jeanne mance: deep in the trenches

by sophiewolfe & catherinefauver

I used to be a human girl but now I am a germ. Just like that guy in The Metamorphosis who turns into a bug. Yes, I am soooo Kafkaesque. The reason for my transformation was a lengthy stay at 394 Pearl Street, Jeanne Mance Hall, after my recent acquisition of the novel coronavirus. Jeanne has a special way of making every former normal person feel like a walking parasite. Maybe it’s the motion-sensing lights in the hallways that blink off violently the second you pass them. Maybe it’s the showerheads, which make one feel akin to a stray dog, hosed down after rolling around in roadkill detritus on the street. Or perhaps it’s the food– leaking tupperware containers of “wild rice and spicy veggies” stamped with an expiration date which reads only “47”. If your gut isn’t strong enough for that crazy wild rice, you can survive off of six bags of Sun Chips every day and hope you still wake up in the morning. Catherine and I spent our life savings on sustenance, collecting food in mysterious brown paper bags from the ‘vestibule’ at the front of the building which was designated for only the bravest of delivery men. 

You may ask how we chose to fill our long days in the dog pound. I wish I could tell you that I wrote a book of sonnets and Catherine discovered the cure to Alzheimer’s, but I can’t. Our most beloved pastime was a venture we liked to call Wall Ball. The game’s principal concern was throwing a little foam ball at the wall. We used Wall Ball like Australian coal miners use methamphetamines. It took the pain away. We also enjoyed playing Peeping Tom to the poor guy living next to us, even though we could only see his legs and the most interesting thing he ever did in the window was marinate a gigantic slab of meat on his kitchen counter.  It was life-affirming to witness another human person, out there in the wild, making steak for dinner, not confined to these odious walls, even if we agreed that based on his basketball shorts he was probably not even that attractive or interesting. By that time it no longer mattered. We’d already turned into giant bugs anyway. 


During the annual UVM Covid-athon, two poor undeserving Watertower members were swept into the liminal and life changing Jeanne Mance Hall. 394 Pearl Street. (Whose address I now have memorized because I had to order Doordash to it every night). The week of torment which followed changed both of us. For the better? For the worse? All I know now is Lin Manuel Miranda’s nasally vibrato piercing its way through my head. By choice, maybe, but can we really judge the traumatized? Jeanne Mance is the equivalent to what I would think an energy vortex is. Things do not simply happen within it, it draws events to it. Night two. We watch Too Hot to Handle season 3, grasping for anything to focus on other than a monotonous knocking which could have been the upstairs neighbors having athletic sex or the banging of some COVID-ridden student’s head against the wall. We walk down the stairs, joints creaking from lack of use, and hear the echoes of sickly voices up and down the stairwell. “The water is gone!” “I’m dying!” “Lord evacuate me from Jeanne Mance Hall!” Sure enough, a text rolls in. The water was dried up. It was all gone. The only thing remaining was the crushing responsibility to manually flush the toilets. I will never forget the horrors of that night, of the obnoxiously large bucket of wipes I had to empty and use to dump water into the toilet in order to perform my civic duty to my community of COVID kids.

We all did unspeakable things within these walls. Some unknown, desperate woman even made a gravity bong off of WikiHow. A lone bagel bite was dropped between the racks of the oven… and I don’t think it was ever retrieved. Sophie and I also committed the worst of crimes- stalking the innocent Burlington citizen whose house blocked any view we might have had from room 419. Day and night we watched him. On Friday, he came late into the night for a little midnight snack. Saturday, he had a couple of his buddies over for a wholesome night of fun. On Tuesday, he made the juiciest steak we had ever seen. We developed a parasocial relationship, debating day and night over if he was hot or not because of the angle which always blocked his face. If you see this, Pearl Street resident: please, stop wearing basketball shorts. You are a grown man and you deserve to treat yourself better. Mwah. 


Categories: Catherine Fauver, feb 8, side bar, sophie wolfe

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