Content warning: this column contains references to suicidal ideation and suicide.
MONDAY, November 2nd, late afternoon, perhaps 5:30 p.m.
Gregory Moore looks pensive. Then he decisively says: “Look for greater things.”
TUESDAY, November 3rd, late morning.
Yours truly types out Greg’s quote from a conversation she had with him the day before, while her friend who is volunteering with Durham Drives takes people to the polls. As they type and drive, our nation’s future is being determined with each mark of a ballot, scratch of a pen.
MONDAY, November 2nd, late afternoon, before 5:30 p.m.
1107. 1111. 1323. Hopeful freshman writer reads the numbers of the buses on TransLoc, the red dots running back and forth between East and West in the evenings. She looks up from her screen, locks in on the real buses, the real drivers. In a time of extreme political stress, she thinks, it’s good to remind each other of the humanity that exists on our campus. What better way to do so than to talk with humans? And why not talk with humans you meet all the time, but never truly get to know?
She hops onto a bus right before it pulls out, and attempts to strike up a conversation with the woman who sits in silence behind the wheel. The driver speaks no more than two sentences. She points to a bus passing in the opposite direction, and suggests the girl talk to that driver instead.
At the East campus bus stop, the girl strikes up a conversation with Greg, the security officer who has been at Duke since ‘86. How does she feel about the election tomorrow? He asks her. She truthfully tells him that the most interesting side effect of the election may be how so many classes on Election Day are cancelled. Never before have institutions focused so much on individuals’ emotions, even though the 2016 election reportedly caused no less stress. She, however, has a Foreign Language class on Tuesday, and FL language classes stop for no one. Presidential election about to change the course of history? Take your Genki Lesson 8 quiz first. The world may seem like it’s ending, but at least we’ll be bilingual. They both laugh.
Greg says hopefully the experiences this year cause people to become wiser, with how we act around each other. Greg himself has lost some family and friends to COVID-19 this year. People need to stay smart. These masks, some people don’t feel comfortable with, even people who appear to come from a place of authority. Greg tells the writer he was passing out masks on campus the other day and a man on a run refused to take one, releasing a whole rant about why it was BAD to wear a mask. “He said he was a doctor,” Greg laughs, “I felt like I was in medical class!” People like this man, people in authority, Greg says solemnly, they gotta be a good example.
Greg believes in praying for our leadership. As you grow older, young lady, you’ll find out in life: you will make decisions because you just wanna be happy. But you gotta make the right decision.
WEDNESDAY, November 9, 2016. A bit past midnight.
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Greg’s shift at the West Campus bus stop runs from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. Sometime between 11 p.m. or 1 a.m., he reckons, kids started getting off the bus, crying. What’s going on? Greg wonders, what happened on the bus?
“Four years,” the crying kids say. “‘Four years, with this man as our president.”
Greg tells these students what he later tells our writer, four years later: Whether we like him or not, the fact is, he’s still our president, the commander in chief. We should respect the ones in their seat. You want to be respectful of leadership, he explains, because you never know when you’ll be in a place of leadership, and you reap what you sow. Right now, there’s a lot we don’t know, but we have to be mature.
MONDAY, November 2nd, later afternoon, close to 6 p.m.
Our writer is about to be late for a class, and she must take the bus back. Greg picks up a happier tone: Hey! Soon, it will be a new year. 2021. “Look for greater things,” he tells her. Nods, and repeats: Look for greater things.
MONDAY, November 2nd, night, after 10 p.m.
The writer is feeling worried about many things. She meets Josaiah McClean, working his night shift at the West Campus bus stop. He has worked at Duke for about 2 months. He tells our writer about the frequency of suicide calls. The calls are broadcasted on their radios, so all the security guards hear, and the nearest one goes to help, sometimes calling an ambulance.
Josaiah, sighing, shakes his head, shielded from the cold by a beanie under a hood. The calls really take a toll on him, especially when he thinks of the student. They are someone’s child.
A lone bus stops, a few people walk off. One walks on. The bus leaves. The Chapel watches. Josaiah tells the writer sometimes he waves at people, and they don’t wave back. “Don’t look down on anybody,” he tells her indignantly, “You don’t know who they are. I’m an entrepreneur myself, a supervisor… You never know, they might be the one to save your life, to help you out.”
TUESDAY, November 3rd, noon.
The writer looks over her notes from Josaiah, scribbled under the streetlight. “Take your time. Live life; it’s not a rush. Everyone’s trying to rush to a certain destination. Take your time; you’ll get to your destination.”
“Duke wasn’t what I expected. Lots of studying. I see students walking back from the library, and it’s two or three o’clock. Y’all really wanna graduate… Just live life, that’s all. You might be coming to Duke for someone else. It’s tough. Life is tough. But we got the tools to make it. It’s a trial, but we’ll come out on top.”
The writer wonders if what Josaiah told her about suicide calls was true. She tried to find out online, but only learned that suicide rates are difficult information for schools to gather and share. She is not surprised.
WEDNESDAY, November 4th, early morning, past 1 a.m.
We have yet to know the results of the election. This article is yet to be published. The writer sits with two friends for hours in front of a small screen, watching as blocks of blue and red divide up their nation’s map. They are manifesting, praying, hoping, and waiting.
The writer now (whenever now may be) prays you find these sources helpful. From Duke Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS): Blue Devils Care for 24/7 free Mental telehealth support. Active Minds self-care recommendations. DukeReach for more resources.
SOMETIME, in the past.
A girl, wearing a winter coat on a North Carolinian November night, clutching a notepad and pen, takes a deep breath before approaching the man in the safety vest and black coat. Emblemed on his left shoulder: “Allied Universal Security Services.” These two talk.
Another girl spends her day off canvassing through neighborhoods, and driving a Honda Civic through Durham, giving people rides to change to the world.
SOMETIME, in the future.
We look, we listen. We pray. We make it “out on top.” We reach “greater things.” We reach out. If you need any guide to any resource, please search, ask, let me know.
If you need to spill your thoughts down into words, and desire to share them with another human, please, my inbox is open. Please. I’ll look, I’ll listen. I’ll pray. Let’s start here.
Jocelyn Chin is a Trinity first-year. Her column typically runs on alternate Wednesdays.