School always came easy for me, so I go off to college next to the big Beltway downstate, and at first it crushes me. These smart, fast, cool kids — Black, brown, gay, weird, brilliant, even the dull ones shinier than me. For two weeks, a month, a semester, I cling to that river valley, miss it terribly. Much of it is good, after all, and when I get older, I’ll come to understand that it’s full of ore to be mined. But that river valley never allowed for much past Fort Hill and Allegany, so I make mistakes and get embarrassed in my new world. It is a trial by fire, but when I come through, singed, I am, as they say, the better for it.