“Friday’s a free day. A woman’s day.”

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Fun historical fact: The Milstein Center is actually the fourth Brontë sister

The door opens, I note with some surprise. It’s 8:03 am, and I’ve wended my way from my Schapiro double to the entrance of the Milstein Center, hereafter referred to as Millie. The objective: spend the next twelve hours in Millie. Already my plan hits a bump, since Millie closes at 6:00 on Fridays. The solution: camp out on the lawn for two hours after she closes. Come hell or high water, my physical presence is welded to this building for the duration of my Friday. Why? …idk.

Supplies: One (1) computer; two (2) linguistics textbooks; one (1) deck of cards, Bicycle brand; a cozy sweater; a friend’s short story (which I did not read. I have no excuse). I take my seat at one of the tables in the front of the building. I feel like I’m sitting in the lobby of a high-powered law firm whose receptionist has better health insurance than me. Here we go.

Let the day begin

8:30 am: Bright-ass sun streams through the unprotected windows. I burn in agony. My computer screen is nigh-unreadable.
9:00 am: Time for food. I walk to the Peet’s located within Millie (allegedly named at one point, per one Bwogger, after ex-Barnard President Deborah Spar) and order a latte (good!) and a blueberry muffin (confusingly given to me in a large paper box, but ok). They take Dining Dollars!!!
9:10 am: A large influx of people bring Millie to life. Suddenly, all of the tables have at least one occupant, all of us angling our eyes away from the inhospitable glare of the sun. I drink my latte and dream of overcast days (or at least an iced drink, but hindsight is 20/20).
9:20 am: The sunshades are lowered; they descend as one unit, silently, from above. I feel as though I have been visited by a powerful yet merciful god.
9:25 am: Everyone here is so well-dressed wtf
9:43 am:
A woman walking by: “As a West Coast gal…” But she vanishes before I can hear anything more. As a West Coast gal what? AS A WEST COAST GAL WHAT??????
10:00 am:
I’ve seen five Kånken backpacks so far.
c. 10:00 am: The old crowd of solitary workers has been replaced almost entirely with pairs or even trios of people. Millie thrums with collaborative energy. I stan this building almost as much as I stan the striped pants of the girl sitting in one of the green swivelly chairs.

We love an iconic student gathering space

10:10 am: Bwogger #1 (code name “Cohn-ey Island”) joins the party. Cohn-ey Island is a cleric with high Wisdom and Intelligence stats. Introductory quote: “Barnard girls have the best pants.” At some point during the day (time unrecorded), I will teach this Bwogger how to play gin rummy.
10:15 am: Just heard two Barnard girls exchange outfit compliments over a distance of about 20 feet, the sound carrying perfectly somehow without any yelling. Millie’s acoustics are designed to facilitate sisterhood #confirmed
10:20 am: Bwogger #2 (code name “Get Me A Man ’03”) joins the party. GMAM03 is a druid with the highest Charisma stat in the party. Introductory quote, after going to the Peet’s: “I got someone to pay for my food.”
10:24 am: A man in a beautifully tailored blue suit walks by. The Barnard Outfit Effect extends even to men it seems.
10:45 am: Bwogger #3 joins the party. She is without codename and quote, but I can confidently say she is a Rogue with solid all-around stats, especially Dexterity.
11:00 am: Kånken Kount: 8
11:00-11:30 am: Extensive horoscope discussion ensues. Birth charts are configured for Cohn-ey Island, her boyfriend, and Bwogger #3. Venus’ retrograde begins today, so this Bwogger isn’t taking any chances in love (i.e. confessing feelings to his long-time crush ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ).
c. 11:15 am: Overheard: “If only this was my rock bottom! [desperate laughter]”
11:30 am: Conversation has shifted to IUDs. Mirena or copper? Choices choices
11:40 am: Bwogger #4 joins the party. She is a small but mighty Paladin who is Lawful Good to a T. High Constitution stat.
c. 12:00 pm: Kånken Kount: 12
1:15 pm: Bwogger #5 joins the party. Dexterity and Wisdom are key stats for this Bard. Introductory quote: “I’m a slut for instant gratification.”
1:20 pm: Second “meal” of the day: Peet’s cinnamon raisin bagel and an Earl Grey tea latte. Filling, but not immensely satisfying.
c. 1:30 pm: I inform a Bwogger sitting nearby (she did not intend to be part of this project) that her last name means “man” or “dude” in Finnish.
c. 1:45 pm: “Remember when I fought my TA and won?” No, random overheard girl, I do not.

Ye Olde Watering Hole, after hours

2:00 pm: Bwogger #6 joins the party. A POWERFUL Sorcerer whose Dexterity is necessarily high in order to play her wind instrument. Disclaimer: This Bwogger may have come by earlier in the day, but I did not record when. Yet another misstep in the documentation of history.
2:00 pm: Begin listening to the greatest WBAR show on the schedule <33
2:00 pm: Peet’s closes for the day. Short hours, right?!
2:30 pm: Kånken Kount: I’ve lost track
c. 3:00 pm:
Chat with Bwogger #5 and her friend about writing and whatnot. Her friend is writing a book and is over a hundred thousand words deep. In awe of the size of this lad.
3:00-5:00 pm: Various people come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Bwogger #4 sticks by me, even as she points me in the wrong direction to find the bathrooms. I forgive this sabotage.
c. 3:30 pm: Overhearing that I am not yet registered to vote in the state of New York, a girl nearby offers to help me register– apparently that’s what she does around campus. We friend one another on Facebook to facilitate this process. Thanks, A[redacted because I didn’t get her permission to use her name]!
c. 4:00 pm: I ask the woman at the front desk where I could find a water bottle filling station. We search together and find it together. Teamwork, dreamwork, you know the deal.
5:00 pm: Our one-hour warning arrives in the form of a guard calling throughout the building. Bwogger #4 and I look at each other– getting down to the wire here.
5:55 pm: Millie empties. Security guards walk through, shouting that the building will close at 6. I already miss her: my glass prison, the Ross (yuck) to my Rachel, the Chomskyan syntax to my sleeping freshman in Intro Linguistics, light of my life, fire of my loins.
5:57 pm: Bwogger #4 and I decide to leave just before 6:00 to give the guards less of a headache. We resume our vigil on the lawn: two hours to go.

Millie’s outer carapace, pictured here at sunset

6:15 pm: A woman begins singing legitimately beautiful opera(?) on the lawn nearby.
6:24 pm: Bwogger #4 runs over to pet a dog. Breed guess: Golden Doodle?
6:33 pm: Someone tries to get in to Millie. Alas, the doors will not give. The doors ne’er shall give again (till tomorrow).
6:45 pm: i am very cold
6:58 pm: A group of three people try to get into Millie. Fools! Fools!
c. 7:00 pm: Bwogger #6 brings me pizza (yay!) from Ferris (slightly less enthusiastic yay!). At this point, I’ll take whatever warm carbs I can get. All slices are quickly scarfed down. Bwogger #6 then departs, probably to fight demons with a clarinet or something.
7:09 pm: Bwogger #4 got an A- on her bio midterm!!!
7:12 pm: An old man tries to breach Millie’s impenetrable walls. I weep for the ignorant, the uninformed.
7:25 pm: Bwogger #4 runs over to pet another dog. This time she is unsuccessful.
c. 7:30 pm: Signs of life within Millie! A janitor walks through her still-lit atrium.
7:39 pm: I put on Joanna Newsom’s 17-minute long epic “Only Skin.” I sing along to most of it.
7:56 pm: “Only Skin ends.” Speaking of only skin, it is very cold and the wind is very strong. Millie’s façade offers no comfort. I play more Joanna Newsom.
8:00 pm: The spell is suddenly broken. Bwogger #4 and I stand from our crouched and huddled positions in the grass. I blow kisses to Millie as we walk towards the Quad. Bwogger #4 must run– she has a few upperclassmen to swipe into JJ’s, bless her. I crack my aching back and knuckles, further developing early-onset arthritis.
8:04 pm: I step through the main Barnard gates. I turn south on Broadway.

Introspective Epilogue

Are we all just like this dog I saw on the subway, stuffed in metaphorical bags and riding on metaphorical trains?

I walk back to Schapiro Hall, lost in thought. What does it mean, to spend twelve hours (ish) in one place (ish)? Why do we do it? Is it out of some desire– as undergraduates making our way in a city that, for all its liveliness, sometimes feels inhospitable– to find a place that can become a substitute for home? Is it the nature of humankind to endlessly quest after the place, that Platonic place, that welcomes us with open arms? Peet’s makes me think of my hometown of San Francisco; earlier in the day I made Bwogger #4 very emotional just by showing her a bookmark from the famous bookstore in her native Portland. Bwogger #1 (Cohn-ey Island) is heading home upstate this weekend to bring her boyfriend and her parents together.

To spend twelve hours in a place is to say, “This space is my space for a while. A long-ass while.” And maybe it’s a wild while, or maybe it’s a mild while, but it’s a while all the same.

So what did we learn? (a) Barnard girls have more style and taste in one pinky finger than I do in my whole self, although tbh we been knew; (b) the Kånken hegemony must not be allowed to stand; (c) if you aren’t spending time in the Milstein Center, you’re only hurting yourself. Go hang out there, for god’s sake! It has wood panelling and glass! What more do you want?!

All photos by Levi Cohen