Two months into a college experience he’d once fantasized would involve nubile sorority sisters held back by crowd control barricades outside his dorm room, SEAS First-Year Derek Gilmore has slowly come to terms with a reality of prolonged chastity. Without the cassock, tab collar or spiritual fulfillment that might characterize the ritualized sexual abstention of a clergyman, Gilmore has been forced to find meaning in other pursuits, like differential equations, laundry, soulful masturbation to the classic Motown backdrop of “Please Mr Postman,” and the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard.
When he intermittently responds to Facetime calls from his parents in Westchester, Gilmore’s family is greeted with the the lined, haunting visage of a changed man, huddled over problem sets, murmuring to himself of what could have been. To the extent Gilmore’s romantic life retains any vitality whatsoever, he says, it is in his misty recollections of NSOP icebreakers, from moonlit summer nights when youthful fecundity was on the breeze and endless possibilities were bound up in freighted games like “Two Truths and a Lie.”
“Here’s two truths and a lie for you,” Gilmore says, using a lint roller to clean arms that have evaded any contact with a shower or a woman for a duration that could be measured on the geologic time scale. “I dream so intensely about using machine learning to code a sex robot that I can no longer reliably differentiate between the material world and Python, I’ve spent more time interacting with a calculator over the past 24 hours than I have with a woman over the last fortnight, and I believe that at the end of my college experience I will have made tangible progress towards the kind of conversation with a woman that might prevent my family name from disappearing from the Earth.”
Gilmore says that late at night the amplitude/time graphs in his “Heterogeneous Computing for Signal and Data Processing” class will sometimes take on the curvy proportions of prime Baywatch-era Pamela Anderson, with the scorching wit and sultry rasp of an anonymous Barnard first-year who once briefly socialized with his OL-group. In his mind, Gilmore, operator extraordinaire in both CAD-wave modeling and romantic seduction, transforms his flubbed exchange of greetings with the luscious art history major into the seed of a passionate tryst of world-historical proportions.
He pauses, and an oft-absent light re-enters red-rimmed eyes kept open only by a steady diet of Baja Blast Mountain Dew and Ritalin. The ghosts of NSOP-past transport his libidinous thoughts to an evening, many moons before, back when Gilmore had dared to hope that lanyards, wristbands and lightly eroticized banter could help him attract the standardized-testing ace and femme fatale of his dreams.
“The OL asks which three historical personages we’d invite to dinner,” Gilmore says, his eyes glazing over as he curls a lock of hair around his finger. “The wind picks up apace. A solitary dove alights from on high, and an angelic choir of castratos hums softly in the distance. I say that I’d invite Newton and Leibniz, so I could lock them in an MMA-octagon to settle who actually invented calculus, but also her. Because she’s really hot. Then, obviously, we’d fuck like rabbits.”
Back in the humdrum real world of JSwipe, Kleenex and career fairs, Gilmore can only gaze mournfully into the distance, do endless bicep curls as Neutral Milk Hotel cycles in the background, and hone his icebreaker game for some hallowed eve in the distant future, perhaps a grad school social, when new environs and formalized interactions will grant him a fresh lease on life. Well-thumbed volumes of Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” and “The Sickness Unto Death” lie at the foot of a bed that, once again, Gilmore will occupy alone. There is some temporary solace for the Dorito-stained engineer in the Danish existentialist’s pithy theology.
“Listen to the cry of a woman in labor at the hour of giving birth - look at the dying man's struggle at his last extremity, and then tell me whether something that begins and ends thus could be intended for enjoyment,” Gilmore quotes, from memory. A box of condoms - Lifestyles SKYN, bought for himself as a graduation present, never used - that will soon pass their expiration date without anyone remarking gathers dust in the corner.
For now, Gilmore can only wonder and wait, alert for that fateful moment when, four years hence, his sex life will coincidentally blossom following a job offer at Facebook.