A student is hunched over a computer, eyes narrowed, fingers clamped over a white mouse, wrist twitching in erratic, miniscule movements as text and shapes move on a screen to form a page of newsprint. Absorbed, he melts into his screen. In the opposite corner, another student thumbs through a yellowed newspaper. When someone calls her name, tells her a joke, she smiles quickly, feigning interest before her eyes drift back to old front pages. A boy wants popcorn. He takes the long way around the central table, tripping and stepping over chairs and powercords to avoid disturbing the second student. Almost apologetically, he tears open the popcorn bag and dials 3:30 into the microwave. He stops the machine seconds before time is up, before it blares and breaks the silence. A girl is curled on a tired sofa, sleeping, face-down, exhausted. Beside her, another student sips tea and reads Hamlet. Her sniffling interrupts the quiet. In the office a student hammers away on his laptop, furiously, methodically. He stop, clicks, sighs, then puts his head down for a nap.
This is 7:50 in the basement of Morse. Ten minutes before we need to be here. Ten minutes before we become section editors and managing editors and executive editors and editors in chief. Ten minutes before we become cogs in a machine moved by the external force that is a Thursday afternoon deadline and midnight sign in. This is genuine interest, dread, exhaustion, anticipation. The room is quiet because we are all waiting, grasping onto the last moments of calm on our computer screens, in an old issue, in Hamlet. A door eeks open upstairs, and steps come crashing down the stairs, breaking the still. Someone sighs. Yellowed pages crinkle, closing. The student on the couch stirs.