New Pilgrims and Tales
The Pre-Med Student’s Prologue
by Hanna Kopits, Haverford ‘21
My parents say hard science is perfect,
“Big pharma’s the best way to make big bank.
Never have a drink or a cigarette.”
That’s how I graduated highest rank.
They say only Shakespeare can write sonnets.
He’s the best, the bard, maybe bar Chaucer,
But I study Orgo, so I can do it.
I work hard in school; could be an author.
I’m a happy, new freshman in college,
But the social scene’s hard to get into.
But right now, I’ll attempt to acknowledge,
The story I’ll tell: completely untrue!
I wouldn’t spend my days getting blasted,
Content warning: a girl trips on acid.
This girl, Ally, fell in love with a boy,
In her senior year of high school, brought her so much joy.
His hair like gold, and eyes like the sea,
The perfect couple– everyone could see.
“Let’s take a trip” he said one day,
“I got these tabs and heard the dealer say,
This is the best think you could take
To get away from reality and make
Decisions– bad…or good
That eventually should
Make you rethink everything.”
She expected it to be one-time fling.
But every month she found herself
Needing to escape the textbooks on her shelf.
She called her boyfriend and he brought
All the drinks and drugs he got
From his buddy down the street.
She started to get heat
From her parents wondering,
Why she left her room muttering
Nonsense about poetry and rap songs.
(they thought it was all about lusty men and thongs)
She bombed half her classes,
And on a bad trip broke her glasses,
But managed to get into school.
Three months in she thought it was cool,
To take a trip in her new land.
And goddamn…it was grand,
To have no parents to fear
And not shed a tear,
Thinking about going to classes
(most of which, she half-asses).
She wrote mediocre poetry,
Weird shit she didn’t let anyone see.
She’d write jokes and be fake deep
About the things she couldn’t keep
In her mind after the trip with over.
She ran around the forest on her acid trip,
Praying that she wouldn’t take a fall.
Noticing the life of her love,
Or was it the love of her dreams,
Something that she would never…
No… it was more like a color.
His hair was the color,
Of a sandy beach where she took a summer trip,
A place she wanted to go but could never.
She remembered running up the dunes in the fall,
The stuff of her daydreams,
The place she fell in love.
Then she remembered she was with her love,
The world around her was all the color
She could ever imagine in her dreams.
She fell in love with the boy on her psychedelic trip.
He held her beer can, “careful. Don’t spill.”
She cried and said, “Never
Did I imagine you. Never!”
But, it wasn’t him that was her love.
It was the drink she wouldn’t spill
And the feelings that came with the color
Every month when she would trip
and it was only the dreams
She never had big dreams,
Like her parents had. Never.
She didn’t understand why she couldn’t trip
And stumble to find something she would love
To do for the rest of her life and color
Outside the lines and let paint spill.
“Careful with your wine, don’t spill.”
The vision of him appeared in her weed induced dreams
She remembered her mother, her eyes, the color
The words: Never
Take weed or smoke or drink or do an acid trip
Would he spill her secret? Never.
Her dreams of love;
Cut short by a trip in technicolor.
She was seen stumbling across campus to her dorm,
Not that things like that weren’t the norm,
But it was 2am and she was crying.
I would be totally lying
If I said I would have stopped her,
And check in because it may have caused a stir.
She was walking towards the nature trail
And a man stopped her, tall, dark hair, pale
“hey, are you okay, dude?”
She was startled, not trying to be wooed
By a man she had just met
In the middle of nowhere, he looked like a threat.
“Yes, I’m okay just… out of my mind,
I’m looking for a place I can’t seem to find,
My apartment is a few minutes that way.”
“Oh cool, just making sure you’re okay,
There’s not a lot of people around.”
And the way he said it seemed to resound.
She had never tripped with someone sober-ish before,
And she couldn’t deny there was a certain allure,
With having someone else share her time,
Someone with whom, she wouldn’t have to mime
Every want and wish and half-baked desire.
And she knew she had to admire
His willingness to say hello to a totally stranger,
Regardless of the perceived danger
Of confronting someone who trips
On the regular. She looked at his lips,
And realized she had been silent for far too long.
“Ummmm, I’m going home now” she turned on a song,
Gotta stay high, all the time
To keep you off my mind.
Skipped to her room, collapsed on her bed,
She turned and, as if to someone, said
“this is my last trip for a while”
Then fell sound asleep with a smile.
Now I would never condone this behavior,
Using drugs as a new type of savior.
I guess she has her things and I have mine,
But you’ll never catch me drinking a full bottle of wine.
The Stoner’s Prologue
by Hanna Kopits, Haverford ‘21
Thank you, dearest Pre-Med student for sharing your insight.
It’s incredible, groundbreaking, and the biggest goddamn stereotype.
You, the straight-laced perfectionist, telling us, the normal ones,
a frankly, poorly constructed story that shuns
me and my friends and our social scene.
Honestly, hon, your story wasn’t cute, just mean.
I’ve smoked every day of my “worthless” life, but sweetie, you know what’s sadder?
The fact that even you know that you won’t matter
In ten years– or twenty– when you’re still broke as shit,
Trying to pay off student debt and just drowning in it.
And for what? To hold over my head
That you never drank, never smoked, and wished you were dead?
No, it’s not cute that you think you’re better than me,
The person you think is a hippie and should go fuck a tree.
So you wanna slander my name
And displace all the blame,
Let’s talk about another pre-med student–
One not as careful and prudent,
As you, clearly, have been,
Throughout your life– everyday, a new win.
And let’s just make it clear before I begin, You told your story in rhyme and think you’re so cool, And think I won’t even graduate from this school, So even though I could do the same, you grade-A prick, I don’t need a single gimmicky trick To pretend to be Chaucer or another poet I’ll do my story in prose and even perfect it. So fuck you and your Shakespeare And let me make it very clear, You aren’t better than me or anyone here.
So have fun listening to the stoner’s story, my dear.
See how she confidently lights her joint, The flick of the flame lighting the rolled-up point, She takes a deep breath, with a French inhale Look and the Pre-Med student, her face getting pale Scared by the look of determination, And the amped up prologue of the following creation.
So check this out, the Stoner’s story, the one that should be poorly constructed and pathetically concise, right? Well that’s where you really begin to show your knowledge gap, and be careful to mind it because your ignorance is something that I’ll have to keep in mind while telling my story. I foresee you not being able to understand every word I’m using so I’ll be sure to dumb it down, and don’t say you passed all your classes with a 5.0 out of 4.0 because book smarts don’t translate to real life, honey. And let me know if my story buzzes by too fast, I know you’re used to rewatching Biology lectures at one and a half times speed to save enough time for the things you call fun, aka, alphabetizing your orgo models. Let’s start with A problem that the typical pre-med student at this school tends to have: Being too nice. C this is usually a good problem to have, particularly when you’re Determined to help out Each and Every person who Finds you out. Gee, what could possibly go wrong with this Horrible character flaw? I can’t wait to find out. Justine is the name of our Killer Lady who Might Not OPen up Quickly or Right away, but instead She has The Utmost respect and Vocation to Whatever she does. Then X, why not Z.
But sorry, I’ve distracted myself, I’m a little too high, so let me recenter and give this another try. (See her light up a cig, that might calm her down, but she takes two puffs and puts it out with a frown.)
But anyway back to ma histoire:
Justine fully believed in helping out everyone she saw with every fiber of her being and all she wanted was for everyone to be happy and succeed (that’s what people call foreshadowing, sweetie, so maybe keep it in mind). Her two best friends were also pre-med students, let’s call them Megan and Mary, and here’s a little secret: they didn’t actually like her all that much. Justine was too quiet and reserved for their little pre-med parties, where they really know how to cut loose with a glass of wine and a whole Nalgene with life-giving water.
At one of their parties, they came up with a ploy to see how far she would go and how nice she was. The next day they took off.
After orgo they went up to her “Hey, J! I love your shoes, say, I’ve been a little behind, do you think I could get your notes and copy them down tonight? I’d really appreciate it. You always have the best notes and are so thorough and have such perfect handwriting, it’s like a font.” (Also, sweetie don’t worry about which one this is, Megan or Mary, it doesn’t matter, they function as one.) Justine said sure, and passed over her notebook, “I have a second copy at home, where I clean up and copy my in-class notes and synthesize them with the homeworks, then I have a third where I recopy the whole thing to study for exams!
“Oh that’s great, J, so we’ll just take this one and get it back to you, like, sometime next week.” M and M walk away with only a giggle figuring this girl is the perfect way to finally get things done. When they have lunch together they ask her to grab them drinks: “Oh J, just an OJ with half water and just a touch of ice and don’t forget to give it a stir once or twice.” Our sweet, sweet Justine only thirsted for their approval, the cool girls, the ones who succeeded without trying, she almost couldn’t resist getting tied up in their little scheme. She made them index cards to help them study and alphabetized them so they were ready to go, then an iced coffee happened to be spilled on them during a study session, so she HAD to do them again because M and M couldn’t possibly survive without them.
They were at the Starbucks and they asked Justine to watch their stuff while they went to Sephora. A quick call later and Justine was running over, three backpacks in tow, wallet pulled out and ready to pay for a new Fenty lipstick– J to the rescue, J saves the day! “And hey, since we’re so close, do you think we could run to Trader Joe’s or the Farmer’s Market to grab some cheeses? We were gonna bring some to the pre-med party tonight to go with the Cabernet…”
“Am I invited to this one?” asked sweet, sweet J. M and M looked at each other with a slight little grin, “Oh Em Gee, of course, J. We’ll just text you the time and the place, but it should be around 9, also, do you think you could be a dear, we still don’t have our wallets and are fresh out of dough, so do you think, sweet, sweet J, you could get us a baguette, too?” Unfortunately, sweet Justine never got that text, just a Snapchat of the blueberry chevre next to a bottle of Reisling. But she didn’t get too down, she was busy reading studies anyway, and with all this socializing she had gotten a bit behind on her studies– her extra credit for next month was only mostly done, honestly it was worth it just to hang out with her friends instead of alone in the Chem Lounge with no end in sight.
One of them shot her a text the very next morning, “Hey J, I’m feeling a little sick right now, would you mind picking up my clicker and taking it to class, I need the participation credit or else I might not pass, would you mind too much?” She looked at her clicker on the table and sighed. “Sure, M, but I’ll have to get a couple of your questions wrong, just so it doesn’t look suspicious.” “Okay, J, can you just come grab it?” “Sure, M, I’ll be there soon.”
For the next week and a half, M was ill, and sweet, sweet Justine had almost gotten her fill of going to class and signing M in, doing two sets of quizzes then teaching M all the things she had missed because she couldn’t go to the professor at the risk of her finding out that they were both stuck in a lie (that’s an Honor Council trial waiting to happen). So sweet, sweet J would do her homework all day and spend the nights teaching poor M, the victim of circumstance, how to do an SN2 elimination reaction and make it look effortless.
Right after M got better, they had their thesis proposals due, something that Justine had constantly been looking forward to because she had been planning a project exploring increase in tick population and lyme disease in the northeastern United States. She had been planning this topic since her sophomore year and had been doing a lot of preliminary research into getting ticks on campus. But the night before their topics were due, M and M went to sweet, sweet J asking, no begging to “help” her thesis by taking parts of her proposal and working on them for theirs. After using Justine’s research and information to create their own proposals, all she had left was how to keep ticks alive in captivity (not the best topic for a year-long research project), while M and M ended up with exploring the effects of lyme disease and why tick populations are growing and how to minimize damage (pretty good long term projects).
J helped them through the whole following year, hoping to get her name as one of the et. al members of either group: something she could add to a resumé, which was suffering from getting weaker and weaker as each week passed by. She couldn’t do much more now that she was working on three theses and creating lab protocols for M and M pretty much every evening.
The saddest part happened in December, M, M, and sweet, sweet J, were all prepping for the exam that would get them into the future: the MCAT. Justine hadn’t studied at all between the lab work and her other homework and the five clubs she ran. She showed up late and bombed it really bad. She didn’t have the money to retake it because she had spent so much on food, makeup, and other things for M and M. The nail in the coffin: the theses that were stolen from J were published and a large part of why M and M got into Mt. Sinai. Their “original work” and “dedication to long-term, high impact projects” were what put them over the edge onto the accepted list.
The point of this story is not to say that pre-med students are either stupid or mean
but that it’s important to listen, not to what people say, but what they actually mean
You can’t please everyone and that has to be okay!
You have to take care of yourself, I know it’s a cliché,
but it’s totally true which is part of why I enjoy getting stoned,
Something that you, sweet, sweet Pre-Med student, never condoned
She draws another inhale from her almost burnt out joint,
and smashed it against the ground to reinforce her point.
The Pre-Med student sat in the grass– green, pale, and pissed.
“How dare you tell that story, I’m sure there are parts you missed
like the two girls thanking J for all the work she did,
or after J cheated and when the girls had to admit
to stealing her work and not giving her credit!
The story you just told, you didn’t even edit
the real story. These are all just lies!
You’re trying to create the demise
of feminism in this group of strong, beautiful ladies.
Do you come out of the animated Hercules? Because you’re Hades!
While the story you weave about pre-med students
is harmful for all of us and you’ve shown no prudence
in considering how hard it is to be a woman in STEM.”
The Stoner gave a little “ahem,”
The Pre-Med student paused and looked at her,
“do you have something to say or do you concur,
I think my objections are valid.”
The Stoner looked a little offended: “your points are solid,
but I don’t know why you’re taking this so poorly.
I didn’t mean to pit women against each other, sincerely,
I’m sorry to offend, but I did warn you
that this story might be hard to sit through,
and you insisted on staying here anyway.
Additionally, let’s not forget your pathetic display,
of a story about people like me going through some stuff
and using drugs to get through some times that are rough.
Honestly, sweetie, you’re the one being anti-feminist.
Trying to use my story and insist
that a simple french blague
is really more of a drag,
than you trying to openly insult me
and that’s some fucking tea.
just taking this a little too seriously.
I don’t know what to tell you because you probably wouldn’t listen,
and you’re clearly not susceptible to logic or reason.”