Time Capsule

by Mary Liza Hartong and Andrew Kingsley | 4/5/16 5:21pm

Paul and Emily Brigham return to Dartmouth for their 50th reunion. They met their senior spring at a mutual friend’s “chill wine/16Soberwhat? party” and have been nagging each other ever since. After a few bottles of champagne at the reunion dinner and awkward conversation with former trippees and hook-ups and trippee hook-ups, the Class of 2016 walks to the BEMA to unearth their senior time capsule.

“I don’t even remember what I put in there!” Emily admits.

“I think I put my fraternity shirt in there!” Paul squeals.

“What’s a fraternity?” a volunteering freshman, Class of 2069, asks.

“Oh, how do I explain?” Paul wonders aloud.

“A beer cult!” a fellow ’16 cries.

“A sin den!” another shouts, beating a youth with a cross.

“They’re those haunted houses on campus, you know, the ones on Webster Avenue. Some say you can still hear the faint, repressed cries of disenfranchisement.”

“Quiet, they’re about to open it!” Emily shushes.

The class historian struggles to open the enormous metal vault. The smell of rotten Collis pasta oozes from the vessel. The beer-gutted ’16 pulls out the first item. A gasp ripples through the crowd.

“It can’t be!”

“My eyes! My leg!”

The historian extends a lanyard before the horrified crowd. The ’16s, all retired bankers and consultants, flashback to their freshman selves, when the world was pure and full of promise. As the lanyard dangles, dancing in the soft breeze like a jubilant spirit, Paul remembers writing poetry on the green, “An Ode to the Foco Cookie,” before an economics professor ripped up his poem and handed him a spreadsheet. “There’s poetry in portfolios,” the professor had growled. The young Paul couldn’t resist the notion. Only later did Paul realize there is absolutely no poetry in portfolios. The moans and cries of the elderly bankers shake Paul out of the painful reverie.

“Where did we go wrong?” a ’16 laments.

“Every month is the cruelest month!” another cries.

As the bankers mourn the death of their spirits, the class historian reaches blindly into the capsule and pulls out the next object, hoping to rejuvenate the reunion.

“What is that?”

“The horror!”

“Get it out of here. You know that’s punishable by death.”

The class historian drops the Canada Goose jacket in terror. SNS—(NESFHBBFWHNJ) Safety and Security (and Emotional Security Free Hugs Bring Back the Frats We Have No Job) quickly lights it on fire. After the rise of the white supremacists who embraced the jacket as their symbol in 2017, the country outlawed their production and exterminated all wearers.

“I remember wearing one of those junior winter!” Emily admits.

“Shhhhhh, don’t say that aloud. Emily, just look at your skin. What did you expect?” Paul points out.

Emily, dejected, ashamed of her pallor, nods in agreement.

The shaken historian returns to the capsule and pulls out another item. The audience once again gasps in abject horror at what they see.

“Stop this madness!” an aged ’16 cries.

“I ca—” another ’16 blurts, before heart attack takes her.

The SNS-(NESFHBBFWHNJ) officers return, dousing a South House t-shirt in carbonic acid.

“That was the beginning of the end!”

“So many casualties. So many young lives lost.”

Who could have known that after all the money Dartmouth spent on the new housing system, they would spend so little on those violently flammable shirts. Yes, ‘twas just after the 18X Water Balloon War between the houses, when the sophomores hung their shirts on the radiators to dry. Within seconds, all of campus was ablaze. Those who survived took one solemn, ceremonious lap around the conflagration. The hill winds were filled with smoke and wasted bureaucracy that day.

“There’s just one more item,” the bereaved historian declares.

“NO!” the browbeaten crowd protetsts.

“This one’s not so bad. It will make you remember why we called this place home in the first place. Remember, guys? Late Night Collis and the river and the Green and the BEMA and stargazing? Your awkward first kiss when the world spun around your axis? Remember how you felt bursting out of your last class on a Friday afternoon? Remember who we used to be? Take a moment and remember.”

The ’16s, inspired by the rousing speech, begin singing the alma mater as their cherished memories flash before their eyes. They lean into their classmates, crying the sweet tears of nostalgia. Their leader raises the final object into view.

“It’s a copy of The Dartmouth Review!” the historian cheers.

“What in God’s name?” Emily shouts.

The SNS-(NESFHBBFWHNJ) officers fire their crossbows at the historian who, as it turns out, is a Canada Goose wearing, South House loving, Class of 2019 phony. The officers then promptly recycle Dartmouth’s favorite doormat, despite the fact that recycling stopped working years ago and they all live in a giant landfill.