February 3, 2018

Dear Miss Catherine,

Yesterday, I was coming down the stairs in the President's office building, and I saw the Lorax Tree protesters sitting on the first floor again. The girl with the fountain pen and inkwell was there, too. I was trying to decide whether to stop and introduce myself.

It was like that Daisy commercial.


I'll go.


I won't go.


I'll go.


I won't go.

Cue nuclear mushroom cloud.

I finally decided at the end that what Ed said during office hours was right—that meeting more people is the important thing, and all the hubbub about classes is a load of hogwash.

That's why I found myself walking over, crouching down, and saying something really lame like, "Hey, I think you were in my Calc class last semester. My name is Ari."

Two purple orchid-lidded eyes looked up, a thick black smudge of eyeliner along the lash lines. She said that she sort of remembers me. Her name is Liz. Whaddya know? She almost has the same name as her fictional doppelgänger. Before the competition on steroids known as Excelsior, Liz lived in the land of Hollywood, or—as she put it—Hollyweed, or better yet, Holy Weed. Apparently, someone changed the two "O"s as a prank last year.

She asked me what I was doing here, and I told her that I had just come out of office hours for a history class about opioids because not enough people wanted to learn about horses. Liz laughed and said that sounds about right.

I asked her what they were protesting.

It's because the President is on the Board of Chopex.

I told her that the people on Easter Island had all died when they deforested their home.

Liz shrugged and said that most people don't care because they just want to take selfies with the big stone Mo'ai heads to photoshop and then post on Instagram. That's why there's not much any of us can do except sit here with picket signs and muckrake the whole sh–tshow circus to the rest of the world.

I told her that I'd join them from now on. She welcomed me to the gang and gave me one of the picket signs that had been lying on the floor.

So, that is the story of how Little Miss Goody Two Shoes ended up, side-by-side with goth-painted Liz, making our silent rounds with hunter orange picket signs.

Noni is making her rounds around society, thanks to Ralph. It turns out that he's friends with one of the members of the secret societies that meet in unmarked houses. Because of this connection, she and any of her girl-friends can have free admission to any of the blowout Gigawatt parties that have started up this semester. According to Noni, admission to these parties is the pinnacle of social achievement, elevating the guys to instant Alpha-male status and boosting the girls to the acme of acceptance. Most people can't get in even if they stand in line for hours and are willing to pay the entrance fee, so being invited to one is a huge deal. She's super excited about this because she says it'll help her "broaden her horizons" as a freshman and "build more connections." I'm not completely sold on the idea.

She told us all this when we went dress shopping: Noni, Danny, and I. Danny also told a couple of her friends, and they're going to go, too, to the Gigawatt party coming up in two weeks. I begged out on reason of not wanting to be Giga-electrified, and Noni pouted and was like, "Oh, come on! It'll be so much fun!" I told her that I need to catch up on homework now that I'm sitting for three hours every Friday to protest the President's campaign of deforestation and another two hours every Sunday to field anxious questions from Intro to Econ students, and she said that I'm turning into more of a workaholic than she is. But I still went shopping with them for moral support.

While we were browsing the racks, I asked them why people want to go these Gigawatt parties in the first place, because scarcity in economics is simply a function of overdemand combined with undersupply. If people stopped wanting to get into the Gigawatt parties, they'd no longer be the epitome of popularity, and Excelsior could finally settle down into a party-market equilibrium.

Noni laughed and said that was just textbook theory, that in life, you've to flaunt it while you've still got it.

I countered by saying that you don't need to flaunt it at the Gigawatt parties.

She said that's where all your future DB-squared bankers, PE partners, hedge fund managers, and venture capitalists are at; they run the show here and will run the show once we graduate and get out there.

I asked her, "So what?", because it's not like those people can dictate whether she lives or dies.

Noni then asked me what degree I'm getting.

I replied that she should already know, Econ and CS.

She turned with another black minidress in her hands and pointed one finger like those teachers in elementary school who go, "No, no, no. Bad kid." She told me that I was wrong, that a B.S. degree is pure and simple B.S.

I told her that I need a degree to find a job, and I need a job if I didn't want to be starving.

She said, and I quote, "We don't come here for a B.S. or B.A. or sub-matriculate into a M.A. or M.S. or M.F.A. Our goal is to graduate with an M.R.S."

Danny clapped a free hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter.

In my head, I was thinking first, M.R.S. my goosebottoms. It isn't the fifties anymore. And second, What the... Would Noni get married to RALPH?

Noni turned back to sift through a plethora of short black dresses on the rack, and she sighed. She said that our biggest asset decreases in value every single day.

I asked her what asset.

She paused in her dress browsing, looked at me, and drew a spiral with her index finger in the air right in front of her face. "This," she said.

So apparently, like the U.S. dollar, women's faces experience inflation.

I started thinking about what Tess's mom said after she sent her daughter off to the über-villain d'Urberville, that her daughter's trump card in securing the wealthy hand of a pervy charlatan was her face. That was back in the 1800s. It is now 2018. Some things never change.

Quick! OCR pop quiz! What investments would you recommend to a client who is most concerned about maintaining purchasing power in an inflationary environment?

Stocks, real estate, and gold.

What could we invest in protect our faces against inflation?

Stocks: Inject some equity into our faces with Botox.

Real estate: Hire a building contractor to do some surgical work with the plastic estate.

Gold: Back up our faces with enough gold that everyone just looks at the sparkly metal instead of at our faces.

Oop! Time to get my laundry now!


UPDATE: I have massacred a roach of prehistoric proportions. It took a tour around the first page of the green binder, but don't worry. I recopied Page One on clean paper.

There is nothing I can do, however, about the fact that the green binder will forever be eye tainted. I don't know which pages or how many pages Charley read before I noticed because he always happens to be around when the roaches decide to explore the New World of my room and I make them explode instead. What did he read? Hopefully nothing incriminating.

Then, we had the strangest conversation going down to the laundry room. I can't even explain what the wiffles just happened. There was something about the bubonic plague and Heisenberg's quantum cat and bacterial binary fission and medical trauma from The Bell Jar and a whole lot of double entendres that I would really prefer to not recall right now and that I barely escaped from at the very end with the skin of my teeth.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

If life gives you cuckoos, make Cocoa Puffs.

Lemonade and Cocoa Puffs. What a balanced breakfast.

— Ari