BY Laura Hillenbrand

It is an honor to publish my daughter’s very sensitive reflections
on her days at Kenyon College where she contacted
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which has been a constant misery.

I lost Kenyon in a driving rainstorm in the spring of 1987. I was nineteen, seriously ill and frightened. That morning I signed the forms that officially withdrew me from school, hugged my best friend Lincoln goodbye, climbed into a battered Toyota and pulled out, bound for hospitals and tests and suffering beyond comprehension. I watched Linc recede in the rearview mirror until the rain washed him from view.

I drove through campus, looking at everything for the last time. A memory hung on each windowsill, each flight of steps, each lean of the road. I pulled past the mottled tree where Linc pulled me close in the darkness and told me his most guarded secret. Past Caples, where a guy I knew named John built a massive cardboard airplane, launched if off the roof, and cheered it on as it bellied up over the parking lot, then augured in inches short of someone’s front window. Past the quad in front of Norton, where I broke my nose playing football with the guys from Lewis. Past the deli where I sucked down coffee, fretted over osteology and slept over Burke. Past the lawn where I first felt a body folded around mine, lips warm by my ear, a whispered I love you. Past the house where Megan, my English professor, wrote me the letter than made me a writer. Past the dorm where I was told about the ghosts that haunt the campus. Past the bench where I sat and wondered why ghosts came here.

More than a quarter century has passed. I never got well, and never came back. My friends moved on, graduated, scattered to the winds. John, builder of rogue cardboard planes, is dead. The young man who whispered to me in the grass is a corporate executive. Linc is ushering his sons and daughter through the world. Some of my friends have vanished. The rest are tending mortgages and children, thinning hair, thickening waists. Life is better and worse, simpler and more complicated, and the people we used to be slip further and further from reach, becoming ethereal. Becoming ghosts.

Sometimes, in my mind, I go back to Kenyon and live in my former self, nineteen and exquisitely, irretrievably alive. I draw my old friends around me, just as they were, and drift through all the places where my memories gather. I see others there, animating their own lost selves.

I glide down Middle Path with the other ghosts, understanding now why they come.

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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