What Rick Vigorous (one of David Foster Wallace’s characters) sees when he visits his alma mater

Whom do I see, here?  I see students and adults.  I see parents, obvious parents, the ones with name tags.  I watch the students, and they watch back.  Ability to Handle Oneself, elaborate defense structures, exit their eyes and begin to assemble on the ground before them.  But the eyes and faces are as always left bare.  In the girls’ faces I see softness, beauty, the shiny and relaxed eyes of wealth, and the vital capacity for creating problems where none exist.  For some reason I see these girls also older, pale television ghosts flickering beside the originals: middle-aged women, with bright-red fingernails and deeply-tanned, hard, seamed faces, sprayed hair shaped by the professional fingers of men with French names; and eyes, eyes that will stare without pity or doubt over salted tequila rims at the glare of the summer sun off the country club pool.  The structures spread out, grow, wave at me with the epileptic flutter of the film-in-reverse.  The boys are different, appropriately, from the girls.  From each other.  I see blond heads and lean jaws and bow-legged swaggers and biceps with veins in them.  I see so many calm, impassive, or cheerful faces, faces at peace, for now and always, with the context of their own appearance and being, that sort of long-term peace and smooth acquaintance with invariable destiny that renders the faces bloodlessly pastable onto cut-outs of corporate directors in oak-lined boardrooms, professors with plaid ties and leather patches at the elbows of their sports jackets, doctors on bright putting greens with heavy gold shock-resistant watches at their wrists and tiny beepers at their belts, black-jacketed soldiers efficiently bayoneting the infirm.  I see Best faces, faces I remember well.  Faces whose owners are going to be the Very Best.

David Foster Wallace. The Broom of the System. Viking Penguin, 1987.

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