I never deleted your text message.
“vi tonite @ 6?”
To which I replied, “haha what.”
And I never heard from you again.
Masochism? Sure, I kept your message out of masochism. A flagellating reminder that prods and pulverizes me in my waking hours. But truly, I don’t need any souvenirs to recall my egregious error.
If anything, this fatal mistake affirms that miracles exist. And it is truly miraculous that I slid through my four years at Kenyon without ever once realizing that VI stands for Village Inn, and is not in fact the roman numeral 6.
We were all naïve freshman year. Somehow, no matter how many times I say that, I still believe I could’ve done better. This could have been avoided. All of it. I’ve tried to blame you. Perhaps it was the perfect symmetry of that message; I’d read, “6 @ 6?” And I loved that. We hardly knew each other, and already you were sharing witticisms with me. Furthermore, I’d never even heard of the Village Inn. How was I expected to know campus eateries, let alone jargon, by orientation’s end? My life had hardly even begun.
And it astonishes me daily that you wanted to venture to that restaurant so early in our lives. You mentioned “this place you knew” with Yuengling. Divine mac n’ cheese loaded with sweet, sweet sausage. The server with the baseball cap and dimples so cute you could wished you could order his smile as a side dish. Truly miraculous knowledge, things you couldn’t know. It wasn’t until yesterday, barely into our final year here, that I learned your older brother had gone to Kenyon, and that’s how you knew. You were an insider from the start.
If I had to pinpoint a moment when my life began spiraling down a frictionless funnel, it would be that missed dinner. I didn’t go because I didn’t know what was this 6 of which you spoke. But then again, you didn’t answer my baffled statement-question. You expected far too much of me.
First year, sophomore, junior–I had to feign comfort through it all. How my jaw hurts from years of grinding my molars to assemble an incongruous smile whenever I heard those buzzing syllables. “VI? VI? V.I.? VeeEye? Veeeeeeeeee-I? Veyai? V’yai? Vye? Vye?” I tried. Nobody can I say I didn’t.
This mistake is the reason for countless dinners spent alone at that restaurant. Week after week, pinging text messages to the void:
“6 2nite?” I’d say.
“peirce? sure” my friends would answer.
“ok peirce at 6”
“no, NOT peirce, 6. vi. 6.” I’d be seething.
“the restaurant. the 6. the restaurant next to the coffee shop. do you know what i’m talking about? you do. i know you do because i saw you drinking beer there yesterday. i could walk you there. is that it? do you need me to walk you there so you’ll finally know what i’m fucking talking about?”
By then they’d stop texting, and I later learned they thought I was mad at them (which I was) because I started punctuating my texts, so they wouldn’t reply. I’d stop too. Clearly I’d my friends were imbeciles who didn’t know their campus very well.
I am my mistake. Six. 6. VI. I worshipped the number. I took six classes every semester, which quickly overloaded me and dashed my grades. I lived on sixth-floor Caples for two years (which also resulted in my one supernatural experience at Kenyon). It ruined every romantic moment I ever had; I couldn’t go on dates because after a while I never wanted to go to the VI. I only ever ate during an hour that was a multiple of or divisible by six. And why? All in a vain attempt to prove that I was right. VI was 6. 6 was VI.
And so, that’s why I’ve incinerated the lawn in front of your NCA. You, who first invited me to the “v’yai” our first year. Though I considered it, there’s no point in taking revenge on the Village Inn, especially with the GG gone (you remember it – the Gambier Grill). There’s no point in punishing everyone for what you started. I hope you love the VI as much as you did when you first sat nestled in its cool, dim, wood-planked bosom. From now on, I hope you associate it with the smell of gasoline, and the blackened grass on your lawn that distinctly spells: VI. Today, 6 is truly the devil’s number, and VI stands for “Vengeance, Infinitely.”