written at a rate of one year per year
The membership fee was $2/term. The headquarters was a little closet packed into a hallway on the third floor of the math building.
It was an appallingly tiny room. An overfull shelf of math books and papers sits dilapidated above a heavily worn couch, and when Hardy, Wright, and Littlewood fail to find space there, they invade the scrawny table at the back, by the chalkboard. According to the lore, that table's top used to entertain with games of Go and Connect 6, once. The pieces now sit segregated in quaint little baskets, some stones miraculously broken, others scarred and dirty. Every conceivable corner was covered with chalk dust, and the sticks of chalk themselves more closely resembled pasty tetrahedra, they were so used.
There were three clocks, at opposite ends of the room. A modest digital timepiece, whose purposes included being pointed out at 4:20 pm, and falling over about once a term when Sam accidentally knocks it off. A novelty math clock—each hour's ordinal was replaced by a "mathematical" expression like π-.14—laying face up on a shelf; it stopped working a while ago, and nobody cares enough to figure out why. The third sat in the bottom-right corner of the taskbar alongside today's date on the communal computron.
Without fail, every weekday the room filled nearly to the brim with upper years, griping about Diff Geo and berating some professor or another's inability to teach worth a damn. There were discussions about how to do some topology thing on the latest Functional Analysis assignment; how baller some mathematician (Grothendieck, Mochizuki, local professor Kenny-D) was; how much weed you should smoke every day; how much better it was before the first-years showed up.
Things are changing, slowly but surely.
The usual crowd still shows up, exclaiming, "Hey, it's these fuckers," and extending invitations to go have lunch at the plaza. But key faces are absent, their fates of "working this term" or "finally gone" debated and pondered.
There is another round of first years, but they do not frequent the club as we do. Hopefully when the novelty of their first year of university dies down they can join us.
The math clock was thrown away. The couch layout was reorganized. The Go board has been packed away. Food was banned. The library was reorganized. There was talk of decommissioning the PMC server in favour of moving to the CS club's webhosting.
The oldies I know are starting to leave. Now I know how the upper years felt when they complained of their predecessors leaving—these people are, to some extent or another, my friends, so their disappearance is a loss I can feel. You feel happy for them, because they're going on to grad school or making the big buxxx at Micro$oft or what have you, and they've finally gotten out of this place, but at the same time you miss their presence because they were pretty cool guys.
We have updated the place a bit. Our nimble Vice-President of Finance has prestidigitated a new couch out of the Mathematics Endowment Fund, lord knows how, to replace our haunted lumpy sock of a couch. Certain key parts of the website are slowly being taken over to the CSC hosting, but this is not a bad thing, because the old and crappy server just about attains liftoff every now and again with how loud it gets. I am now in charge of pop—we sell pop for 50 cents a can, and have since the dawn of time—among other things, because of my at-least-temporary possession of a car. Food was unbanned, to the relief of many.
The first years from last year, now second years, have started hanging out more often. They're good, mature people, which is nice. They listen to me talk about matroids, as I listened to my elders talk about operator algebras. We also have an influx of actual first years, and they are definitely worth griping about.
The room is totally irrelevant to (what feels like) everyone but me. I find myself filling with contempt when I see yet another spilled drink or leftover item of garbage or even a dropped stick of chalk, because not only did they make a mess, but they didn't have the human fucking decency to clean it up. The events, too, are seen as merely free food and free cleanup services after. I checked my resume and it turns out I've been the president for two straight years.
Over the course of my tenure as the VP Pop (a distinct position from President for most other people) I steadily made the club a four digit profit—shh, don't tell MathSoc—which was used to augment the club's budget. On the one hand, that's so totally against the rules that it probably threatens the existence of the club as a legal entity under MathSoc... but on the other hand, how else are we supposed to pay for Uptown 21 chicken sandwiches at the student math seminar evening?
The CS club webhosting has finally been implemented in a workable state. The new website is looking alright, and its fun new domain hack puremath.club makes it look like a real professional thing, though now we have to remember to update the content.
I miss my old friends because they left, and my current friends because they're leaving.
The room is totally irrelevant. What matters are the people. The old, who left the university and left a legacy; and the new, who staff it now and create new memories atop the old. Even if nobody remembers, it happened.
For the first time, someone thanked me for running this club. I'm graduating soon.
I have long since graduated, as has everyone I knew. There's a Discord server with all the oldies now, where we rarely talk, but at least we can if we want.
The campus has been closed for almost a year due to the pandemic, so even if I had the urge to show my face and try to endear myself to the youths, I physically couldn't.
And yet... a part of me longs to be covered in chalk dust. Bathed in the eggshell white flourescent light. Sitting cramped against the peeling walls with ten other people in a room that could only comfortably seat seven, cramming a footlong pizza sub into my mouth and lowkey solving someone's homework for them, as I put off my own.
I spent more time awake in room 3033 than I did at my leased apartment. I left my little marks, here and there, and though some of them chance being lost or written over or forgotten altogether, mostly they persist, as everyone else's did. I became part of a long line of people whose names were lost to time but without whom the club would not continue to exist. And though nobody will be explicitly grateful, they don't have to be.
Because as good as it feels to be complimented, if I was doing it for compliments I would have stopped a lot sooner.