Universities and night

The university at night can be a place of chaos where forlorn trees wiggle under the floodlights and rows of bicycles curl up into metal cyclones.

Where the lights of the classrooms are left on pointlessly, shining on nothing, embroidering the frillery of the windowpanes.

Where the gothic architecture is lit from below like a clown with a flashlight beneath his chin, pretending to be monstrous.

Where the darkness is kept white as fat by the lamps which are there to preserve safety and security.

Where there are cocktail parties, or receptions, or evening talks or concerts, or tired pallid figures seated in rows at their library cubbies, or people going in and out of the bar, mostly students since the faculty tend to go home and the staff always go home, except the custodians who work in the bright shine of their isolation from daytime activities, and the security guard guarding the library against its patrons, and the contractors staffing the dining halls, and the police who circle in their cars, staring into space and saying nothing.

Up at the corner of 39th and Drexel is the northwest corner of the University of Chicago’s police patrol zone. In the warmer months, at least, one can often see a patrol car parked there just south of the end of Drexel, the guy inside just sitting there, motionless, not watching, not waiting, just still, like a sculpture, out of place because nothing is ever happening on that corner, unless you wanted to count the fountain on the little plaza, an empty little symbol of a public park where no one is sitting, not even in the summer, since the neighborhood is on the empty side, on that block, at least.

Back on campus, where I took this picture just north of Bond Chapel, the police patrol more regularly, like shepherds, keeping the bikes from wandering off without their owners. If you waited later into the night, into the wee hours, the place would just get emptier and emptier, I suppose, until morning.