. Eventually, we were the kind of friends who say “hi” timidly, but soon enough we were close enough to merit a full-throated “hey.”
My friends asked who she was and how I knew her. “I am not exactly sure …” I responded. But I did know. This was a girl I had become very familiar with from my first week at Georgetown. I knew most of her on-campus activities — ESCAPE, outdoor education and club soccer — and she knew mine. I was aware of her off-campus interests, had seen every cardigan in her wardrobe and even noticed when she cut her hair. I really did know her, even if I did not know her name.
I am one of the few who actually meets — in the traditional sense — his pink elephant. Chance threw us together in a situation that necessitated our introduction. Of course, both of us pretended to have no idea who the other was; but we also knew the truth and were secretly grateful for the opportunity to have a name to associate with the person.
In truth, if happenstance had not facilitated our meeting, I probably would have graduated Georgetown without the knowledge of my pink elephant’s name, which would have been admittedly very sad.
My advice is for you to introduce yourself to your pink elephant. Do not miss your opportunity. Although, even if you do, I am sure you will see each other in graduate school, law school or the small village in Africa you both were randomly assigned to by the Peace Corps.