Study Space

The deep wood walls are coated with books, magazines, paintings, murals, long windows, and, in one corner, trophies. An abandoned fireplace burned by ash interrupts the far wall; above it a painting of a balding white man is stamped into the wood. An unidentifiable golden plaque gleams below. Another wall is almost completely covered by a mural. It shows a map, decorated with tiny people, trees, buildings, and words; a subtle spotlight shining from the top highlights the painting and text: “Phillips Academy Andover. History and Traditions of the School and Vicinity.” A small, sickly tree tentatively reaches up from a pot, extending its digits to obscure the corner of the picture. Glistening cabinets display glistening trophies: metal plates, bowls, plaques, pillars, and small, golden people. Magazines and books stare out from the walls; one cover literally depicts a two menacing yellow eyes that seem to be aimed directly at me. The word “WATCHMEN” is printed in bold below.

The carpeted floor appears brown from far away, but is made up of an interwoven pattern of tiny red, blue, and orange ovals. Plush blue chairs randomly dot the floor; some surround small, square, wood tables; others stand alone. The wood in the tables and chairs is a lighter wood than the regal material that makes up the walls and part of the ceiling. Two longer tables surrounded by wooden chairs run along the flanks of the room, buttressing the more comfortable furniture. A single fly darts across the room.

Every person in the room seems to be completely absorbed by her or his own existence, and oblivious to the surrounding world. Two girls sit at opposite ends of a long table, laptops, books, backpacks, and pencils sprawled around them. One stares intently at a mysterious computer screen, and the other is fixated on a thick book. Every few seconds, she makes marks on a piece of graph paper with a steady flick of her wrist. Even people who appear to know each other, those who sit side by side and indicate care by angling their bodies toward the other or occasionally glancing up at each other, seem to be mostly wrapped up in singularity. Thin ribbons of headphones protrude from nearly every ear, cascading down with strands of hair then separating to connect to a device. Some students appear to be completely inside their own consciousness: fast asleep. One boy with flowing hair is sprawled across three chairs; headphones dangling into an iPod carelessly thrown onto the floor, and his eyes are completely shut. A girl with shining blond hair has contorted her body to fit fully into the seat of one chair. The only subtle noise comes from the occasional footstep, clicking keyboards, shuffling papers, scratching pencils, and a small group of boys quietly talking and giggling in the center of the room.

White-grey light filters in from half-covered windows, encountering and pervading the soft, golden glow that emanates from lopsided lamps and a single chandelier. The atmosphere is soft, but the room is not dark. The setting is homey and comfortable, a feeling that is reinforced by the soft chairs, subtle colors, and bare fireplace. There is silence, but an imperfect silence, the sort that is filled with meaningless noise to make it appear less lonely.