It happens too many years.
September grows close and the quiet of a university in summer abruptly ends, and there's a certain excitement and dread in the air. Thousands of students descend on the campus to begin or resume this part of their lives. Classes begin, the year begins to move towards its end. And then someone plummets to her death.
My last semester at Barnard, in the fall of 1998, it was a girl taking a swan dive off East Campus. I had a crush on another girl entirely that semester, a dark-haired girl whose simple presence and quirky grin made me blush and and want to giggle. A mutual friend told me this crush girl was jealous of the East Campus girl, and I don't know that I've ever felt quite that same ache again.
A couple years later it was a girl jumping from the top of a spiral stairwell in one of the dorms. One of my favorite student employees lived in that same dorm, woke to hear the girl screaming all the way down, came to work early the next morning and spent hours helping me measure shelves in the stacks, dry-eyed and stony-faced in a way that only she could bear.
Two nights ago it was a freshman leaping from her dorm (the same dorm my brother lived in his freshman year), apparently having made it through the first day of orientation only to crash just before midnight to the sidewalk on 114th Street.
She was eighteen and intelligent and loved, but of course that can't always be enough.