Do you know what tonight is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina? I’ll tell you. It’s the magical warm night when everything comes together. As a freshman, you finally know where everything is; you’re not daunted by the crowds, and if you’re from northern climes, you’re noticing that the winter starts so much later.
That girl you liked and almost kissed? Except she had a boyfriend? She just went home and broke up with him over Thanksgiving. He ended up at a different college and is full of resentment, or maybe he is beginning to realize how he ruled the roost in high school. Either way, he said something stupid, and she drove off furious. She will need time, but you are now square in front of her, and Christmas cocktails – just as friends for now – loom in the coming weeks.
The shortness of days means the drinking can begin earlier. Dinners are planned, liquor stores empty of Jim Beam, you may even buy a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. The impending exams fill you with anxiety, but those are still a week away, and besides, you’re amped anyway, right? Your paper is almost done, and you’re not noticeably behind.
You got your tickets for tonight’s game and saw everybody on the way there. It was almost seventy degrees, and you took off your coat, tied it around your waist. When you entered the Dean Dome, you were jolted by the sight of a real game, the light-blue heaven, and a team ranked #1 coming in to embarrass you. For twenty minutes, they did.
And then the comeback, as predictable and powerful as the tides. Before long you are tied, then up two, then up TEN! The rafters are shaking, and when Roy Williams called that trap defense leading to Ellington’s steal, you blew a gasket of joy. It was his 19th birthday and he wanted 19 points; he got them exactly.
It’s this sort of magic that follows you home, a scant three yards away from that girl. Maybe later you’ll be drinking – somebody’s roommate is a senior and had some Amstel Light – and the timetable for a kiss just got unexpectedly bumped up.
There is so much work and so much excitement, so much hope and talk of road trips, and it seems like it could never end. That’s what tonight is like in Chapel Hill.