The hand truck rumbled on the pavement, shaking and shifting nine neatly stacked cardboard boxes. It was a brisk November night, and we wore winter coats and face masks. Tumbling over a curb, we made it to the rear entrance of the Student Activities Center. The building was silent except for a few CulinArt workers shuffling in and out. Lights shone through the windows against the dimming sky, but no human shadows interrupted them. We wedged our way through the double doors and wheeled our payload into the carpeted freight elevator.
On the third floor, I held my ID to the door until an affirmative beep let us into the empty office. One by one, we transferred the boxes onto an empty black folding table. I found a pair of scissors and ripped into the nearest one, revealing two stacks of freshly printed magazines – the December 2020 issue of The Stony Brook Press. The front cover featured telephone poles stretching upwards on a red and blue background, a graphic I had made before any of us knew the coronavirus would irrevocably change our lives.
The stories inside spanned months spent in quarantine, some previously published online, and some left incomplete until now. The issue was finished a month before, when there was still hope it would arrive in time for students to read it — but complications with the printer and the accounting office pushed delivery past the Thanksgiving break. Now, it exists in limbo, boxed up in the office as would-be readers scattered across the country.
Flipping through the pages, I felt the same rush I’ve felt seven times before, the one that comes with seeing something I’ve labored over for weeks finally set in print. It was dulled by the absence of readers. No amount of social media buzz could replace eyes and hands examining our work in person. Aside from the few we picked off, nearly 500 magazines sit idly in the SAC, waiting for Stony Brook to come back to life.