The picture to prove it

By en McCanna

I have affixed a pink residency sticker over the photograph on my student identification. It has been there since fall semester. Why I didn’t think to do it sooner baffles me.

You see, the image on my identification card is a silly one. So silly in fact, that the ARAmark employees could not help themselves from snickering whenever they scanned the meal-plan bar code to send me dining at their throughs. And if I had ever borrowed a book from Emerson’s library, I’m sure the librarians would have broken their vows for a dinless study atmosphere by eeking out a chuckle. but even that threat of humiliation wasn’t the prime motivation for hiding the picture.

What lead me to place the pink, self-adhesive square over the photograph is that the person who stared back at me from my student identification card was not Benjamin P. McCanna – it was some grinning impostor.

Though I can clearly remember sitting in front of the camera – can still see the blinding flash and spots staining the backs of my eyelids a silvery blue – the freshman visage currently hiding underneath that sticker is a ghost. He no longer exists.

To explain it more clearly, let me just say that he had sixty extra pounds hanging loosely from his carriage. Sixty pounds of lumpy flesh. He was a fat ass. In fact, the pink sticker over his face can barley contain his extra chin.

So what lead to the change? Emerson College, in short. Marriott Food was too disgusting to overindulge. I was too shy to make small talk with strangers, so I never too the shuttle bus and instead, walked to every class from Charlesgate. Then, a strict diet of pot smoking took care of the rest. The weight came off like a hair cut. It came off so quickly that I can remember staring at my hands – in fascination – no fully believing that they belonged to me. When I looked at my body, it was as if I could still see an apparition of my former self surrounding me like a plush glow. More than that, people began to treat me differently. Nicer in some instances. A little competitively in others.

However, it is not just the picture’s physical features that make me a stranger to myself, it is something else. Something in the eyes. A mixture of fear and innocence.

I remember when I cam for my interview during the winter of ’93. I was so afraid of the city that when a car back fired on Charles Street, I leapt into a snow bank in the Public Garden, certain that it was a gun shot. I was, after all, a country bumpkin.

I wonder, if my former self took a time machine and visited me now, would I laugh at him? Would I call him a hillbilly-fatso, and laughingly chase him down the street while poking him with a stick? Maybe.

More than likely, I wouldn’t know what to say to him. I’m not sure if we could relate, things have changed so much. I suppose I would be obligated to tell him certain things – tell him that friends would be phasing in and out over the years, that things would be hard but then get better, that he’d eventually learn which one was the salad fork, and I’d give him the answers to Lisa Anderson’s V&A; final exam. Most of all, I’d tell him to enjoy himself, because once he got a chance to look back on his years at Emerson, with eight semesters of distance, he’d see that they weren’t so bad. And that he would probably miss them.

Hopefully without getting sentimental, I’d tell him that the most important things he would learn at Emerson would not be in classrooms, but from his friends and fellow students. And I’d tell him that most people would probably feel the same way.

Congratulations and good luck to the Class of 1997, and big shouts to The Dulcia Meijers Orchestra – may you carry the funk far beyond 2000.

Ben McCanna a senior creative writing major and a regular columnist for The Beacon.

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