When fall semester finals are over, the campus is eerily quiet. Parking lots widen with empty spots. Sorority row goes dark.
An ice storm the other night has denuded the trees and left a six-inch thick blanket of oak leaves on the lawns in front of the frat houses. The campus express bus jangles by, empty except for the driver, who's chatting into a cell phone as he passes the stops.
Riding my bike past the school on a chilly Saturday morning, I see a lone student jogging toward the library. Yellow school buses from area high schools line the curb by the arena, where the annual robot-building contests draw the young and brilliant from all over the city.
Last winter I went up on a Saturday to grade final exams and notebooks. The building was cold and, as far as I could tell, empty except for a few lingering members of the kitchen staff in the dining hall downstairs. I'd just settled into the adjuncts' second-floor windowless office, locked the door and popped open a Diet Coke when the power went out. Note to self, I thought: Bring a flashlight and put it in the desk drawer. I felt my way along the hallway wall to the stairwell. When I got outside, I watched two or three other rumpled profs stumble out of the doors at the other end of the building, blinking into the weak winter sunlight like old, frightened moles. We looked at each other, shrugged and walked to our cars.