What SEU student Osgar Nugent envisions for day of normalcy


Gracie Watt / Hilltop Views

If everything went back to normal and the pandemic was over, SEU student Osgar Nugent hopes to feel completely renewed.

I’m not the neatest guy. My peach-fuzz mustache, bedhead and unironed clothes, though sporadically donned, feel like my most signature apparel. Even though I’ve effortlessly pulled off that trademark look for years now, every day I would still gawk at the mirror on my bedroom closet door before I’d get ready to drive to school or drive myself insane. In that mirror, my eyes would wander around taped up motivational journal entries and unfinished plans while I let the heater warm up my bare feet during long winters or let the wood floor cool them during the summer. Maybe the combination of my lack of focus and blood circulation to my feet was the reason I never really looked presentable, but there was one thing that I made myself peer into the mirror to see if I was wearing every day, whether I wanted to wear it or not. The make-or-break piece of my outfit. I’d try to find it because I wanted to find myself. Last March, I stopped looking into the mirror, and haven’t found much of myself when I’ve looked since.

This January, I took a run on a dirt track, letting my legs soak up molecules of mud and sun while my thoughts disappeared. When I was done with the run, I remembered that I had to find patches to fix my punctured bike tire. A post-run shower definitely would have been nice… But, I did have the time, and when I got back to my dorm and the back tire was still not on the actual bike, I couldn’t stand to see it anymore. So, after I put the back tire back on the bike and gave the tire a temporary pump, I headed for a bike repair shop about a mile away from campus. A few blocks into my ride, I saw a yellow light ahead of me, and considered racing through the intersection to make it, worried about how long my tire could leak before it would completely deflate. But, I stopped, and put my foot up on the curb. The light turned red. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, trying to find familiarity.

Behind me, I thought I heard a man say a mask-muffled “hi,” so, I gave a muffled “hi” back, opening my eyes and turning my head a bit. The man was a little shorter than me, stocky and stood with a posture that made his belly stretch the front of his blue polo shirt. Around the shirt, hanging at the end of a lanyard, a keycard was doing cartwheels in the wind. He asked me a question about my bike, and I answered. The light turned green. He began talking about his history with bikes, then segued into an actual history lesson, delving into the beginnings of the Ford Motor Company and how bikes, similar to Ford vehicles, used to be built with quality and pride. The light turned red. I tried to pitch in what little I knew about cars then, but before I knew it he was talking 70s American politics and I couldn’t keep up. I also knew I couldn’t keep waiting at that light if I wanted to get to the bike shop. The light turned green.

I drew the conversation to a close, and the man thanked me for talking. I thought that was nice, and I asked for his name as I rolled away in the bike lane. While he strolled across the crosswalk, headed in the same direction as me, he took off his mask and smiled. He said his name was Frank. That was the first real smile I think I had seen since I got to college.

If the pandemic ended in a day and everything went back to normal, I’d probably try to find my smile in the mirror before I walked out the door. And, hopefully I’d find myself in the mirror, too.