I stood in line in front of the house with the others. It was a little too cold outside. On all sides of the quad, there were similar lines to get into similar houses. The houses along the sides of the quad were long and white. The railings were coated with frost and the awnings sagged under the weight of the snow. My RC brought me into the house.
“This is Ernest,” she said, introducing me to a sister.
“Hi Ernest! Welcome to Pi Gamma Tau. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Hi. A pleasure, yes.”
“This is our president, Sarah.”
“Hi, Sarah. Congratulations on your presidency.”
“Haha! Here’s Angela, she’ll be your first pairing.”
“Hi, Angela. I’m Ernest.”
“Hi Ernest! It’s so nice to meet you. How are things going so far?”
“Well, terrible. It’s very cold outside and I am tired.”
“Oh no! Crazy how the quarter gets started so early, right?” she laughed.
“Do you want some cucumber water?”
“Do I want…what?”
“Cucumber water! It’s water infused with cucumber. So good and so healthy!” she said.
“Oh. No thanks, I brought some scotch.”
“Oh okay! Well we actually have a strict no-drinking policy in the house.”
“Then it’s good I’m not a sister here.”
“Anyway so, really nice to be here,” I said, trying to move along the conversation like a bullfighter in the great ring at Catalonia. I thought of Diego and I on that hot day. I remembered how we drank beer and stood like men.
“Yeah, great to have you here! So what dorm do you–”
“Do you have a light?”
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“A light. Lighter. For my cigar.” Diego is gone. The war is over.
Angela seemed surprised I had asked the question.
“I’m afraid this is a non-smoking household,” she responded.
“I mean it’s not a cigarette. Just a cigar.”
“So what are you studying?”
I put my cigar away. Far away, beyond the sisters, was the sorority quad. I saw the Americans in dresses walking outside the window.
“Economics. What are you studying?”
“I’m actually a Spanish major!” she said.
“Oh. I spent some time in Spain — drinking, gallivanting, going to bullfights. This was before the war.”
“No way! I studied abroad in Barcelona, it totally changed my life!”
“So you speak Spanish then?” she asked.
“Yes, although it’s not as strong as my German or French. I was down in Cuba last year, though. Brushed up on it a bit more.”
“I’ve always wanted to go to Cuba! Too bad there’s Fidel Castro and all that so I can’t.”
“You know, Castro is actually a pretty great guy.” I close my eyes and remember the sea, and the fish, and Diego. Diego, so small in the sea.
“Do you mean you’ve–”
“I mean, a really great guy. We go fishing together,” I interrupted.
“Umm…cool! So you like fishing?”
“Of course I like fishing.”
“So cool! What are your other hobbies?”
“Drinking. Adventuring. Driving ambulances.”
“Cool!” she said. “So where do you live?”
“I live in Sargent.”
“Oh, I’ve heard Sargent is great!”
“It’s terrible. Worse than the places I stayed during the war.”
I began to think of the war. I thought of my compatriots, those who fell and those who survived. Like brothers, we were. But even though we were constantly under fire, in danger of death, and never in any sort of comfort, we felt a sense of belonging. It was in the war that I began to understand myself and my fellow human beings.