By Michael Cheaito ’21
Shared in Chapel on Thursday, November 5, 2020. Re-posted with the author's consent.
On a white wall in Ryder House, there’s a little black plaque that says a Rydarian puts more into the world than he takes out. You could inspect that plaque: you could read it and see the 2016 Raspberry Award recipient, Buzzy Lawson ’16. Across the room, James Battis ’20 is pasted on a photo frame with a buckled smile that looks like it’s cracking in half. There’s a poster on the wall from quarantine, with pictures from around the time Santiago ’20 decided slim shady was a good look.
When I walk down the halls, I can hear a hundred stories pouring over me. I can hear a hundred gone grads and their footsteps, I can hear laughter and tension and someone stubbing a toe, I can hear that makeshift barbershop in the parlor and the old hairs that used to sweep the floor, the way they would float and nuzzle themselves into carpet like they’d never leave. On my first Halloween here, Santi ’20 and Simon ’20 came down to the basement at curfew and told the story of the dead boy who still walks the stairs at night. The scary thing is, at Ryder, even the slightest movement — let’s say, the creak of the bathroom door — can motivate a tremendous amount of sound. So if you listened close enough, you could really hear him, shifting through the halls, under doorways and sliding under your bed. I like to think, now, that he’s just a dead grad, coming back to visit and get a taste for the place.
What’s crazy to me, every day I wake up here, is that one day soon I’m just gonna leave. We have this method of assigning permanence to our lives; it feels, when you’re staring down a worksheet at the beginning of a 90 minute period, like that 90 minute period is never going to end. The truth, though, is amazingly temporary; you come here one day feeling mixed in your guts and unable to sleep in that rocky bed, and you blink and there’s a cap on your head and a college acceptance letter you’re waiting to get.
There’s a spot in this house that no one knows exists. If you go downstairs — and I mean really downstairs — and take a left, you’ll find a pale timber door like any other, and if you have a special key from the janitor, you can get in. It doesn’t look like much – it’s all fuzzy and unlit, and from the horizon you can spot boxes and classic memorabilia, stacked atop each other like a pack of dogs. The place is traced with sawdust and (what-used-to-be) white sheets, and when you move them, the dead bits swirl up in a mist and sting your eyes. And if you can find a spot and sit, if you stay there and just breathe the place in, you start to feel all these things you never felt before. You start to hear people whisper words to you from a decade gone. You see the tape tapered off an old hockey stick, you smell the socks and that timeless stink, you start to notice the place come alive and turn red, you see it yellow and green and a blur of faces and feelings. You can start to feel, right in your bones, what it’s like to metamorphosize – what it’s like to transform from a place to a home.