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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 10. 23rd May 1973

A Letter to you!

A Letter to you!

Why are you at university, you? How does this life compare with your rural small society, or pettiness boarding school, or the confusion in the city? — But this was last year, or the year before, or perhaps many in the past, and I can only wonder how much you've changed, and ask, in a conceited kind of way, how much of an idea you have of what you were when these line floors first knew your footsteps, and how you can guess what you'll be when their last echo has died.

Well, why are you here, and what do you think it is doing to you does the thought cross your mind? Oh yes, I know, I was here too, smiling with the rest and heckling noisily all the prejudiced city speakers from parliament and the rugby union. But somehow this doesn't seem to compare with the importance of a degree and the prized piece of paper your mother wants proudly to hang in the hall, glass-fronted, like an iceberg. And in a crazy kind of way it spells out all the relationships, and confusion, and emptied beer that ever happened in those short, eight-month years. Shall I write "Sally" and "Linda" and "Sue" in bold type under each one of those finely inscribed institutionalized italics, and underneath those names write "Dave" and "Pete" and "Mike", and specify individually all the 35 glass ounces of beer?

I'll add a postscript, too, to this obscene piece of paper, something that laughs almost a shade too loudly, and the hysteria is just a little too frightening to be read aloud and dismissed: it's all those people in the streets, isn't it, whom you never cared enough about to look at and say "hullo" to — it's the alcoholics around the Basin Reserve and the middle-aged drunk looking for a young party in George Street and lost Islander, still in Dunedin, forever wandering up Stuart Street shadowing a lover and the incredible hilarity afterwards over coffee and tea with Keith and the jokes, and the Tokolauan was there and simply didn't understand — he sat there in that alien society looking at the lover from whom he wanted six, and all I could offer instead was company and not being so alone, and my fear of an ego trip.

Sometime I'll be unfeeling enough to do it again, and then I'll think of you, all, sitting here, quietly dying. And mostly it's the people in the library on the fourth floor, blowing their minds with all that knowledge they can't comprehend, and the indifference, if not actual conceit, that everyone shows to the lonely strangers, when they have a lover of their own.... but all that is not important now; it is autumn and on Dunedin's fine campus the leaves are blowing across the park. It's cold enough, and in Queenstown lovely Karen might see even more closely the vision we call snow.

So go on, and don't even bother to try and answer the questions I was too scared to ask —and you can laugh a little, as well, because in the future the echos of your feet will match mine, silently crying, through the university.

Keith Walton.